Saturday, April 12, 2008

Vintage Drags Coming Soon

It is beginning to look as though the time for nostalgia drag bike racing may be nearing. Most people are aware that nostalgia drag racing for cars is already a big deal and has been for a few years. However, I have not been aware of much in the way of nostalgia drag racing as far as motorcycles go. There are a couple events coming up that will hopefully change all of that.

This spring at the V-Twin dealer expo in Cincinnati, my friend Watso of Axis 101 Motorcycles in South San Francisco, introduced me to Marty, the man who runs the AMRA (American Motorcycle Racing Association). The dialogue was about the feasibility of vintage motorcycle drag racing. Since then, Marty has called me to confirm that he has decided to add 3 vintage classes to the Sept. 6-7 Pacific Junction, IA, AMRA race. A vintage fuel class, a vintage gas dragster class, and a vintage street class. This is going to be done on an experimental basis, to see if it generates any interest.

Only trouble I can see is that Marty seems to be leaving it a well kept secret. I have yet to see it on the AMRA website let alone anywhere else. If you are reading this Marty, the word needs to get out pretty quick if any old codgers are going to be able to clean all the dust off their dragbikes by then.

Watso also called me recently to let me know about another race or interest going on out in California. This one looks to be basically a nostalgia drag race run the way they were in the old days; cars and bikes at the same event. Dragfest looks to be a pretty cool event with several classes for vintage dragbikes. It is coming up mighty quick (May 3&4) at Famosa Raceway.

Now I have my own ideas on how and why some venue for nostalgia motorcycle drag racing could be a success. For one thing, drag racing never completely gets out of your system. Secondly, most of us that spent a considerable amount of time on the drag strips of this great country back in the old days have little interest in spending their summers in a points chase. But, they could likely be lured back for one weekend a year, just for old times sake. I have to believe that there are plenty of vintage dragbikes that have survived in various stages of disrepair in their owner's garages or shops. After all, there never was a very good market for racing equipment that was no longer state of the art.

It also seem to me that there may be a new interest in third party "restorations" or fresh builds of vintage style dragbikes. By third party, I mean something on the order of what I am hoping to accomplish in gathering parts and info on a drag bike from an era earlier than mine. I know that I am not the only one with such aspirations. I have a friend who has never raced, but has been collecting parts for a Shovelhead drag bike.

As for what bikes fit the bill, I personally think anything Shovelhead or older should be considered in Big Twins, and Iron Head XL or earlier for Sportsters. Then I think foreign made bikes of the same vintage should be allowed to run with them. After all, it shouldn't be about winning or losing so much as having a good time celebrating the history of motorcycle drag racing. (unless you happen to be lined up against that same old nemesis as you were 30 years ago)

The toughest part may be to get the word out. That is why I am asking anyone reading this who knows any old retired drag racers to point them in my direction.


Anonymous said...

I started following bike drags in the early 70's, just about the time I got drafted. Picked back up on it when I got home in '74. Hard to find leads in those days with magazines, newspapers, and land-line telephones as the only source. Thought I did pretty good locating some. Farmington, NC was one of the best that I found in the latter half of the 70's. That was a 2-hour ride from my home in Roxboro, NC.

Anyway, my love was/is for Land Speed Racing. But, following the lead of Warner Riley, I looked to the drag strips to learn how to build for performance. Built a Shovel in '77 (from parts collected in '76) to run on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Decided to drag race it to begin with. As I was operating on limited funds, and the promise of sponsors, I never raced it in any manner.

We have an LSR track in N.Carolina, as of '97. So, my interest is renewed in LSR, but vintage drags peak my interest, also. I will not participate in drag racing, but am interested in old technology and how things were done. I plan to build a 45" LSR bike for Maxton (NC), and hope to have in on the track by next year ('09). Please keep me informed of anything happening in the Vintage Drags. Thanks for a great blog (still learning what blogs are).

Jack Hester

St. Lee said...

Thanks for the comment Jack. I agree with you that Farmington was (is?) a great little drag strip.

I believe that when drag racing first began, the lines between it and LSR was quite blurred (at least on the west coast). A 45 inch LSR bike sounds like a pretty cool project.

I don't feel as though I have really mastered porting flatheads. I just don't have enough of them come to me for porting work, let alone anyone willing to spend any money on R&D. That being said, I do believe my porting on flatheads is going to be far ahead of anyone doing it without benifit of a flowbench. If I thought there was any hope of ever recouping some of the cost, I would go back to Joe Mondello's school for a couple days of flathead porting. After all, he started out porting flathead Fords, so I doubt there is anyone in the business that knows more about how they should be ported.

Jack Hester said...

Glad you brought up the Flathead Fords. Reminds me of the performance literature that I have lying around somewhere. Haven't thought of it in years. Collected a few Ford V8's (engines, only) with the intension of building a T-Bucket. Still have the engines in the barn. No T-Bucket. Got some old and some reprints of Harley lit on performance work for the Flatheads. If I can ever get the time to myself, I'll read some of it, rather than collect it.

By the way, here's a small piece of software that I'm working on for LSR. I'm a hobbiest programmer. So, nothing fancy.

Keep up the good work. I'm still reading through your blog, but bedtime is past me now. So, I'll have to stop.