SONS OF SPEED | A RACE OF PRE-1925 BOARD TRACK MOTORCYCLES

Matt Harris of 40 Cal Customs racing his 1923 Harley-Davidson – Sons of Speed

Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. had a vision to race vintage board-track motorcycles with his friends, family, and other respected builders and racers. Sons of Speed finally kicked off in Daytona during the 76th Bike Week at the New Smyrna Speedway on March 18th, 2017, after having been cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew.

Waiting outside the New Smyrna gates, there was definitely some anticipation and excitement to see these bikes perform on the track. Since these vintage bikes have no clutch or gearbox, the four riders are positioned at the top of the banked track and are push-started with the help of gravity and some manpower. It’s so great to hear the bikes fire up once the twin engines roar to life, propelling the riders down the paved track.

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THE RACE OF GENTLEMEN 2016 | FACES BEHIND THE RACES– SHOT BY SEAN MADDEN

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Sara Francello — To say she’s the TROG flag-girl is like saying Michael Jordan was a Chicago Bulls’ guard. I don’t know where the hell Sara gets the energy to jump and do what she does out there time and time again with such oomph and enthusiasm. When the racers line-up there’s no question who is in charge, and who has everyone’s attention. You may not remember all the hot rods and bikes at TROG– but you will remember Sara and how she gave it all out there on the sand for 2 days straight.  Photo © Sean Madden

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THE RACE OF GENTLEMEN | BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE…FREAK OUT, GET BEATEN

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“Sushi” Atsushi Yasui of Freewheelers & Co. The Race of Gentlemen 2016, Wildwood NJ–  Photo © Sean Madden

Sean Madden came into the TSY shop last summer emitting an abundance smiles and good vibes. I liked this guy right away. We chatted about his passion for motorcycles and photography, and reconnected a few times since. Well, he decided to bite the bullet and come down to Wildwood, NJ and shoot The Race of Gentlemen 2016– which can be quite daunting as many of the best photographers in the business now religiously make the trek to TROG. When I got a look at some of his shots I was impressed enough to ask if TSY could share them with all of you. I especially dig his shots like the one above of Sushi racing. Sean’s shots where he’s intentionally cropping the images of the riders & machine flying out of frame emit a sense of speed and movement that I dig. Definitely very different from a lot of the standard TROG imagery you see these days. Hope y’all enjoy.

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The Race of Gentlemen, 2016, Wildwood NJ–  Photo © Sean Madden

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Love this shot of Chris Price of Archive Moto on his Indian that traces back to Bill Brownell, married striptease legend Patti “Waggin'” Brownell–  Photo © Sean Madden

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“MAD MAX” BUBECK & HIS INDIAN CHOUT | HELL ON HYBRID WHEELS

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Max Bubeck sitting on his 135.58mph hybrid Indian Chief/Scout that he rode at Rosamond Dry Lake on June 27th, 1948. The Fred “Pop” Shunk-built “Chout” is as lean and mean as a straight razor except, for two badass methanol-fed Schebler carburetors that look big enough to pluck poultry. Bubeck’s “Chout”, sporting custom cams and a single speed gearbox, still holds the record for the world’s fastest unfaired Indian motorcycle.

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NORM GRABOWSKI’S CUSTOM CORVAIR BIKE | SICK-AS-HELL SIX-PACK ON 2 WHEELS

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“Norm Grabowski”s monster– the Corvair-powered “Six Pack”. Neil East (another rodding icon), owned AutoBooks in Burbank, CA, and Colorado Carbooks here in Denver told me that Norm used to come to L.A. Roadster club meetings on the Six Pack, and he said Norm had no problem kick starting this bike, when it was time to leave. It had no electric starter!” –Irish Rich 

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Norm Grabowski’s epic “Six Pack” — an air-cooled, flat-six Corvair engine mounted on the frame of a ’41 Indian shaft drive with no transmission, just a clutch. Another future Kustom Kulture legend pin-striped the bike– Dean Jeffries. Irish Rich (whose website is the authority on old school builders, and is due a ton of respect for his own incredible work) saw this impressive bike himself back in ’65, and has chronicled it well. Norm actually built 2 Corvair-powered “SIx Packs” — the other mated with H-D tranny called “PP ‘n’ Vinegar.”

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“FOUR WHEELS MOVE THE BODY — BUT TWO WHEELS MOVE THE SOUL.”

GILDA TEXTER VANISHING POINT HONDA MOTORCYCLE

 

Gilda Texter on a Honda Scrambler in the epic film “Vanishing Point”, 1971.

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Woman riding a motorcycle

That’s a woman on that gnarly chopper!

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1982, Sturgis, South Dakota — Hells Angels at Sturgis — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

June 17th, 1977, Cleveland, Ohio — Plumber Sam Green drives his customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a tree lined street in Cleveland.  Green added hundreds of lights, horns, and chrome balls, as well as a television, canopy, CB radio, and tape deck. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

April 17th, 1974, Daytona Beach — They’ve got all kinds of names for members of the younger generation. At Daytona Beach, at least, it might be termed the relaxed generation. Some youngsters from Ohio rest on their motorcycles after arriving in the area recently. Daytona Beach is one of the few resorts in Florida where vehicles can be used on the beach. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

March 9th, 1968 — Cyclists are Sought in Murder Case.  Cleveland, Ohio:  Their bikes are their most prized possessions, say the Animals.  Shown working on their motorcycles are (from left):  V.C.; Gabby; and Tom (only nicknames given).  In foreground is an unusual three-wheeler.  Local authorities are looking for the motorcycle riders who killed two men in a cafe on February 28th.  Three suspects in the case are former members of the Animals. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Dec 3rd, 1966, Las Vegas — Hordes of teenagers cruise the Las Vegas Strip on motorcycles and in cars at night. Traffic along the strip is bumper-to-bumper every weekend as youngsters arrive to observe and be observed. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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INDIAN | THE GOLDEN AGE OF ICONS THE SCOUT, CHIEF, AND THE BIG CHIEF

Great old shot of a 1921 Indian Scout (via)

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The 1920s marked a decade of growth and model expansion for Indian.  The Powerplus-era street bikes, known for their durability and performance, gave birth to the new Scoutin 1920 designed by Charles B. Franklin– featuring a 37 cubic inch (600 cc) V-twin engine.  The low-slung Scout model, with its long wheelbase, innovative semi-monocoque construction, three-speed transmission and helical-gear drive, was an immediate hit with performance riders on the street, dirt tracks, and endurance circuits alike.  The Scout wasn’t the most powerful bike on the market, but it gained a following for its responsiveness and agile handling.  In 1928, Franklin masterfully tweaked the Scout, and in the process created the 101 Scout— with an even stronger frame, superior suspension and steering, longer wheelbase, increased fork rake, lower seat, addition of a front brake. and beefed-up engine putting out 45 cubic inches (750 cc) of displacement.  The result was what many consider to be the best bike Indian ever built.

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The New Indian Scout– Power, Swiftness, Stamina, Economy!

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You can’t wear out an Indian Scout, or its brother the Indian Chief.  They are built like rocks to take hard knocks– it’s the Harleys that cause grief.

Sport riders and racers were drawn to the 101’s performance– and the new Scouts enjoyed a strong run dominating the competitive scene.  Unfortunately, the 101 model lasted a scant four years in the Indian model lineup.  The country’s Great Depression forced Indian to cut production costs– and the 101 Scout was an unfortunate victim of downsizing. In 1932, to cut down production costs, Indian began pairing the Scout engine with the larger Chief frame. The matchup resulted in a motorcycle that was bulkier, heavier, and according to many– not as capable on the performance front.

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The legendary 1929 Indian 101 Scout motorcycle– many would say it’s the finest bike Indian ever made.

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1922 saw the introduction of the Scout’s big brother– the 61 cubic inch (1000 cc) Indian Chief.  Soon to follow was the Big Chief, introduced in 1924 with a 74 cubic inch (1200 cc) that could easily cruise at hit 85 mph fully stock– and in the hands of a masterful motor-head could be tuned to scream at well over 100 mph.  In 1940, all models were fitted with Indian’s signature sweeping skirted fenders, and the Chief was fitted a new soft-tail frame– vastly superior in terms of rider fatigue when compared to rival Harley’s rigid hard-tail. The Indian Chief soon cemented a reputation as being the very best touring motorcycles money could buy for quality, comfort and performance.

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THE WALL OF DEATH DAREDEVILS | LIONS & RIDERS & FAIRS — OH MY!

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Circa 1929, Wall of Death, Revere Beach, MA

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With the quickly improving build quality, speed, and more oil-tight engines, motorcycle racing was able to move from dirt tracks onto the motordromes of the 1910s– large wooden board tracks used for streamlined competition with banked turns of 70-80 degrees.  Riders soon learned a neat trick– that with a little speed, centripetal force made it possible for them to stick their bike sideways in turns on a completely vertical wall.

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Motordrome racer on an Excelsior motorcycle, circa 1914

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Motorcycle companies here and abroad (Indian and BSA, to name a couple) found that the public loved the thrill of peering down just a few feet away from the gunning biker beneath them, and thus it quickly became a highly promoted spectacle as manufacturers used it as a vehicle to advertise their brands, and daredevil riders upped the ante at breakneck speed to make a name for themselves and  solidify their reputations on the infamous Wall of Death.

With roots that can be traced back to New York’s own Coney Island, the Wall of Death attraction morphed into a motordrome on crack.  Motorcycles, carts and yep, even lions— simultaneously racing and criss-crossing in a raucous blur of fumes, fury, and fur inside the equivalent of an over-sized wooden barrel. The sport had a strong run from the 1930s- 1960s (with Indian Scouts being the over-riding bike of choice), but there are still hardcore enthusiasts to be found all over keeping it alive today.

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Dick Monte with two handsome-as-hell Wall of Death riders, circa 1945. The rider on the left is Elias Harris, and  on the right is Tornado Smith.  Photo from the late Carrie Tindale collection.

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HOG WILD OVER HARLEY-DAVIDSON | THE “HOG BOYS” OF EARLY H-D HISTORY

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Harley-Davidson “Hog Boys” racer Ray Weishaar taking good care of the team mascot.

The term “HOG” has been affectionately associated with Harley-Davidson for decades.  It’s a workhorse term for the iconic motorcycle company that serves many purposes. Harley-Davidson is identified as HOG on the NYSE, they coined H.O.G. as an acronym for “Harley Owners Group”, and Harley-Davidson even attempted to trademark “HOG” IN 1999– and lost when it was ruled that “HOG” had become a common generic term used for large motorcycles, and therefore was unprotectable as a trademark.

All that said, the ones originally responsible for the “HOG” handle were a roughneck group of farm boys that rode for the H-D racing team  back in the 1910s-1920s who’d take their little pig mascot on a victory lap after every race their team won– giving them the name “Hog Boys.”  They deserve a great deal of respect– more than one paid the ultimate price and left it all on the track for the sport that was their life– racing motorcycles.  These guys also had their careers interrupted by our great country’s call to serve in WWI. More than likely, many of us today cannot begin to fathom the depth of their personal commitment and sacrifices.

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Ray Weishaar was undoubtedly one of the best known motorcycle racing stars of the 1910s and 1920s. He rode the board and dirt tracks of the country for the Harley-Davidson factory racing team. Ray Weishaar is seen here with the famous team Harley “hog” mascot on the tank of his bike.

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The New Crocker Big Tank Parallel Valve | American Motorcycle Heritage at it’s Baddest

 

Crocker MC's Big Tank Parallel Valve V-Twin

Crocker MC's Big Tank Parallel Valve V-Twin

 

I’m a big fan of Crocker Motorcycles, as you can see here.  When I heard a while back that Crocker also offers fully built bikes per the original factory specs, I started to cry.  First for joy, and secondly because I don’t know how my wife will ever forgive me for blowing the kid’s college fund on one.  

I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  Just kidding, honey.

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