Michigan man unveils 400mph+ ‘Streamliner’ vehicle he’s built over 26 years


An 86-year-old man is bidding to join the land speed elite after unveiling a streamliner he has been building since 1996 – as he prepares to race it on Utah’s Salt Flats and fulfil his wife’s dying wish.

Jim Byerly has been obsessed with racing since he was a teenager and has worked on several cars through the years but told Fox 17 that his streamliner will top the rest.

When complete, Byerly hopes to take the vehicle out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where some of the fastest cars have reached speeds close to 500mph.

According to Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) the outright world land speed record stands at 763.035mph but many factors are at play when beating land speed records.

86-year-old Jim Byerly is attempting to join the land speed elite after unveiling his streamliner that he’s been building since 1996

‘There are hundreds of other records in myriad classes based on factors such as engine type and capacity, weight or body shape,’ the FIA website explains.

‘Record attempts may be made on straightline playa, salt or tarmac courses, where they are averaged over two runs in opposing directions, or over distance or time endurance runs on closed racetracks.’

For Byerly the Utah Salt Flats will be where he tests the limits of his vehicle that has become his life’s work and has grown his love and passion for the industry since a young age.

‘It actually started clear back when I graduated from high school because I walked over to the drugstore,’ Byerly said.

‘That’s when the Hot Rod magazines were small. I thought, ‘Boy, that’s pretty interesting.’ It just gradually crept up from there.’

After working on this vehicle for 26 years, his Streamliner is close to crossing the finish line.

When complete, Byerly hopes to take the vehicle out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where some of the fastest cars have reached speeds close to 500mph

When complete, Byerly hopes to take the vehicle out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where some of the fastest cars have reached speeds close to 500mph

The hope is to have it ready to race in August, taking the almost 27-feet-long, 4,000-lb. vehicle halfway to the speed of sound

The hope is to have it ready to race in August, taking the almost 27-feet-long, 4,000-lb. vehicle halfway to the speed of sound

After working on this vehicle for 26 years, his Streamliner is close to crossing the finish line

After working on this vehicle for 26 years, his Streamliner is close to crossing the finish line

The hope is to have it ready to race in August, taking the almost 27-feet-long, 4,000-lb. vehicle halfway to the speed of sound.

Byerly won’t be the one behind the wheel though, that honor will be bestowed to his neighbor, and now friend, Eric Bair.

‘My bucket list item was to go Bonneville, just go, not to drive,’ Bair said.

Bair has been in several drag races himself since the 90s however, he’s never traveled more than 140 mph, the streamliner will hopefully triple that speed.

‘Oh, I’m excited,’ he said adding that August couldn’t have come sooner.

‘There’s no nerves there. I just want to get behind the wheel and pilot this thing.’

Byerly won't be the one behind the wheel though, that honor will be bestowed to his neighbor, and now friend, Eric Bair

Byerly won’t be the one behind the wheel though, that honor will be bestowed to his neighbor, and now friend, Eric Bair

In 2020, the Speed Demon 715, a piston-powered land speed streamliner, made history by clocking 470.016 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats

In 2020, the Speed Demon 715, a piston-powered land speed streamliner, made history by clocking 470.016 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats

While Byerly didn’t need any extra motivation, after his wife of 63 years, Loa, passed away in 2020 his desire to see his project come to life was further ignited.

Byerly said Loa would always tell him, ‘I just want this to do what you want it to do.’

In 2020, the Speed Demon 715, a piston-powered land speed streamliner, made history by clocking 470.016 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats. 

The effort marks a record as the top piston-powered land speed run to date.

The streamliner, powered by a twin-turbocharged 555-cubic-inch Chevy, was piloted by George Poteet. 

The effort surpassed the previous record of 448.75 mph, secured in 2018 by Danny Thompson, the son of off-road racing and land speed racing legend Mickey Thompson.

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