Gray Baskerville got it right back in 1975 when he wrote, “Seth Hammond is slightly eccentric…” Thus, began the feature on Seth’s Fronty-headed Model T in the Sept. ’75 issue of HOT ROD Magazine. Seth and his buddies built the car in a few weeks, with Seth building the chassis, Steve Davis bending the aluminum body panels, and a crew of guys building the banger with a ’26 Model T block and that ultrarare, four-valve Fronty head. “It sounds like an Offy,” our old dad told the readers. Seth killed the record at the now-defunct Signal Hill (California) Hillclimb event, after which the organizers asked him not to come back. Sore losers.
But perhaps that uninvitation was a good thing, as it pushed Seth toward the Salt. He bought the old Scotties Muffler Lakester from the ’50s and was going to run the Frontenac motor from the hillclimb car, but then realized Bonneville has a habit of devouring engines and the head was just too valuable and too hard to replace. Running a Pinto four-cylinder instead, he set his first-ever Bonneville record at 140 mph in 1976 and has managed to keep his name in the record book every year since then.
In 1981, Seth bought a Lakester that was built in his hometown of Santa Barbara, California, by Tim Rochlitzer and that was on the cover of HOT ROD in 1962. He ran it until 2003, putting nine people in the 200 MPH Club and three in the 300 MPH Club, including his wife, Tanis (at 305, the first woman above 300 mph), and Dr. Jeannie Pflum (302 mph). Seth crashed the car at 324 mph in 2003, then used the remains to build a Modified Roadster. He ran that until 2007 and set four records with it, but the whole time he envisioned a new Lakester in the back of his head.
To help jump-start the new car build, Seth’s son, Channing, taught himself the SolidWorks 3-D program and designed a body that was then built by the Gaffoglio brothers at Metal Crafters (Fountain Valley, California) out of honeycomb fiberglass and carbon fiber. The body master was actually CNC-machined to ensure that the curvature is the same on both sides. The chassis was built in Seth’s shop from 4130 chrome-moly 1 5/8, 0.120-wall tubing and has a 240-inch wheelbase. A four-link suspends both ends of the car, there’s a Trans Action quick-change with Speedway Engineering axles in the rear, and QA1 coil-overs reside on all four corners. The body and chassis were designed to be easy to work on while at the Salt, and the last touch to the elegant bodywork was a Chip Foose-designed-and-sprayed paint job.
Lee Gustafson built the 565cubic-inch Rat motor around a 4.600 bore and 4.250 stroke and topped it with Reher-Morrison’s Raptor 12-degree cylinder heads and a Hogan sheetmetal intake with twin throttle bodies and EFI Technology fuel injection. It uses a Bryant 4.250-inch-stroke crank, Manley rods, and JE pistons that squeeze 15.0:1 compression. The heads are 12-degree units from Reher Morrison and mount T&D rockers, while the induction is a Hogan sheetmetal intake with twin throttle bodies controlled by an EFI Technology fuel-injection system. The wrapped headers have 2 1/4-inch primaries. It makes just above 1,000 hp. There was room left in the engine bay to add a pair of turbochargers so the car can run all the classes-blown or unblown, gas or fuel, and engine displacements from AA to E. Without the 400 shot of Edelbrock nitrous, it makes 1,035 hp at 7,700 rpm, which is sent through an air-shifted five-speed Liberty transmission with a triple-disc McLeod clutch.
That’s enough to push the Lakester to 311.853 mph, blowing away the record (which sat at 271 mph) in the AA/Gas Lakester class. By the time the ’08 Speed Week and World of Speed events were over, the record had actually been broken five times by three different cars, and Seth’s car ended up the fastest. But that’s quite a bit shy of where he would like it to ultimately run. His goal is to be the fastest open-wheel car, eclipsing his hero and mentor Fred Dannenfelzer’s mark of 366 mph.