01/01 2018





No step on Snakepit!  PHOTO BY BONHAMS 

Hemmings’ Find of the Day is a land-speed record car with no known records



George Barris is best known for custom cars created for television series and movies, as well as celebrities’ daily drivers, but Barris also took on slightly more performance-oriented projects. One such project is currently for sale on Hemmings, and if you’re not already familiar with the Snakepit, the recipe behind it is pretty breathtaking.

Envisioned as a land-speed record car, the Snakepit is powered by a total of six Cobra-Ford 351 V8 engines strung together, in theory capable of 2,000 hp. The all-steel body, which looks like two coffins connected together, houses all the other things needed to make this run, including two Ford C-6 automatic transmissions, 12 Holley four-barrel carburetors, 48 exhaust pipes, two Pontiac rear ends and fuel tanks. The cockpit features an orange velvet interior (this was 1975), two comfortable-looking seats and a lot of gauges.

This is not quite the approach that the likes of the Bugatti Veyron have taken, but the principle is not completely dissimilar: More cylinders and more hardware equals more speed.

The seller’s description is taken from a 2006 Bonhams auction listing (which does not inspire confidence) and is coy about the car’s actual tested top speed. Both listings suggest the car hasn’t been started in over a decade, at the very least, probably due to fears over engine synchronization and general operation.

More proof that this car is from 1975 and not any other year.PHOTO BY BONHAMS

The car was ostensibly created “to attack international speed records at speeds that stagger the imagination,'” but given the coffin-like aerodynamics, safety equipment (or lack thereof) and the tires, it looks like 150 mph would be a serious gamble. There’s also little evidence of this car moving around under its power much at all — it appears the Snakepit spent most of its life in collections and various garish displays.

The 300-mph “target speed” still gets passed around every time the Snakepit goes to auction, which is once every five years or so. Back in 2006, the car realized $32,526, which weighs in quite a bit south of Barris’ own build cost estimate of $100,000 back in the 1970s.

The seller’s current asking price is $750,000, but the good news is that it is “negotiable.” If you’re in the market and if you can negotiate it down to the level where it last traded hands — the $30,000 range — we’ll be impressed.

It’s pretty clear this is more of a collectible or a styling exercise with Barris pedigree than an engineering marvel with records to its name, and we’re fine with treating it as such, especially given the likelihood of it blowing up if started. We’d love to see it move under its own power at a concours even if to witness it overheating and screeching with its transmissions as it enters the field in the morning, tailgating more valuable cars, but aside from being part of a display of some sort, the everyday use potential is pretty limited. Even for a Barris car.