Ab Jenkins

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Ab Jenkins, Mormon race car driver

Ab Jenkins was a building contractor in Salt Lake City, Utah, and former mayor, whose obsession was fast cars, the type that race on the Bonneville Salt Flats near the Great Salt Lake. Jenkins was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes casually called the Mormon Church.

David Abbott Jenkins was born on January 25, 1883, was the twenty-fourth mayor of Salt Lake City, from 1940 to 1944. Jenkins's interest in motorsports began with racing motorcycles on dirt tracks and cross country. He then became interested in land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. [1] Jenkins did what he could to increase interest in the salt flats and even brought in foreign drivers to compete. He drove the Duesenberg "Mormon Meteor" to a 24-hour average land speed record of 135 miles per hour (217 km/h) in 1935. In 1940 Jenkins set the 24-hour record of a 161.180 mph (259.394 km/h) average that lasted for 50 years (until 1990). [2]

Jenkins set dozens upon hundreds of speed and endurance records that only ended with his death at age 73 (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of a heart attack). Some of his records still stand. Yet, he was more proud of driving over one million miles having never had an accident. Often called "The World's Safest Speedster" he was the father of salt racing. He valued humanity above all and loved and was beloved.

Jenkins began by racing trains on long-distance trips. He was a deeply religious man, who put his faith in God, and by God, he went far, especially driving his “Mormon Meteor” speed machines.

Jenkins racing fame coupled with his congenial, outgoing nature got him elected Mayor of Salt Lake in 1940 without ever giving a speech, or spending a nickel on a campaign. He served until 1944 setting 21 speed records while in office. [3]

Jenkins' son Marv joined him in racing, and together they claimed 28 records. The year after Ab's death, General Motors introduced the 1957 Pontiac “Bonneville” in honor of Ab and Marv’s achievements making it the first, and perhaps the only car to ever “earn” its name and not simply by “given” its name by an automaker.

A natural born superb mechanic, Jenkins lived his entire life with unwavering honesty and enviable common sense that generated numerous successful promotions for sponsors because he was held in such high esteem by the general public. Certainly the first person to catch "salt fever”, Jenkins passed on the speed affliction to succeeding generations and racing continues to this day out on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. [4]

In 2011, the public was lucky to welcome a new documentary film about Ab Jenkins, "Boys of Bonneville — Racing on a Ribbon of Salt." The film not only honors Ab, but the "Mormon Meteor III," Ab's car, which was rebuilt completely for the film. The film is a Larry H. Miller release. The feature-length documentary includes interviews with car collector and TV personality Jay Leno. The film is directed by Curt Wallin. Executive producer is John Price, who believed the story of the Mormon Meteor III needed to be told. Price is founder of the Price Museum of Speed.

Ab Jenkins continues to catch the imaginations of car and race enthusiasts, even on the Internet. A Facebook fan page was created[5] and blogs[6] and online magazines[7] feature articles about him.

Ab Jenkins Drives Auburn at Bonneville Salt Flats: Ab Jenkins, Mormon Meteor at Bonneville: