1978 Vetter Streamlined Skateboard

Overall 1978 World Skatecar Champion

One day in 1978 Jackie Smith, a Pismo Beach skateboarder (snowboarder and sandboarder), asked if I would sponsor the design and construction of a racing skateboard. He said that a big race was going to be held at Signal Hill (near Los Angeles) to see who was the fastest. "Sounds good to me," I said. I like a good contest. Cycle magazine graciously donated some money and we were on our way.

I had no idea of what we were in for.

There were very strict rules for this contest. But the idea for going fast, as always, was to minimize the frontal area, keep it aerodynamically slippery and minimize rolling resistance. For good handling, you must also keep the weight as far up front as possible. Of course, it was required that you had brakes. We used a parachute and skuff pads that rubbed on the road (aero space and wagon wheel technology).

Jackie in the Vetter Skateboard on Signal Hill June 11, 1978

Good weight distribution (center of gravity at the front) meant riding on your stomach. Personally, I would never do this. Pretty scary.

Jackie Smith, taped in, ready to go

Signal Hill is very steep. The picture does not do it justice. At the bottom is an intersection of another road with a hump which could launch the faster boards into the air and cock them sideways. If you were not exactly in the center of the road, you would go head first into the curb. Many contestants and skateboards were shattered there.

Twelve contestants were hurt that day, one critically. Jackie and the Vetter Streamliner Skateboard ran true. The skateboards raced one final time at Derby Downs.

Jackie reported: At Signal Hill we tied for the 2nd fastest time of the day at 59.27 mph, Henry Hester was given the second place trophy due to the fact his first run time was faster than ours. The winner went 59.92 mph. At Akron we took second place outright, though if CBS had not changed the rules midstream we would have been the winner. With all that being said, we were the Overall World Skatecar Champion in 1978.

These things were too dangerous.

They don't do this anymore.

Derby Downs Video on YouTube

Vetter, Smith and the Vetter Streamliner reunion of 2011
The Hurricane, my 1969 design for Triumph, and the Vetter Streamliner of 1978 at the Annual San Luis Motorcycle Show and Rally held October 8, 2011.

Jack recently re-aquired the Vetter Streamliner and is restoring it to its original 1978 Signal Hill configuration. To the right, Jack follows his son who is piloting the now running Streamlininer.

This was a great day for the Smiths... and for me, too.

Posted April 19, 2002

Updated Jan 8, 2011