Bill Burke’s Bonneville Streamliner heading to Mecum Phoenix sale

Famed Super Shaker topped 150 mph at 1959 Bonneville Nationals

A 1959 Bonneville Streamliner Super Shaker built and raced by late hot rod pioneer Bill Burke will be on the auction block during the inaugural Mecum Phoenix auction in March.

“The Super Shaker was typical of Burke’s creations: a lightweight, purpose-built, no-frills appliance designed to accomplish its mission of outright speed with maximum efficiency and a touch of flair,” the lot description reads.

Burke cast the Super Shaker from a Cooper sports car, particularly those used to capture straight-line speed records. The fiberglass body was set on a ladder-type chassis made of two-inch tubular steel with one-inch outrigger braces for mounting purposes. In addition to pioneering fiberglass bodies, Burke was also among the first to build and race a belly tanker made from World War II surplus aircraft tanks — an idea he got while serving in the South Pacific.

Burke sits in the Super Shaker at Bonneville. | Mecum photo

Burke sits in the Super Shaker at Bonneville. | Mecum photo

The Super Shaker is one of just two racers in which Burke, a dedicated fan of Ford’s flathead V8 engine, opted to use a Harley-Davidson V-Twin engine. This particular Knucklehead was built by C.B. Clausen, a well-known Harley tuner who was one of the first to use the Milwaukee-made engines at Bonneville.

Clausen enlarged the stock 61cid engine. It was bored, stroked and fitted with a modified cam and heads to optimize airflow to two Riley racing carburetors. It was paired with a Harley-Davidson transmission that only used its second and top gears.

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For the front end, Burke used the split wishbones, transverse leaf spring and center-link steering from a Ford Anglia. A Harley-Davidson Servicar rear axle assembly with an open differential and mechanical brakes also was added.

There was barely enough room for Burke to fit in the diminutive speedster. | Mecum photo

There was barely enough room for Burke to fit in the diminutive speedster. | Mecum photo

All of that was crammed into an 84-inch wheelbase of a vehicle that weighed slightly more than 600 pounds dry.

The car carried Burke to a top speed of 151.28 mph at the 1959 Bonneville Speed Trials.

After the trials, Burke set the Super Shaker aside to focus on reaching the 200 MPH Club. He eventually did so as part of an illustrious automotive career that saw him be president of both the Road Rebels Car Club and Southern California Timing Association.

There was barely enough room for Burke to fit in the diminutive speedster. | Mecum photo

There was barely enough room for Burke to fit in the diminutive speedster. | Mecum photo

The Super Shaker was later purchased by racing safety expert Jim Deist, who asked Burke’s longtime friend Fred Sibley to convert it to jet power. The conversion was never completed and the racer sat in Sibley’s shop until 2001, when it was purchased by Jim Mann.

After changing owners a few times, the Super Shaker was bought by Jerry Baker and underwent a four-year restoration. It still has the original bodywork, chassis, wheels and Goodyear tires. Another Harley-Davidson Knucklehead engine was built to match Burke’s specifications and the livery was also brought back to life.

Mecum took the Super Shaker on a brief tour to promote its inaugural Phoenix sale. | Larry Edsall photo

Mecum took the Super Shaker on a brief tour to promote its inaugural Phoenix sale. | Larry Edsall photo

It was the first car to roll off the starting line at the 2008 Bonneville Nationals and has called the Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona, California, home ever since.

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The Super Shaker will roll across the block on March 16. Pre-auction estimates put the value between $125,000 and $200,000.


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