American hot rodding and the Bonneville Salt Flats are inextricably linked, with individual efforts to build high-performance specials for land-speed-record runs helping to spawn post-war street rod and custom car culture.
The Pick of the Day is a unique survivor of an earlier time in Salt Flat motorsport, the 1930 Hupmobile Bonneville racer in which Denver medical doctor Norbert H. Knoch engaged his passion for high-speed pursuits.
Knoch bought the Hupmobile Model H sedan new from a local Denver dealer, which would have been a sensible and reliable choice for a doctor at that time, according to the St. Louis collector car dealer advertising the racer on ClassicCars.com. But the good doctor had other plans for his Hupmobile.
“Dr. Knoch’s passion for motorsport would eventually lead him to transform the Hupmobile into one of the more fascinating early hot-rod/racing cars of the period,” the ad says in its interesting description of the car and its history.
Knoch was no stranger to Bonneville runs, serving as the team doctor for Augie Duesenberg and Ab Jenkins when they ran speed-record attempts in the famed “Mormon Meteor.”
The Hupp Motor Co. of Detroit, the maker of Hupmobile, was interested in promoting itself through motorsport, and the company supported a racing driver and car builder, Russell Snowberger, to compete in the 1932 Indy 500 with a performance-tuned Hupp 8 engine. Snowberger in his Hupp Comet started second on the grid and finished fifth overall against much more sophisticated machinery.
“Meanwhile in Denver, Dr. Knoch with assistance from Bill Kenz (a future Bonneville legend himself) was making serious progress in converting his Hupp sedan into a dry-lakes speedster,” the seller says in the ad. “He commissioned local coachbuilders Niederhut Carriage Company to create the light and purposeful two-passenger boat-tail body.
“Niederhut scrapped the fenders in favor of specially designed, streamlined mudguards which served to keep the salt out of the cockpit.”
After making some initial runs with a modified Hupp factory straight-8, the doctor approached Hupmobile for a more-competitive solution.
“In the quest for more power, Dr. Knoch eventually purchased the ex-Russ Snowberger Hupmobile Indy car engine, which was sitting in storage since being returned to the factory,” the ad says. “Now, Hupp Motor Company could recoup some of the investment made in the Indy program while still reaping the benefits of Dr. Knoch’s efforts.”
The Bonneville Hupmobile ran at the Salt Flats on September 2, 1935, with the doctor at the wheel, reaching an impressive 136 mph. Knoch’s wife also took a turn, running it up to 130 mph.
After Knoch’s death in 1956, his racer was sold and eventually landed in a Terra Haute, Indiana, collection. The Indy racing engine stayed in the car for most of the ensuing years, the listing says, “until John Snowberger (Russell Snowberger’s son) purchased it to reunite the engine with his father’s newly restored Indy car.”
The Hupmobile was sold to Rick Blomquist, who together with his son, Cord, began a comprehensive restoration, which was completed in 2017 by the Blomquist family’s While Gloves Collection workshop.
The beautiful result looks akin to a custom roadster that might be built in a modern street rod shop, but is instead a 1930s period piece brought back to its original custom condition.
“The fascinating speedster is now in a specification very close to how it last ran at Bonneville,” the seller says. “Perhaps equally as impressive as the high-quality restoration is the astonishing history file, complete with the original 1932 Colorado title, and dozens of letters between Dr. Knoch, the Hupp Motor Company and suppliers.”
The Snowberger engine has been replaced with a “period-correct” Hupp Model H straight-8 engine fed by an oversized Stromberg carburetor, the ad states.
“Paintwork and detailing (are) excellent, and the car has an undeniable presence, with the unique boattail body, aero mud guards, and laid-back radiator grille and fairing,” the ad says.
The asking price for this one-of-a-kind historic speed racer is $250,000.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.