THE STORY OF THE PARASITE | JERSEY’S OWN TWIN-ENGINE TRIUMPH DRAGSTER

My friend Matt Smith over at Smoke and Throttle has been schooling me on the legend that is John Melniczuk. All this incredible Triumph racing/building history and a showroom of beauties to die for, and in my own beautiful home state (no joke) of New Jersey of all places.

“John Melniczuk is not just a Triumph enthusiast whose hobbies turned into an occupation. He’s been working in the field since the ’60s when he was just a young man at his fathers Triumph dealership– Bauer Cycles (established in 1953). John’s grandfather owned another dealership, Cycle Sports Center, which sold Indians and Vincents among others. John’s ambition and devotion for the sport of motorcycle racing eventually lead to a job turning wrenches for the late great Gary Nixon. After a while, being a behind-the-scenes guy was not enough, so John began to campaign his own custom built Triumph T110 drag racer– setting many track records throughout his career. Dragging Triumphs runs in the family as well– His father’s shop raced a twin-engine Triumph-motored monster dubbed The Parasite.”  –Smoke and Throttle

Check out the incredible story of the epic Parasite dragster below, which can be found on John Melniczuk Jr.’s J&M Enterprises site. This tale of the twin-engine Triumph marvel built by John Melniczuk Sr. and later restored by John Jr. is truly something to behold. The images alone are enough to make you crazy. Combined with the personal stories behind the bike and the family’s who shared in its history make it a truly special piece of history.

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The story of the Parasite is a tale of two engines, conceived in casual discussion and created by two friends whose dedication and innovation propelled a one-off motorcycle into the Daytona Drags record books. –via John Melniczuk, J&M Enterprises

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So Crazy It Just Might Work

It all started in the winter of 1958 when John Melniczuk Sr., a Triumph Dealer and owner of Bauer Cycles of Salem, NJ, and Tommy Grazias, a fellow racer, first toyed with the idea of building a twin-engine dragster. Both had been racing T-I10 Triumphs and the thought of taking the engines from each and building one dragster was too tempting not to try. John would design and build it and Tommy would race it. The best place to showcase such a motorcycle was the upcoming Daytona Drags. The bike would have to be ready to contest Daytona by March of 1959.

In the late 50s, the two-engine dragster concept was unheard of and John and Tommy spent hundreds of hours over a two month span designing, building, redesigning and rebuilding the motorcycle. Without the advantages of modern aftermarket and factory race parts, each part had to be fabricated by hand. The modified Triumph frame was hand built by John and included a girder fork front end brought back from England in a suitcase by Triumph Corporation’s Rod Coates. The half quart gas tank was made of two bicycle headlight shells and an empty can. The rear rim was reworked from an old Indian rim drilled out to save weight. Due to the horsepower created, most of the transmission gears were removed leaving only second and third. Finally, the drag slicks (not available at the time) were created from recapped Indian tires. But difficulties often follow the exhaust of innovation.

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The twin-engined Triumph Parasite dragster getting ready for takeoff. –via Smoke and Throttle

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It’s All In The Timing

The bike was first tested, running only one engine, on Jericho Road, an old backwoods road know for drag racing. Timing both engines had become increasingly difficult. John worked tirelessly at it, breaking chain after chain. His first thought was to run the engines as a single four cylinder. What he got was a four-cylinder slingshot snapping chains straight up into the air. Then one day it came to him– the engines had to be timed as one. During the frame modifications, John ran into difficulty with the rear section braking and had to add gussets to strengthen it under the load of two engines. After working through all of these setbacks the bike was starting to come together.

But before heading to Daytona they needed to race the bike in some local competitions. So they loaded the bike into Tommy’s station wagon and set sights on Indiana where they claimed their first victory. The $100 prize money, however, went even faster. For all proceeds went to the Pennsylvania State Police who stopped them for driving over 100 mph on their way to Indiana.

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“Parasite, an organism living in, with, or on another organism.” That was it– one engine living off of the other. The Parasite had been born.  –via John Melniczuk, J&M Enterprises

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What’s In A Name?

One evening in the old, rickety shop of Bauer Cycles, John, Tommy and a group of racing friends were sitting around trying to come up with a name for the bike. Each took turns rifling through an old dictionary searching for a single word to describe the unique, twin-engine monstrosity. Finally, around the letter P, someone said they had found it. The room grew silent as he read it aloud: “Parasite, an organism living in, with, or on another organism.” That was it, one engine living off of the other. The Parasite had been born.

Daytona, Meet The Parasite

Winter had faded into spring and Daytona was calling. In March John and Tommy made their annual pilgrimage down to Daytona Beach to compete in the Daytona Drags held at the municipal airport. But this time they had the Parasite with them. It did not disappoint. The Parasite won Daytona running a 10:42 ET at over 142 mph in the quarter mile, and making the front page of the local newspaper. The daydream of last winter had become a reality.

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The Legendary Parasite– T110 twin engine dragster built by John Melnizuk Sr. and raced by Tommy Grazias, and later John, who coaxed a top speed of 150 MPH out of the beast. In 1959, The Parasite won Daytona running a 10:42 ET at over 142 mph in the quarter mile, and making the front page of the local newspaper.  –via John Melniczuk, J&M Enterprises

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Smoking Leather Pants

John and Tommy raced the Parasite for several more years throughout the eastern United States. Time and again it took top honors wherever it traveled. But it was also known for some heinous wrecks such as the infamous crash at Vineland Speedway in New Jersey. The famous oval, known for starting the careers of such legends as A.J. Foyt, included an extension used for drag racing. Because the drag strip extended off of the half-mile oval, there was a hump just past the 1/8- mile mark. That day, for some reason, Tommy shifted into third gear at the hump instead of after the hump. This sent the bike into a high-speed wobble, hurling Tommy and the Parasite down the track in a ball of black smoke. Tommy actually reached the speed traps before the Parasite and earned an equally scorching distinction in the local paper whose morning headline read: “He Slid Down the Track in Smoking Leather Pants.”

Tommy eventually married and stopped racing the Parasite. John took over and ended his stint with a best ET of 10:33 at 150.23 mph. In 1964, John sold the bike to Don Hyland of New England who took the bike to England and ran it in several exhibitions races.

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Jack Mercer, a well known field rep for Tri-Cor (Triumph’s East Coast Distributor) on the legendary Parasite dragster.  –via Geekbobber

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Return Of The Parasite

Although John Melniczuk Jr. was only 13 when the Parasite was sold, he remembered every detail of the bike and its short but memorable history. In the 1985 John Jr. decided to find the Parasite. With only a name and a geographical location (New England), John Jr. set out on a ten-year journey to reunite with the estranged Parasite. He scoured Triumph shows across the country armed with a few photographs asking attendees if they had seen the bike. Finally one evening the phone rang, “I know where the bikes at,” the voice said. John had finally tracked down the Parasite, but its new owner didn’t want to sell. Many people had tried, but he had always refused to part ways with the Parasite– that was until John’s first-hand stories of the bike’s creation, racing heritage and victories compelled him to sell it and return the Parasite to its family.

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John Melniczuk Jr. racing his own T110 Triumph dragster.  –via Smoke and Throttle 

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John Jr. contacted Guy, Tommy’s son, and the second generation of the Parasites’ family made plans to purchase the bike in New England and return it for a secret unveiling for their fathers. So, in December of 1990 under the guise of a Christmas party, the Parasite was unveiled to John, Tommy and all of their old racing friends. When the Parasite was uncovered, it brought a tear to Tommy’s eye. “That thing almost killed me,” he smiled. The Parasite had returned. Over the next several years John Jr. began the tedious process of gathering parts to return the bike to its original glory. By the turn of the century, the Parasite was restored and has been featured at the AMA Heritage museum’s “Race bikes of the Past” exhibit as well as several other motorcycle showcases.

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Master builder/restorer John Melniczuk in his Cedarville, NJ Showroom.  –via Smoke and Throttle

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Check out John Meniczuk’s site for J&M Enterprises specializing in master restorations and powder coating here.

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5 thoughts on “THE STORY OF THE PARASITE | JERSEY’S OWN TWIN-ENGINE TRIUMPH DRAGSTER

  1. Great bike and story. By coincidence, Classic Bike (UK magazine in that old fashioned print media thing) this month has a piece on leading drag bikes that ran mainly over in the UK in the 1970s, including multi-engined bikes such as The Hobbit (double Weslake twins) and Conquest (double Triumph twins). Worth a look if you can get hold of a copy.

  2. Jeeze , you’re a Jersey Boy as well ? Me too . From smack dab in the middle of the State . Great story and for all the drags I went to as a kid ( Atco Englishtown etc ) too bad I never got to see this in person ( yes I’m an ‘ Old Guy ‘ )

  3. Check out that awesome custom paint job on JM-jr’s helmet! The real deal right there. Thanks for running this JP, John is such a pro yet very easy to work with. He deserves way more attention than he gets.

  4. Great post. I am actually from Vineland so it is great to see glimpses of history that I was not aware of. Also great to hear you are from “DIrty Jerz” as we affectionately call our great state. Keep up the good work.

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