In the great race for speed, it’s not always the fastest that wins. There are many aspects to racing – and while going fast normally wins the cup, there are other sides of the race that focus more on points. Points championships are a game of precision and self-besting, especially in land speed racing.
Anyone who shows up on race day with a tech-worthy car can get in the game and be lucky enough to break a record or two, but points racing takes a much greater commitment. Not only is it breaking records, it's doing it consistently over time and not missing a meet. The “Little Austin That Could” is a story of a racing family and their points car.
The Lattin family has been in land speed racing for a long time. It started in the mid-60’s when Jim Lattin and Elmo Gillette headed to the salt in search of speed. Although they attained a ton of records over the years, Jim wasn’t content. Now an older, wiser man, Jim's decided to work towards a points championship rather than a mere record. An endeavor like this isn’t something that can be done alone, so the entire Lattin family has gotten involved in this quest for speed.
They set out a year ago with a small budget and a 1930 Austin American sedan – their goal being an overall points championship. The records in their class were a bit soft (meaning they were low) and Jim felt he could consistently better them during each race out. Beginning with a 1932 Model B 4-banger flathead they’d pulled from their street roadster, the family sought to give it a more exciting life in their “Little Austin That Could”.
Now set-up and built to the hilt, the Austin is ready for a fighting chance at the championship. The engine includes a custom plenum and Hilborne throttle body that’s been cobbled together. The head is a one-off they cast themselves in order to obtain the perfect combustion within the chamber.
Finishing the build of the Austin and beginning the journey for the points championship, meant the Lattin family and their Austin needed to show up at various land speed races around the country. Everything seemed to be going as planned with the Austin doing better than anyone’s highest dreams.
At the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Austin’s top speed was 125 mph (running as an altered coupe with full belly pan and no fenders).
“The Little Austin That Could” remained the points leader throughout the entire season, with a close second on their tails. Although land speed racing is done in a straight line, it can have many twists and turns along the way in the form of unexpected mechanical issues. Lots of things can happen during any race, even the last race of the season! For the Lattin family, that’s when their good luck turned bad.
It was the last run, taking place at El Mirage dry lake beds, and they were set to win the points championship for the year. Miles into their run, the motor let loose – costing them the title.
If nothing else, racing teaches you perseverance. The Lattin family didn’t let this last-minute disappointment get them down. During land speed racing’s season opener at El Mirage last month, the Lattin family was at it again. This time around they showed up with not 1, but 2 Austins!
Having different engines and body modifications, the Austins will be racing in different classes – but against themselves nonetheless. After the first weekend of racing the “Little Austins That Could” sit #1 and #2 in points.
You can bet they’ll be giving it their all up to the very end!