In 1966, Santa Pod Raceway was humbly born on an old, unused WWII English air base, RAF Podington. It has since become the fastest all-asphalt dragstrip in the world, and home of several legendary world land speed records. The following photographs are from the very first bike meet back in 1967, a few of which were published at that time in Drag Racing & Hot Rod magazine. There are several sick bikes, like Les Field’s 4638cc Sunbeam/Chevy powered beast, and the ‘Strip-Teaser’ twin 2T Villiers sprinter below. All photos by Derek Harvey who originally shared them with VMCC Sprint. Check these out.
‘Strip-Teaser’ twin-engined 2T Villiers sprinter motorcycle (R. Perkins)
Unknown Triumph motorcycle DCS2 – (K. power)
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)
A few weeks back, Dan Daughenbaugh’s 1951 BSA Star Twin custom bike generated a ton of buzz and picked up the 1st Place People’s Choice Award at the Triumph National Rally in Oley, PA. To hear the story of how the charred engine was literally plucked from the ashes of a garage fire in Philly to be reborn as the Greasy Gringo is pretty cool. In Dan’s words, “They had a Fire Sale, and there it was blackened and charred. All the pot metal parts had melted off but the cases were still good!” He took it home and dedicated himself to machining it into a land speed record bike in his barn, and mostly on a mill dating back to the 1940s.
Then fate struck– driving with his family in the Pennsylvania countryside, Dan stopped when he noticed a motorcycle that had wrecked. He thought nothing of taking the guys and their bike back to his barn where he kindly fixed them up. He also showed them his BSA barn build bike and shared his humble story which amazed them– and led to a joining of forces to make it to Bonneville together and document the Greasy Gringo’s attempt at setting a new land speed record. Obviously this takes money, and so they’ve started a campaign on INDIEGOGO to raise funds to get them to Bonneville and make a film on Dan’s inspiring story.
“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.
Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”
“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.” via
But the story of John Penton’s awe-inspiring career does not end there. Find a screening of “Penton: The John Penton Story” near you by going to http://pentonmovie.com/see-the-film/ and reserving your tickets. I’m also proud to announce that the film will be entered in the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY held Sept. 24th – 27th.
“The Catalina Grand Prix was one of the biggest races In the country at the time. It was a 100-mile event held on Santa Catalina Island of the coast of Los Angeles. The 10-mile course was a mixture of road, dirt fire trails, singletrack, and even went through a golf course. Cycle Magazine noted that many of the big AMA national riders skipped Catalina so as not to suffer embarrassment at the hands of Southern California scrambles riders who dominated the event.” –AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame
It was a time and energy completely unrivaled in all of motorcycle racing history. Many of the AMA’s best motorcycle racers, local SoCal riders, shop owners, and colorful MC’s (The Checkers, Shamrocks, Rough Riders, Dirt Diggers, and more) mixing with Hollywood actors, stunt riders, and thrill-seekers– all converging on the tiny vacation island from 1951 – 1958 for an event like no other. Actors Keenan Wynn avidly raced, Steve McQueen famously attended, and Lee Marvin infamously raised holy hell. In fact, Dave Ekins went so far as crediting Lee Marvin for being partially responible for the Catalina GP’s demise in 1958–
A young Patti Waggin presenting 1950 AMA Grand National Champion, Larry Headrick, with a trophy. His career prematurely ended in 1950 when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle on the street. The accident shattered Headrick’s left leg, making it impossible for him to race again on the dirt ovals. The rider from San Jose, California, was tragically forced into retirement just has his career was taking off. via
“If there’s one word to describe shapely Patti Brownell, it’s excitement. The young lass lives by it–and for it. Into her existence, Patti packs a triple life: During the day, she’s a student at California’s Chico State College: at night she draws tremendous crowds into the cafe where she presents her whiz bang strip act: and on her off moments, Patti is a death-defying motorcyclist. As far as our luscious blue-eyed blonde is concerned, there’s nothing unusual about her life. Patti’s been winning trophies for motorcycle riding since she was 14. She loves the sport.
Show business is also old hat for Patti. Her mother and father were adagio dancers in vaudeville, and it was only natural that they should teach their little girl the art. Patti wanted a college education, and she was able to pay her way with her show business savvy. As for the future, Patti wants a home in the country, four kids–and lots of motorcycles.”
“Bumps are nothing new to luscious Patti–either on a motorcycle or in the strip tease profession.” Born Patricia Hardwick in 1926, she also used the stage name Patti Waggin. Her 2nd marriage was to Chico, CA local legend, Bill Brownell, a well-loved motorcycle racer. Not sure who her 1st husband was…
Thor Drake and the crew at See See Motor Coffee continue to raise the bar of creativity with the 21 Helmets show coming up this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas Moto GP in Austin, TX on display in the paddock. If you plan to attend, don’t miss it.
“This year we partnered with Bell Helmets to get 21 historic helmets. Drawing inspiration from those old 21 helmets, artists then customized 21 new designs for this year’s show.
Our original mission with the creation of 21 Helmets was to combine art and motorcycle safety in a way that had some cultural relevance. It’s been tested, tried and true, that motorcycle helmets are the one crucial piece of safety equipment that increase your chance of a healthy 2-wheeled lifestyle. What we saw happening was that people just bought factory designed color schemes on their lids. What we also noticed is that the good ol’ days of customizing the looks of your equipment to match the personalities of the riders had somewhat vanished.
This was the point we decided to host the first custom motorcycle helmet show. We thought 21 seemed like the right number that would be interesting and give a good range of design ideas. We reached out to 21 completely different-minded artists and asked them to design the helmet that would reflect any machine they could imagine.”
Thor Drake, See See Motor Coffee
Sideburn and See See Motorcycles have joined forces to bring Dirt Quake to the USA! Flat track racing that ain’t pretty or professional, but it sure is a whole helluva lotta fun! And that’s the point!
The original Dirt Quake, back in 2012, was Sideburn magazine’s idea to get novices racing their motorcycles that don’t fit into normal motorcycle sport, and at minimum cost. For 2014 Sideburn has partnered with See See Motorcycles of Portland, OR to take Dirt Quake to a Grand National Championship track in the Pacific Northwest.
Dirt Quake USA is a two-day event with the opportunity to watch the pros and top amateurs race pure flat track bikes on Saturday, then race, or point at complete novices competing on totally unfit-for-purpose bikes, in the special Dirt Quake classes on Sunday. Saturday night is a camp out with live music. Sunday is purely for road bikes and the emphasis is on fun and enjoying the experience, not red mist and race bikes. It’s also a show for spectators of all ages and will include dangerous stunts, live music– and the unforgettable spectacle of watching the exceptionally unprepared try to race the wilfully inappropriate!
Dave Ekins, 1954 class win at Catalina Grand National Race, on a 250cc NSU Renn Sport Max. Photo courtesy of Bud and Dave Ekins Collection. “Blister goop, castor oil, and blood were soaked into what had been a new pair of gloves. I never rode that motorcycle again. They sent it back to Neckersolm, Germany.”
The anniversary of Steve McQueen’s passing is on my mind, as well as the Ekins brothers and the incredible motorcycling history that they forged separately and together. May their tales and achievements be retold and marveled-over by many generations to come. It’s that rich. Stories like this one (via budanddaveekins.com) from the lips of Dave Ekins himself, unpacking in firsthand detail what it was like to be on the first American ISDT racing team with Steve McQueen, Cliff Coleman, John Steen, and his brother Bud Ekins as they traveled, prepped, and raced together are utterly priceless.
“When the Erfurt trials was over and the British had finished second to the all conquering East Germans because some ‘Yanks’ had outdone the Limeys in a few of the special tests, an English journalist aired his views of the U.S. Vase team: ‘Those Yanks just came to have fun and were not a bit serious about winning. They were a bloody nuisance to our boys.’ But from Sid Chilton, public relations manager of Triumph of Coventry, came the reply: ‘I think the Yanks had the right idea. After all, nobody paid them to ride the International so why not make a holiday out of it? Even so, two of them won Gold Medals and one a Silver. The only objection I have is that they are all so bloody handsome!’ –Dave Ekins
Scott Toepfer, a guy I’m humbled to call my friend, came to the Jersey Shore to shoot the second annual The Race of the Gentlemen organized by Mel Stultz (OCC) and put on by the legendary Oiler’s Car Club. It’s an event that can only be adequately described by someone who was actually there in the thick of it– and Toepfer was kind enough to share his personal thoughts with TSY on the sights, sounds, and experiences had by a California boy in Wildwood, Jersey. Great stuff, Scott!