The story of a young man’s need for speed that would lead to the founding of the legendary S&S Cycle Equipment is chronicled in these amazing archival images on their website. They show founder George Smith Sr. as he builds his Harley-Davidson Knucklehead racer called “TRAMP” that became the testing ground for innovative after-market performance parts that are now the gold standard for the industry– S&S Cycle.
1941– George Smith Sr. pictured here at just 19 yrs old on his 80″ Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. He would go on to found S&S Cycle Equipment with Stanley Stankos in 1958. (via)
1952, the race to start it all–
“In the summer, the lure of a $1000 prize put up by the track promoter at Half Day Speedway, a local Chicago drag strip introduces George Smith Sr. to the infant sport of drag racing. He convinces wife Marge that he can win the money and proceeds to campaign a 1939 80” Knucklehead Big Twin he modifies and names “TRAMP”. The motorcycle begins as a basket case 61”. Scrounging parts, Smith uses the same formula he did once before to make his Trusty 80, Flathead UL 4-9/32” stroke flywheels and 3-7/16” bore cylinders. This time he elects to modify the cylinder heads to improve his final speed at the “top end” by welding up each head to accept a separate Riley carburetor. Instead of using gasoline, he switches to a new fuel, nitro methane, a paint industry by-product that finds its way into racing. The highly explosive stuff provides massive amounts of instant power with sometimes unpredictable effects. By experimenting with other ingredients such as gasoline and alcohol, Smith is able to improve combustibility while stabilizing the new discovery to achieve maximum power. During the fall events, he wins race after race competing against other motorcycles and cars and speeds of 125 mph are common place. He wins the championship by defeating all competitors with an elapsed speed of 123.45 mph. When the promoter sees Smith will win, at the last minute, he withdraws the money denying him the prize.” via
1954 = 152.02 mph on Tramp – What started out as George Smith Sr.’s personal quest for speed became the foundations for testing and developing new racing products that would later give birth of the legendary S&S Cycle Equipment by Smith & Stankos in 1958. (via)
Smith & Stankos & 152 mph on Tramp–
“After reading about early speed trials at the Salt Flats in Bonneville, Utah, George teams up with friend Stanley Stankos and a local Chicago Harley dealer who sponsors him. Smith’s goal is to enter ‘Tramp’ and set a record at the event scheduled in the summer of 1954. Tramp is stripped of everything and fitted with a K model front fork. While the 80″ engine proved good enough for earlier competition, he feels he needs more horsepower. Big bore 3-11/16″ steel cylinders are machined from solid steel slugs. Pistons have to be made from scratch. His knowledge from his job at Ingalls-Shephard enables him to build patterns and piston molds to cast his own pistons for the special big bore, long stroke motor. Young Ken Smith, seven years old at the time, remembers going down to Stankos’ upholstery shop to watch. The fumes from the molten aluminum are stifling and send the youngster swaying into the street for fresh air. After trying again and again to make good castings, George and Stan are finally successful. The home brewed pistons are ready for final machining on a lathe in Stan’s upholstery shop. Using the 4-9/32″ stroke UL flywheels from before and the 3-11/16” bore cylinders and piston, the displacement increases to 91 cubic inches.
Smith and friends, Stanley Stankos and Leo “Baldy” Spindler, and sponsor, Al Molenaar from Southside Harley-Davidson take a refined version of TRAMP built by Smith and Stankos to the Bonneville Salt Flats were Smith makes a run of 152.02 mph. Not surprising, that trip to the barren salt flats serves only to whet Smith’s appetite for more. Unknown at the time, a tradition is established – one that will see George, his wife Marge, friends and other family members return to the dry lake bed many times. What starts as a quest for speed in 1954 becomes one of the foundations for testing and developing new products at S&S later.” (via)
George Smith Sr. pointing out the twin Riley racing carburetors on his epic Harley-Davidson Knucklehead TRAMP. (via)
George Smith Sr. made motorcycle racing, setting speed records, and S&S Cycle a true family affair. (via)
George Smith Sr. founder of S&S Cycle on his Harley-Davidson Knucklehead TRAMP. (via)