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Phoenix model

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Carl Heap 2003

(14 July 2004) - The land speed racing community has lost another of his heroes: Carl Heap, the owner and driver of The Phoenix diesel truck died last week after a long and brave fight against cancer, finally rejoining his friend and partner Bob Slagle, who died in 1998.
Carl had been a very popular Bonneville character ever since he and Bob had first showed up with their unlikely oil-burning "thing" on the Salt Flats. Over the years the couple had gained the respect and admiration of all fellow racers and the black-smoke-tailed streamlined truck had become a real star on the salt. The team's green tent has always been one of the most crowded spots at any time of the day in the pits area.
Carl was a great man and will never be forgotten.

Photo of Carl Heap in 2003 courtesy of Thomas "Pork Pie" Graf (click on photo for a larger view)

SW 2001

The Phoenix
The fastest diesel vehicle on land

Speed Week 2001 (photo from www.landracing.com)

The Phoenix 1989

The Phoenix as it first appeared at Speed Week 1989 (photo supplied by Carl Heap)


Would you believe that the derelict quarry truck in the photo on the left is the fastest diesel vehicle in the world, currently holding a record at over 272 mph? If you doubt it, you better read on!
The fastest diesel truck on this land lived its first life as a 1943 International K-7 truck. Then, after spending a few years in a salvage yard, in 1987 it was rescued and rebuilt as a race truck by long time friends R.B. Slagle and Carl Heap from Grants Pass, Oregon. Rechristened The Phoenix, it made its debut on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1989 Speed trials. It was now powered by a Detroit Diesel 16V of 1472 cu. in., placed in the middle of the chassis, behind the cab. There was no streamlining at the time and it ran in the Modified Diesel Truck class. That first year it ran a "modest" 158 mph, but just a year later it set its first record at the USFRA July meeting at 188.340.

Carl Heap 2003

Carl Heap in 2003 (photo Pork Pie)
(click on photo for a larger view)

Slagle 92

R.B. Slagle in 1992 (photo H. Mueller Elsner, from Sports magazine)

The truck in 1992 form (photo supplied by Carl Heap)

Phoenix 92

In 1992, now sporting a partially streamlined body and running in Unlimited Diesel Truck class, The Phoenix set a record at 212.478 mph at Speed Week, driven by R.B. Slagle, who thus became the first trucker to enter the prestigious 200 Club.

SW 1994

New streamlined body for 1994 (photo supplied by Carl Heap)

The Phoenix was back in 1994, now sporting full streamlining and shoved with Boeing aircraft tyres, but although the shiny green truck provided quite an excitement with a run at 227 mph, Heap and Slagle could not back it up with a return run for an official record. More spectacular performances followed in the next few years, but Heap and Slagle went through all kind of mechanical problems, including engine explosions and fires, and were never able to grab the record from McCombs' "Endeavour".

Sadly Robert Slagle died in 1998, but Carl Heap kept going and in 2000 he finally succeeded in taking the elusive record back at 231+ mph.


Speed Week 2001, stopping after the successful run (photo Pork Pie)

That was just a new beginning: at Speed Week 2001 Heap astonished everyone by pushing the record up to 251 mph. This truly was a turning point: now The Phoenix was not just the fastest diesel truck, it had set a record faster than any diesel vehicle had ever run, under any sanction, including streamliners.

Carl Heap and truck

Carl Heap, in green t-shirt, at Speed Week 2002
(photo from www.landracing.com)

It is worth pointing out that the fastest a diesel vehicle has ever gone under FIA International sanction is a mere 235 mph (the Thermo King streamliner), so, even if it does not hold an International record, nobody can deny The Phoenix the title of "fastest diesel vehicle ever"!
Enough to sit on his laurels for anyone but Carl Heap: in 2002 he did it again. He actually did it twice, raising the record up to 254.450, first and then up again, two days later, to 263.487.

For Speed Week 2003 the streamlining was extensively improved by adding a "wing" at the front and a new long tail to reduce the turbulence at the back, somewhat in the style of "long tail" versions of sports racing cars for Le Mans.
The modifications must have been effective, because Carl Heap improved on his record again early in the week (272.685 mph, with a pass at well over 280), although, because of mechanical problems, he could not then try to reach the magic 300 mph he is aiming for, thus missing the chance to be the first to join the 300 mph chapter of the 200 Club on diesel power!
Unfortunately Carl's severe health problems made it impossible for him to run the truck again at the World Finals in october.

SW 2003

Speed Week 2003: new streamlining, new record (photo James Rice via Glen Barrett)

A NOTE ABOUT THE MODEL - I decided to release the model as The Phoenix appeared in 2001, when it first became the fastest diesel vehicle on land at 251.244 mph. The 2003 version would have involved too much modification work on an already finished master model, which would have delayed the release date even further. In addition, the 1994/2002 version of the body is the one that made The Phoenix famous and the one most people are familiar with.

All the records set by The Phoenix diesel truck

venueyeardriversanctioning bodyclassdistancespeed (mph)standing
Bonneville Speed Trials2003Carl HeapSCTAU/DTfl. mile272.685YES
Bonneville Speed Trials2002Carl HeapSCTAU/DTfl. mile263.487no
Bonneville Speed Trials2002Carl HeapSCTAU/DTfl. mile254.450no
Bonneville Speed Trials2001Carl HeapSCTAU/DTfl. mile251.244no
Bonneville Speed Trials2000Carl HeapSCTAU/DTfl. mile231.356no
Bonneville Speed Trials1992R.B. SlagleSCTAU/DTfl. mile212.478no
Bonneville July Opener1990R.B. SlagleUSFRAM/DTfl. mile188.340no

Phoenix model

Go to The Phoenix model page

Please note - The Phoenix official website, formerly at www.phoenixdiesel.com, no longer exists

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