In 1920, Tommy Milton had come to the world's most famous beach to raise the land speed record to 156 miles per hour.

Most considered that to be an unbeatable mark and little happened here in 1921. All the while Sig Haugdahl was busy plotting to become the first human to travel at the speed of three miles per minute. Sig's family had come to the states from Norway and settled in Minnesota where young Sig had become infatuated with racing.

He had great success racing in the Midwest but knew that if he was to achieve a land speed record he would need to come to our beach. He moved his family down and opened a shop on North Beach Street where he could prepare his racer for the record run. The sleek white car was called the “Wisconsin Special” to honor the big 832 cu. in. 6 cylinder engine it sported.

It was April 6,1922, when the car was finally ready. Haugdahl knew he would have to take special precautions to establish a record since he was in disfavor with the AAA governing body. Sig had raced under the auspices of The International Motorsport Contest Association (IMCA.) That group was a bitter rival of AAA and any record by Haugdahl would probably never be recognized.

To that end Sig lined up a U.S. senator and the mayor of Daytona Beach to work as timers. He also made sure to have the timing apparatus certified before and after his run. Sure enough, the Wisconsin Special scorched the beach at 180.27 m.p.h. The three miles per minute record was his!

Move ahead 75 years and I was sitting inside the Halifax Historical Museum on Beach Street doing some research with my friend Suzanne Heddy, who was the museum director at the time. In walked a small, unassuming man with a load of newspapers clippings and old photos under his arm.

When Suzanne asked if she could help him, he said he was Sig Haugdahl Jr. I can assure you, that got my attention. I told him I was honored to shake his hand, probably the way a groupie would have spoken to the Beatles.

Sig Jr. was around 80 years old and told us he had spent his life trying to promote his dad's fame as a race car driver. He told us the family had left Daytona Beach in the 1940s and moved over around the Palatka area. We talked about his father being the one who laid out the first beach road course that would be the precursor of NASCAR and he was pleased that Suzanne and I knew that history.

The little old man was a walking history book and I promised him I would do all I could to enhance his father's memory.

In 2003, when we did the first Centennial of Speed on the beach, I worked hard to get the Wisconsin Special back here. By that time the car belonged to Tom Mittler of Michigan, but when I contacted him, he said he would be anxious to bring the car to the site of its original glory.

When that event came, the Special was back and in a mostly un-restored condition. As it ran the beach, it looked much the same as it must have in 1922. The event was a huge success and the Wisconsin Special was a big part of that.

Sig Jr. and I remained friends until his passing. It was my honor to know him and to help with his family's history.

Dan Smith is on the board of directors of the Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, “The World’s Greatest Beach” and “I Swear the Snook Drowned.” Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net or call (386) 441-7793.

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