Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

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The Super Shaker streamliner was designed and built by legendary hot rodding pioneer Bill Burke for the 1959 Bonneville Nationals where it turned a speed of 151.38 mph in the F/Streamliner class–on just 90 cubic inches. Unfortunately, the car was unable to make a return run, thus forfeiting a run that was set to beat the previous class record by 15 mph. Restored between 2004 and 2008, the car was first off the line at that year’s Bonneville Nationals, and is now offered with its original Cooper-based fiberglass body atop its original chassis and wheels. Power comes from a Harley Knucklehead built to original specs, and at just 604 pounds with an 84″ wheelbase, this tiny car carries a big reputation and has been featured on the covers of Car Craft, Hot Rod, Sportscar Graphic and Rod & Custom magazines. Offered with a restoration album, vintage photographs and more, the car is eligible for display at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum, but we’d rather see it out making noise and inspiring new generations to go racing. Find it here at Mecum who estimate it will bring between $125k-$200k when it is auctioned at their Phoenix, Arizona sale sometime between March 14-17, 2019.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

The story of Bill Burke is filled with fast cars, technological prowess and a willingness to try new ideas. He built his first car (a modified Model A) in 1937 and soon became the 45th member of the Southern California Timing Association with a Model T that ran 110 mph, making him one of the first five break 100 on the salt. During WWII, he served in the Coast Guard and on PT boats in the South Pacific, where he spotted a barge full of belly tanks for P-38s and P-51s and decided they would make good racers. Returning home, in 1946 he would build the very first belly tanker out of a discarded P-51 unit–check out a tribute and previous BaT feature here.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

Burke built a second belly tanker with Wally Parks called Sweet 16 (based on a P-38 tank) that would turn over 151 mph in 1949, in the process making it the “World’s Fastest Hot Rod.” So successful was the ’16 that Burke would then build 13 cars for other clients before launching a fiberglass body business in the early 1950’s, formed around a copy of Robert E. Petersen‘s (his boss at the time) Cisitalia 202. He ran Allied Fiber-Glass with Mickey Thompson and Roy Kinch until 1955, but Burke never stopped innovating and building beautiful, record-setting cars.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

Swoopy bodywork just barely conceals the inner workings underneath, paint and decals are spot-on copies of the originals, and build quality looks very good.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

Though beautifully photographed, it’s hard to get a sense of how little the car is. The photo below gives some indication of the building methods used to create the Super Shaker. A ladder-type frame underpins the fiberglass body and consists of two main longitudinal hoops of 2″ tubular steel and 1″ outrigger braces.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

Those braces attach the body, floor pan and items like the oil and fuel tanks. Just four gauges, an on/off switch, a shifter, a bomber seat, a butterfly wheel (attached to center-link steering and stock Ford Anglia suspension components) and some simple belts were all that was required to run faster than 150 mph back in the day.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

This 1959 Speed Trails participate sticker is just too cool. Burke had previously used Ford Model B four bangers and flatheads, but in 1959 he came to the salt with something new: a hopped-up Harley-Davidson V-Twin.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

Built by C.B. Clausen, the 61ci Knucklehead was bored and stroked to 90ci, fitted with a hotter cam, reworked heads and two Riley carbs. Burke hooked the engine and stock transmission (modified to use just second and top gears) to a H-D Servi-Car rear axle. We can only imagine the racket as it screamed by on its maiden run 60 years ago.

Four Tons of History in a 600 Pound Package: 1959 Bill Burke Super Shaker

Vintage photographs can really make a story, as is the case with this image showing Burke near the starting line in August of 1959. It also helps finally give a feel for how little the Super Shaker was–and is.

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