Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Betty Skelton, Duntov's test driver

found on http://corvettebrasil.blogspot.com/2011/04/test-driver-de-zora-arkus-duntov.html

But as Paul Harvey told us, you haven't heard the rest of the story!

Betty was fascinated with flying since childhood, and strove with incredible focus to be a pilot since age 12, getting her Civilian Air Authority private pilots license at age 16. In the next two years she was certified single and multi engine, land and sea, and at 18 got her Commercial Pilots License and in the next year was an instructor and the year after that, at age 20 was a major in the Civil Air Patrol and began her professional acrobatic career, also as a test pilot, and flew blimps, gliders, jets, and helicopters.

In '48, 49 and '50 she was the US Female aerobatic champion, and retired because there was no longer any challenge and she was exhausted from the constant touring, her plane "Li'l Stinker" is now part of the Smithsonian.

She set the high altitude record in 1950, and the speed record in a racing p51 Mustang.

In 1953 she was flying people around, and met Bill France who was having some racers flown to Daytona Beach, they became friends, and she drove a pace car in Feb 1954, then climbed into a Dodge and set the stock car speed record, which must not have been hard, she is likely the only woman at that time to drive one, and AAA certified her the first race drivers license for a woman

The National Aviation Hall of Fame reports that "Betty earned a total of four Feminine World Land Speed Records and set a transcontinental speed record."She competed in races across the Andes mountains in South America and drove the length of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. Betty set records at the Chelsea Proving Grounds and was the first woman to drive a jet car over 300 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. She also set three women’s land speed records at the Daytona Beach Road Course, the last one being 156.99 mph in 1956. That same year, she broke Cannonball Baker's 40-year record for the Transcontinental Auto Race from New York to Los Angeles.

In 1956, she became an advertising executive with Campbell-Ewald and worked with General Motors on and in their TV and print ads. She was GM's first woman technical narrator at major auto shows, where she would talk about and demonstrate automobile features, later becoming official spokeswoman for Chevrolet. While Skelton was working with Chevrolet, she set numerous records with Corvettes, and owned a total of 10 models.

Between 1956 and 1957, Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell designed a special, translucent gold Corvette for Betty, which she drove to Daytona in 1957 to serve as the NASCAR pace car.

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