Lynn Goodfellow feels he's living on borrowed time. And, in fact, believes his note may well be past due.
He was involved in a plane crash in 1985. News reports listed him among the dead. He was seriously injured.
"They repaired me, but I'm on borrowed time," he said. "And, if I'm going to go, then I want to go doing what I want to do and try and do missionary work at the same time."
Goodfellow, 67, is a ward mission leader for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nevada. Doing what he wants to do involves building and racing the world's fastest diesel-power vehicle. And, while doing it, follow a path similar to the one once taken by the late legendary racer Ab Jenkins, once mayor of Salt Lake City.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Jenkins was one of the most recognized race drivers in the United States. He set hundreds of records, including 24-hour endurance runs on the Bonneville Salt Flats in three cars he named "Mormon Meteor I, II and III."
Among his records was a 24-hour, nonstop run in the Mormon Meteor III at 161.180 miles per hour. That record stood for 50 years. And, at the company's request, he drove a new model Pontiac on a record endurance run. The model was later named the Pontiac Bonneville. When he died in 1956, Jenkins still held 147 records.
Jenkins, a Mormon, gave credit for his success to living his religion and to drinking milk. Jenkins and his cars became an example to others and a calling card for people to learn more about the church.
Goodfellow hopes his car, the "Mormon Missile," and his lifestyle will gain similar respect and draw inquiring minds. He brought his new diesel-powered car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in mid-August. His goal was to begin his challenge on the current diesel world-speed record of 317.21 mph set in 2006 by the JCB, one of the world's leading heavy equipment manufacturers out of England. The company spent $26 million to acquire the record.
"After setting the record they were claiming how smart they were and how dumb we in America are. So, I decided to build another car and go for the record," he said.
This was not his first visit to Bonneville. Goodfellow came to the salt in the 1950s, he said, but gave up racing to raise his family of 12 children and to start a company, Goodfellow Corp., in Boulder, Nev., manufacturers of rock-crushing equipment used around the world.
He returned to the salt last year with a diesel-powered car and set a record in the B-streamliner class of 242.81 mph. His record stands at No. 3 in the overall diesel category. His goal is to be No. 1. He openly admits he's a high school dropout "School bored me" with a brain for engineering, "but not the education."
He came up with the idea for a new car last year and started work in November. He hired a draftsman to put his plans on paper and a computer programmer to build the software, and had the diesel engines custom-built. He fabricated the car itself using special one-
eighth-inch metal sheets produced in Sweden.
All the work, he said, was done on site at his company in Boulder.
"The only things that were done outside the company were the wheels and some fiberglass work," he said. "We're junkyard junkies, you could say. And, when you're junkyard junkies the parts you use come out of a junkyard ... and so that's what we did. We got parts from wherever we could. The cost is nowhere near the $26 million JCB spent."
He had hoped to carry on the name "Mormon Meteor" but found the name and car had been sold to a museum. He then got permission from the church to use the name "Mormon" on the car, then added the "Missile."
Introducing the new car to the salt track did not go particularly well. Straps holding the car in place in a trailer broke en route to Bonneville and the car was damaged. Repairs took longer than expected and the meet closed before the car was ready.
He plans on returning to Bonneville for two smaller events this month.
For now he's making necessary repairs, redesigning the tie-down holds in the trailer and hoping a record and his example will lead to becoming the world's fastest diesel and to expand his missionary calling.