Back in the early 1960s, car designers and drivers were pushing the limits speed at the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. That's where new land speed records were being set nearly every year. And one person setting several of those records was a New Orleans mechanic. FOX 8's Dave McNamara catches up with this "man of speed" in tonight's Heart of Louisiana.
It's been a fascinating 95-year journey for L.W. "Knot" Farrington, 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," Farrington 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," he 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 - 173 mph.
"Once you go into high gear, that's when you get everything you've got," Farrington said. "You push the accelerator through the floorboard."
This is the record-setting car. Farrington donated it 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, it 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 this 1961 interview with Farrington at the speed trials in Utah:
Farrington opens the engine compartment and shows off his record-setting design.
"Looking back, I came up during the Depression," Farrington said. "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."
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.