Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Thoughts on Vintage Drags

Back in the old days (or old daze as some I know, put it) drag racing had heavy participation by car clubs. Most often it would take the form of club members "chipping in" in building a race car, which members would often take turns piloting. With the economy in as questionable shape as it has been, perhaps it is time to bring back that particular form of camaraderie.

As you know if you follow this blog, I am involved in the fledgling National Vintage Motorcycle Drag Racing Association (NVMDRA). At the moment, the largest hold up with the association seems to be a lack of numbers. Lots of enthusiastic talk, but ready to race drag bikes ...not so much. Perfectly understandable. Had I not started building my "Knuckledragger" project several years ago, I too would be in the same boat, i.e. lots of enthusiasm but not much progress, and it would be largely be due to not having much expendable income for such a project. That always makes the going slow, especially if you are doing your best to stay fiscally responsible.

That's where those interested in vintage motorcycle drags could take a cue from those gearheads of yesteryear! What if you and a couple buddies formed an informal drag racing club? Could you get something together to put on the track if it only cost you a third or a quarter as much money? And how about if you only had to devote one third the time to it. Even better yet, if you are an old codger (like me) this would be a good way to mentor a younger guy or two by bringing them in on it. On the other side of that coin, if you and your buddies were not born back in the "dark ages" why not hunt up an old time drag racer to bring on board to show you how it used to be done. I am pretty sure there are a lot of them out there who would jump at the chance to share their knowledge; as long as you are willing to politely listen to their "war stories" that is.

Along those lines, I had already contacted my friend Kevin "Teach" Bass, founder and instructor of the Bloomington Kennedy High School "Chopper Class", to see if they would be interested in building a vintage style drag bike as part of this year's curriculum. Teach was enthusiastic about the idea, as he is with almost anything to do with motorcycles.

Of course that meant we needed to find a bike to transform into a vintage style drag bike. As luck would have it (course I personally don't believe in luck; I know who is really in charge) a bike found me. A gentleman stopped at my shop last week with a motorcycle on a trailer. Would I be interested in buying it? Depends on the price, was my answer of course. Now, in reality he was looking for a specific shop that specialized in metric bikes. However that shop had recently closed its doors and left no forwarding address. That's right, its no Harley. But that's OK. The NVMDRA is not a strictly Harley association. Nor is it a strictly Harley/Triumph association, though one might jump to that conclusion when looking over the present membership.

The bike is an early '70s Honda 350 Four. Vintage for sure, and best of all was the initial investment: $50. The seller told me that he thought (rightly I believe) that it was worth about $200 parted out, but when he heard my plans for it, he accepted my $50 offer. That also saved him from hauling it around to other potential buyers since his parents were moving and the Honda was loosing the resting spot it had occupied since 1984.

Maybe I have a gift (or weakness, depending on how you look at it) for seeing the potential in an old piece of junk like this. I can already see the bike stripped of a whole bunch of excess baggage. The front fender, fairing, gas tank, seat, luggage rack, etc. will all go (and hopefully be sold on eBay to help finance the project). The swingarm can go and be replaced with a rigid section that will also serve to lower the bike down to a suitable drag race stance. The Chopper Class's new tubing bender should help facilitate that. The front fork can be lightened and shortened and set up with two inches of travel. The front disc brake will be a good item to keep. The speedo can go, but they will probably want to keep the tachometer. The rear wheel is an 18" which would look killer with one of the new run of M&H 4" drag slicks currently in production. Top it off with a vintage look aluminum tube gas tank, and it would be cool as could be. In fact, it'll be all I can do to keep my grubby hands off it and leave it for the high school kids to work on!

Yeah, its pretty easy to get one of us old gear heads going. So, isn't it about time you rounded up your buddies and brainstormed about what old relic one of them might know of that would look better and provide more fun if it were transformed into a vintage drag bike?

1 comment:

Knucklenutz said...

We need to talk. I have some ideas for a local race.
John K. Endrizzi