Heart of Louisiana: Land Speed Record

Heart of Louisiana: Land Speed Record

(WVUE) - Back in the early 1960s, car designers and drivers were pushing the limits of speed and setting land speed records at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. One of those record-breakers was Knot Farrington of New Orleans, who just celebrated his 99th birthday.

It’s been a fascinating journey “Knot,” starting with the nickname he got after he says the school bully picked on the wrong guy.

“I beat the hell out of him, so after that, the high school kids they named me pine knot because I was so damn tough back then,” Farrington said.

Then his attention turned to fast cars.

“When you’re young, you always want to see how damn fast you can go regardless of what you’re driving,” he said.

In the 1940s, Farrington opened his own mechanic shop in New Orleans - Knot’s Auto Service. He raced midget cars and stock cars.

“You would do anything you could,” Farrington said. “You picked up, you did you try this, you try that, different things and all, you know? I always liked speed.”

It’s fair to say that Farrington has slowed down just a bit. But there was once a time that he was driving his gasoline-powered car faster than any man on earth. His first land speed record came in 1959 at the Bonneville salt flats. His speed was 173 mph.

“Once you go into high gear, that’s when you get everything you’ve got. You push the accelerator through the floorboard,” Farrington said.

Farrington donated that record-setting car to Louisiana’s Sports Hall of Fame. The car broke the 200 mph barrier in 1960 and continued setting records through 1963, when Farrington topped out at nearly 242 mph.

He says it was the streamlined design and moving the engine back 2 feet that allowed him to push the limits of speed.

“I tell you what goes by so damn quick you don’t have time to do too much thinking, you know? Just hoping the thing stays together and you set the record,” Farrington said.

We found a 1961 interview with Farrington at the speed trials in Utah.

Reporter: Owned and driven by Mr. Farrington. Knot Farrington of New Orleans. Knot, it’s a pleasure to know you. You have a beautiful car here. First of all, how fast have you gone at the meet?

Farrington: My top time this year, John, was 228.

Reporter: What’s this my hand is on now?

Farrington: That is the supercharger drive, the belt drive for the supercharger.

Reporter: And you’ve chrome plated everything in sight, I see.

Farrington: About everything is chrome plated or cadium plated on the whole automobile.

Reporter: Well, it’s something to be proud of. Good luck in your future plans Knot.

Farrington: Thank you, John.

“Looking back, I came up during the depression. I couldn’t get the education I needed, so whatever I did, if I was going to do or succeed at anything, I had to do it with my hands, and I did,” Farrington said.

After operating his mechanic shop for 36 years, Farrington sold the business and retired, but only briefly. He then went to work for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office as the fleet manager. After working another 30 decades there, he just retired last year. This man of speed has a hard time slowing down.

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