Dave Isley built his salt flats and dry lakebed racecar in his garage. He has done everything from building and modifying the engine to molding the body out of fiberglass with his son. He claims he got a lot of help, but when talking to Isley it is clear that he spends much of his own time, energy and money on his car.
Dave Isley uses a measuring tool to check and adjust the valve lash, or the clearance between the rocker and the tip of the exhaust valve. The rockers open and close the fuel intake and exhaust valves and if there is too much or little space between them, they hit and cause damage. Isley does all the mechanics, repair work and body work himself in his garage.
“One thing about this is you’re always cleaning.” After racing the previous weekend, Dave Isley is at the step in which he is cleaning the engine bay. Isley jokes that it’s a good thing he doesn’t mind cleaning because half of racing is cleaning the car.
The Patton Steel Special sits quietly on El Mirage’s dry lakebed. On a Tuesday morning after a rain, the lake has little movement on it. Dave Isley said that he hasn’t seen the lake packed so tightly in a long time. The October 2015 land speed-racing event was cancelled due to rain, but Isley is hopeful that the end of the season will dry up.
At El Mirage Dry Lake, Dave Isley wears the flame-retardant racing suit. Isley is the sole driver of Isley Motorsports, an active participant in the Southern California Timing Association. Each season there are six land-speed racing events at El Mirage and two more at Bonneville Salt Flats outside of Wendover, Utah. The last few years Bonneville and a few events at El Mirage have been cancelled due to rain. The Bureau of Land Management closes the lakebeds to protect them from serious damage by tires and other recreational activities.
The Patton Steel Special’s view of the lakebed is wide and low and the driver’s seat doesn’t leave room for anything else but Dave Isley. Isley commands a car that reaches roughly 250 miles-per-hour at El Mirage from a couple of feet above the ground. The course is 1.3 miles long, while the Bonneville Salt Flats course is five miles long. The Bonneville Salt Flats host Speed Week and the World Finals of the land speed racing events. The speeds at Bonneville are much higher and Isley Motorsports is hoping to drive much faster than at El Mirage.