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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is a new thread I am starting dedicated to Nitro Fuel Drag Bikes. If you were involved with a Top Fuel or Junior Fuel Motorcycle team in the 50s, 60s, 70s and up to 1994 (25 years ago) we invite you to join in and share some of your memories. Or, if you didn't belong to a team but share our passion please join in too. There are other threads here on drag racing so let's keep this about "Nitro". My first fuel bike was an A/F Harley back in 1969. My last was the twin-engine Harley "Freight Train" that I retired in 1985. I will be sharing many fond and a few not so fond memories. This video was filmed in '83 and '84. The opening burnout was me and "The Freight Train" at the 1983 IHRA Spring Nationals in Bristol Tennesee. That was back when Top Fuel Motorcycles were occasionally invited to join in with the cars in a special T/F Motorcycle class. The rest of the video was filmed by my wife and is a little shakey at times but a treasure to me since it is the only film I have of my 21 year motorcycle drag racing career. For some of you it will be the first time you have seen a T/F Motorcycle started on rollers. I hope you enjoy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Old Codger, "The Freight Train" IS Elmer Trett's old twin engine Harley. I renamed it when I bought it from him in '83. I sold it to my crew chief in '85 when I quit and he still has it.

I still keep in touch with many of the "old farts" you mentioned including Sonny Routt, Larry Welch, Boris Murray, T C, and Joe Smith, who is about to turn 80!!!!!!!!!

Thanks hawgleydangerson, I believe you are right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
ironwigwam,

You might be surprised to learn Larry "Rocketman" Welch, at age 67, has a new wife of 4 years and a 3 year old daughter. They live in Virginia. The other "Rocketeer", John Dixon, lives in North Carolina.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks twistedtee,

Jim McClure was a good friend. He was one of the first T/F Harley racers to make a GIANT cubic inch single engine bike outperform a twin engine bike. When I quit racing I quit going to races. But I kept in touch with him and a few others. He and Elmer Trett were both brilliant racers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
You probably need to hold on to those pictures a few years. I would like to keep it 1986 or older. I hope you can dig up some older stuff and post it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
very cool. any more info you would like to share about the engines? cubic inch? specific things that needed to be done to run them on fuel?
It had 2-96 cubic inch iron head sportster engines that ran 88-90% nitro, a B&J 2 speed trans shifted by a button on the left handlebar, a 14 inch wide Goodyear slick and a frame built by John Dixon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I might go back a bit too far. This is one of my all time bike heroes.

You can't go back too far. That photo is considered by most racers I know to be the most awesome ever taken. I WAS THERE. It was at the AMDRA Motorcycle Nationals at Bowling Green Kentucky in 1971 or 72 and it is Boris Murray, one of the greatest rider/tuners ever, on his Twin Engine Triumph. Boris had won there the year before and this was a qualifying run that set the new record and of course qualified him #1. He broke a chain in the final and lost to Larry Welch on Sonny Routt's Twin Engine Triumph.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
hoofhearted,

Clem Johnson's "Barn Job" is probably the most famous Fuel Bike in existence. I was reading about it in car and bike magazines while I was still racing street bikes in the early 60s. He was one of the first guys to get me interested in dragsters. His bike is a work of art and that is evident when you spend time looking at that picture. I have never met him though. He stayed on the west coast and I didn't travel that far from the Carolinas. For those who don't know that is Clem with the leather jacket. Joe Smith rode it a few times when Clem decided to hang up his helmet and Jim Leinwebber rode it until it was retired.

That twin engine Norton is one I don't believe I have seen before. Thanks for posting both.

FearNoEvo,

Thanks for posting your bike.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I know I have asked to keep it nitro but it is OK to show us how you got there. This is the first Harley I raced. It was a '62 Sportster XLCH that I rode on the street. It had stroker flywheels but was otherwise stock. It ran in the low 13s at just over 100 mph in the 1/4. This photo was taken in 1965 at the old Charlotte dragstrip. That is a '63 Super Stock Plymouth I was racing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
This is the same Sportster in 1966 after having a 75 cubic inch engine built for it. My times improved to low 12s at 113 mph in the 1/4. There was not a car or bike on the streets of Charlotte that could outrun it that year. At the '67 Daytona Bike Week I took it to try and come home the fastest. Didn't happen. I got outrun by a guy I had never met but we became best friends until he passed a few years ago. His name was Danny Johnson. I rode it for another year before being talked into trading it for a Harley dragster......by Danny Johnson.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Thanks for that post. T.C. Christenson is one of the greatest motorcycle drag racers of all time. He was the most dominate Top Fuel racer at the Bowling Green Motorcycle Nationals in the '70s. From 1970 through 1978 he was in the finals 5 times, more than anyone else, and won three times...also more than any other T/F rider. He had that triple Norton at the Bowling Green Reunion back in 2006.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
This was my first dragster. Not much, huh. I was 6'1 and only weighed 150 lbs. It had a Triumph Cub front end with NO front brake. It used an Avon 4" slick. The fuel tank is the bullett looking piece where the headlight should be. It had an 83 inch Sportster engine. It only weighed a little over 200 lbs. This photo was taken by my mom in1968 right after I traded my street Sportster for it. I had no desire to move from street bikes to dragsters but my new friend Danny Johnson insisted on it. I towed it from my home in North Carolina to Capital Raceway in Maryland, Johnson's home track, to make my first runs on it so he could coach me and also peel me off the track if things didn't go right. It was VERY different to lay down on a race bike verses sitting up on it. It was a scary feeling. I don't know If I would have made that first run had it not been for Danny comforting me and assuring me it was no big deal. The fastest I had ever been in the quarter was 114 mph. My very first run on this gas burner was 121. I still have the trophy I won that day.

I raced it the rest of the '68 season on racing gas but was getting ready for the '69 season and switching to NITRO!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
scsporty,
Thanks for posting the Pete Hill photos and video. You are right Pete Hill is the nicest motorcycle drag racer I have ever known. I have known him for over 30 years and have never heard a curse word come out of his mouth. I have never heard him say anything bad about anybody. We raced each other in T/F back in the '70s-'80s. His blown Knucklehead was the loudest I raced. The sound on that video cannot capture how olud it really is.

I retired in '85 at age 41. Pete was a good ten years older and did not retire until age 60 or so. He still rides out to Bonneville every year on his Harley....by himself. I asked recently if he went last year. "No" he said. "I rode to California". Pete will be our special guest May 14-15 at the Piedmont Dragway Reunion. Jackie and the blown Knucklehead will be with him. I hope he lets me hear it again. For info www.superstockreunion.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Thanks for your kind words Larry. You had some great motorcycle racers living around you in Maryland back in the Sixties. Larry Welch, Sonny Routt and Danny Johnson come to mind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
The switch to nitro Part One.

This was the Spring of '69 after converting my Sportster to nitro, once again with the help of Danny. He had just purchased a new S&S nitro carb for his dragster and sold his modified Harley Linkert carb. That was the only change I made to the gas burning engine. Same pistons, cams etc. Those were the good old days. This was not a burnout. It had enough horsepower on 65% nitro to smoke the Avon slick to half track and then haul ass. I will add some more info about this bike later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Thanks Larry T for the link to Granddaddy Joe Smith's web site. I have not learned too much about computers and need help doing anything but finding this site. Joe has REALLLLLLY impressed me with how he has took to computers. He will turn 80 this month and is sharp as a tack. He, Boris Murray and Leo Payne were my earliest T/F Motorcycle heros. I hope he joins in here or you can visit his site and read his stories.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Switch to Nitro part two

As stated before about switching to nitro the only change to the motor was the carb. However, I was able to lose a few pounds in the transmission. On gasoline, I started off in second and shifted to third and fourth. Nitro increased the horsepower so much that I was able to take the second and third gears out of the trans and start off in fourth..or direct drive. It was a little tricky getting the slick broke loose. I had to stand on the starting line with hardly no body weight on the bike and rev the engine only slightly. When I got the last yellow (all racers got a full tree back then) I would pop the clutch and sit down at the exact same time. That allowed the slick to break loose and start smoking. That was before slipper clutches. Part three next.
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
twistedtee,

You have a pioneer T/F Motorcycle racer up your way. Have you heard of "The Rhode Island Rocket" Dick Prime?
 
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