Go to The Phoenix model page
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|venue||year||driver||sanctioning body||class||distance||speed (mph)||standing|
|Bonneville Speed Trials||2003||Carl Heap||SCTA||U/DT||fl. mile||272.685||YES|
|Bonneville Speed Trials||2002||Carl Heap||SCTA||U/DT||fl. mile||263.487||no|
|Bonneville Speed Trials||2002||Carl Heap||SCTA||U/DT||fl. mile||254.450||no|
|Bonneville Speed Trials||2001||Carl Heap||SCTA||U/DT||fl. mile||251.244||no|
|Bonneville Speed Trials||2000||Carl Heap||SCTA||U/DT||fl. mile||231.356||no|
|Bonneville Speed Trials||1992||R.B. Slagle||SCTA||U/DT||fl. mile||212.478||no|
|Bonneville July Opener||1990||R.B. Slagle||USFRA||M/DT||fl. mile||188.340||no|
Go to The Phoenix model page
Please note - The Phoenix official website, formerly at www.phoenixdiesel.com, no longer exists
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