Jockey Journal Forum banner

Vintage Fuel Drag Bikes

1275985 Views 2955 Replies 269 Participants Last post by  Tim The Grim
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.
2901 - 2920 of 2956 Posts
Once in a "blue moon" a record setting T/F motorcycle performance gain is accomplished that shocks the racing community. Any new record in T/F is hard to establish. Existing records usually last for years. Russ Collins 199.55 mph record on "The Sorcerer" lasted 7 years before Elmer Trett broke the 200 mph barrier. It is very hard to set a new record. New mph records are usually I or 2 above the existing. A 3 mph increase is almost unheard of. Larry McBride did that when he reset the record 2 years ago from 255 mph to 258. He had not equaled that speed since. Enter John Dixon, a name not familiar to most of you. The first time I met him was at Rockingham Dragway in his home state of North Carolina about 50 years ago when the track first opened. It was at an IHRA National event that had an open class for T/F motorcycles. I was not competing but was there as a spectator. I arrived as the first round of qualifying was getting under way. The "usual suspects" were in the staging lanes, Danny Johnson, Ray Price, Larry Welch, Virgil Naff......and a bike I had not seen before, a T/F Harley. Who is that I asked myself. I didn't recognize the teenager wiping it down and checking the tire pressure. Who was the rider? I was puzzled. When they were called to the starting line I would find out who the mystery rider was when he put on his leathers. You can not imagine how shocked I was when this 15 year old started suiting up. This can't be. He's not old enough to have a drivers license.

He didn't set the world on fire that day on this bike he built himself but it would be a sign of the greatness to come. John Dixon would become one of the greatest T/F motorcycle innovators the sport has ever seen. Many of his inventions are used today. The most important is the slipper clutch he invented that has no clutch cable used by all T/F bikes today. The list of his inventions/products is too long to mention (it would take a book) but he had his hands on everything. He built the frame for Elmer Trett's last twin-engine Harley "Pure Pork" in 1978 , which I bought from Elmer in 1983 and renamed "The Freight Train".

John always had some new creation every year throughout the 1970s finalized with a twin rocket powered motorcycle he crashed at over 200 mph when the body parachute (another of his they are mounted to the wheelie bar) malfunctioned and blossomed pulling him off the bike. He switched to a much safer career with computers as they became a worldwide phenomenon. Today, he is a brilliant computer programmer. Like myself, he has stayed in touch with the sport and the teams that were racing when we were 40 years ago.

One month ago I was at the Darlington Dragway for the Mancup race and John was spending a lot of time with Larry McBride. Usually he is floating around the pits like myself. It was obvious he was involved with the tune-up. I asked him about it and he told me he had 200 hours in a computer program he set up for Larry because he felt the need after 40 years to "get involved" again. "Whoa", I said to myself. This could get good.

This past weekend I was at the Mancup race at Rockingham. Larry had made an earlier test pass almost equaling his 258 record. On the first qualifying run he smoked the tire. I was standing on the starting line with John as we watch Larry making his second round qualifying pass. He set another record! Not 259 or 260. Not 261 or 262. TWO HUNDRED SIXTY THREE MPH!!! 5 miles an hour over his existing record. Just amazing. The 5.60 e.t. is also a new world record. And it was at the same track where I got my first glimpse of that 15 year old T/F motorcycle genius. Let me change the "this could get good" to "this HAS got good".
See less See more
John Dixon called me today and we talked for over an hour. It was a very informative and enjoyable conversation. He is pumped up!
I remember Alf Hagon being the most famous Fuel Bike racer outside the USA when I first started racing motorcycles in the 1960s and his bike was powered by a JAP engine, one I had never heard of. His accomplishments in the UK were up there with some of Americas best in that era. The footage of his tire smoking runs in the above video are awesome.
Some 1978 shots from a French Bike Show in Rouen where Brian Chapman showed and started Mighty Mouse... Enjoy!!!

Check the 1st pic... There a mole grip holding sommat on the front brake... Brave man!!!



See less See more
He also brought Mighty Mouse to the US in 1978 and ran at Union Grove, WI and Atco, NJ. Tom Christenson helped him a lot on that trip.
Congratulations to Jay Turner for winning the NHRA T/F Harley Finals at the Arizona Nationals.
I have an Alf Hagon publication, a biography. He certainly was a trail-breaker in his racing. What impressed me reading about his accomplishments is that he raced direct-drive, no shifting, when he was setting records at places like Santa Pod raceway in the UK. I recall reading about him in the 1960's, and he already had a world-wide reputation for his fabrication and tuning skills, not-to-mention, being able to pilot his creations to win after win.

Some great racing period video from Santa Pod, 1967. Great background music!

He was also a multi-champion Speedway racer, just a very-talented guy who was also an astute businessman, and whose products are still-available today. Hagon shock absorbers can be built to your specs.

In a way, he reminds me of the Michigan Madman, E.J. Potter, who also ran direct drive, with his V8 sprinter specials.

As you know I try to keep up with old friends and occasionally get some of their memories to record here for historical purposes. I was talking with Wisconsin native John Gregory this week who just turned 86 but has a great memory going all the way back to 1950 when he bought his first car at age 16. He replaced the original straight 6 cylinder engine in his '41 Plymouth with a Chrysler straight 8 and that was the beginning of decades of hot rodding. He was at the first Great Lakes Timing Association meeting in 1952 spearheaded by the local police department to get a drag strip built to get him and other hot rodder's drag races off the street. He bought his first motorcycle in 1956, a 650 Triumph, after he had moved to California. It would turn in the 14s at 80 mph stock but there was another guy at the drag races on a much faster Triumph. He offered advice on how to make it go faster. I asked john if he remembered his name and said Hare I think. Bud Hare. After changing cams and other minor modifications he was running in the 12s at over 100 mph.

He didn't stay in California very long and moved back to Wisconsin and started racing Nortons. That is how he and T.C. Christenson met and it was John's innovations and knowledge of how to run a very high percentage of nitro with reliability, paired with T.C.s riding abilities, that won them so many races during the multi-engines Top Fuel era.
See less See more
New project I just picked up - inspired in part by this thread, I gotta say. 108" shovelhead in a Kosman frame.

See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Very nice project. Doesn't look like there is much to do.
All the major components are there. However it requires a bit of updating (while still staying true to the era). It seems that a 15" drag slick is no longer available, the closest is the M&H 16" tire. So I'll have to switch out rear wheel. The brakes are the Hurst Airheart type, which are pretty average, plus they stopped making parts for them this year. So I'll have to update those too. The gearbox appears to be a standard four speed, I'd like to update to a two speed with air shifter. And fit some two inch drag pipes.

The oil tank seems tiny. Was that a common thing on these bikes?

I've sourced a nice S&S GAL carb, and an original cast Morris twin mag housing, to convert to dual plug.

Don't have a lot of experience with drag stuff so it should be a learning experience! Apparently the bike ran in the mid nines back in the day. I'd like to run it at the salt too, the record for that class is only 155mph which seems achievable.
Here's some pics from when it was built. Wheelie bars seem a little short?

See less See more
OMG, is that the fuel line? :eek:

Maybe the oil tank is small to get the oil warmed up quickly, then run for <11 seconds. 11 sec @7000 rpm is only 1300 revolutions!
I figured that's probably the case, to get the oil up to temp faster.

And yeah, fuel starvation wouldn't have been a problem!
Been a while since I posted on here about the Triumph double engine bike I got from Ray Masten. I'm finally getting around to rebuilding it so may show some pics along the way. One motor is ok and the other is history. I did get an extra 800cc jug so one rare piece I'm glad to have in hand.
The fuel system will take some work but with a rebuilt pump, barrel valve and nozzles, and some experienced help it will be ok.


See less See more
Look forward to seeing your progress John. You posted on the same day Sonny Routt called to check in. We still keep in touch with each other. He is 81 and sharp as a tack. He can't lose the thrill of a fast motorcycle or car. He is building a nice low mileage '80 Cadillac Coupe Deville with an aftermarket Olds 455 engine....about 500 inches he said to "stalk the streets". There was a song recorded by Paul Simon decades ago but fitting for Sonny. "Still crazy after all these years".
Thanks Frank, I contemplated whether to preserve the bike or restore it.
It was in rough condition when I got it and with several 'special' pieces missing it made sense to completely rebuild everything.

You know how nitro makes things shake rattle and roll. Including bending, breaking and wallowing out bolt holes. I'm not a perfectionist but like things done up as intended when new. Sounds like I'm preaching to the choir--apologies.
I think I mentioned before this was a frame Boris M. said he built for Sonny Routt.
At some point Kosman brokered the bike to Ray Matsen (Fast Ray) who
I bought it from. I don't know if Sonny ran it or not.

I'd really like to talk to Sonny to see if he has any info he could share. Can you put me in touch with him?
That post made me search for Boris Murray photos and I found this page that is pretty cool:
That post made me search for Boris Murray photos and I found this page that is pretty cool:
Thanks for that priceless link Ducbsa. It shows action photos of many early '60s Fuel Bike racers, many you recognize, many you don't but they all are equal when it comes to effort and history. This is what this thread is all about and I thank LionsAutomobilia for putting that together. If you don't click on this link it's your loss
2901 - 2920 of 2956 Posts