Salt Flats Legend Sam Wheeler Dies In Crash At Bonneville

Racing community mourns loss of motorcycle land-speed giant.

Sam Wheeler, Bonneville, E-Z Hook, streamliner,

Land-speed legend Sam Wheeler, seen here with the shell of his Parts Unlimited/EZ-Hook streamliner, dedicated much of his life to going as fast as possible on two wheels.

Photo courtesy of Cycle World

Motorcycle land-speed legend Sam Wheeler, 72, died on Monday at a Salt Lake City-area hospital from injuries suffered in an accident at the Bonneville Salt Flats while testing the latest evolution of his famed Parts Unlimited/E-Z Hook streamliner.

Wheeler’s fully enclosed machine was powered by a turbocharged 1300cc Suzuki Hayabusa engine built by Vance & Hines. According to AP Reporter Brady McCombs, Wheeler “was going about 200 mph when the streamliner started fishtailing.”

Wheeler had pursued the motorcycle land-speed record for more than 50 years. “It’s a goal I’ve had all my life, to have the fastest motorcycle, which I have had a couple of times now, but for some reason that didn’t end it,” the Arcadia, California, resident told The Orange County Register in August, 2014.

Wheeler joined the 200-mph club in 1970 (208.720) and, later, the 300-mph chapter (332.410), noted www.bonneville200mph.org.

Sport Rider Editor Kent Kunitsugu profiled the soft-spoken Wheeler several times. “Wheeler is one of those individuals whose passion is evident not only by his long history in the sport, but also in the machinery he builds and races — unlike some other LSR builders, Wheeler pilots his own vehicles,” Kunitsugu wrote in November, 2012.

Wheeler topped 355 mph at Bonneville a decade ago. He hoped to one day break the 400-mph barrier.