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Discussion Starter · #61 ·
The switch to nitro part 4 (the last)

Here are some thoughts and memories of the '69 racing season and my switch from gas to nitro. I remember being somewhat apprehensive about the switch to nitro and the possible blow ups but not as concerned as the first time I rode it on gas a year earlier. I did have a couple mishaps with it though. I had a rear brake failure on it but it was at an 1/8 mile track thank God. I had to drag my boots to get it stopped. Remember, it had no front brakes. The other mishap that could have really hurt me was after our wedding. I had agreed to quit racing for a year to spend our income on newlywed neccessities. After our wedding we moved into a rental house that had a carport and utility room at the end of the carport. That is where I stored the dragster. Occasionally I would roll it outside to have working room and our new neighbors would come over to have a look at it. About 2 or 3 months later I caved in to request to fire it. After all, I had about a gallon of nitro that should not be stored in that utility room. Right? All the excuse I needed. My bride agreed to help me crank it on the rollers. She had done it many times. We had a long concrete driveway from the street to the carport. I fired it down on the street and ran it for a minute or so with my neighbors looking in disbelief. Just as I was getting ready to shut it off I decided to do a burnout up the driveway. Then, I wouldn't have to push it up that incline. Man, that was some good thinking! I started the burnout at the bottom of my driveway and got the tire spinning about 100 miles an hour and smoked the place up. I was only about half way up the driveway when I shut it down and pulled in the clutch. But the tire was spinning so fast the inertsa shot me up the rest of the driveway with me pushing down on the rear brake as hard as I could and my other foot dragging the concrete, into the carport and to the outer wall inside the utility room. I was almost stopped when I reached that wall so no damage was done to me or the bike but it scared the shit out of me. Right then I realized I needed the money I could sell it for to buy newlywed stuff. I never heard it run again. I sold it in 1970 about 6 months after getting married. It would be awhile before I got back into nitro motorcycle racing. I will be posting pictures of Fuel Bikes and stories of races I attended during my off time before purchasing a new T/F Bike from Danny Johnson.
 

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Discussion Starter · #63 ·
This is from last weekend at the reunion. This was our special guests Pete and Jackie Hill and the last Fuel Bike he raced. Pete was 60 or 61 when he retired in the early '90s. Both are doing fine other than normal 70s year old ailments. That is Ray Price's rig in the background. He had his last Funnybike on display. I will post a picture and info on it soon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #64 ·
A few years ago NHRA honored pioneer T/F Motorcycle Racers at their National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green Ky. The old "Freight Train" crew was there. That is me in the middle, T-Bird Yelton on the right and his son Jamie on the left. Yelton was my crew chief and the guy in the video working on it. I sold it to him when I retired. You may notice it has a wing now that it did not have 25 years ago in the video. It was VERY ironic that the NHRA Reunion was at the same track and the same weekend (middle of June) as the famous American Motorcycle Drag Racing Association Nationals back in the '70s. That great picture of Boris Murray was there one year.
 

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i remember as a kid here in a small country town in australia called lismore , looking in a old covered in single axle trailer chained to a tree on a side street and seeing sonny routts twin engine triumph,,,,,sat there for ages until one day at the drags there it was,,,,,,a guy called warren afflick bought it and got to go quicker than routt went on it , lost track of it and never seen it again,,,,,,,
 

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I am still following Frank!!!....Keep posting anything and everything you want!!!...the above 2 pictures are great...and, I certainly enjoy your running series on switching from gas to Nitro...the burnout in the driveway story was sooo cool...if that were me, I would'a had to change out my pants and the seat on the bike, as it would have shot out of my ass at about the same pressure as a sand blaster...

Oh...yes I do know all about Danny Johnson from here in MD...he was a favorite of mine, along with Pete Hill who was "The Man" to me way back when....

with respect and appreciation!!!...

Larry in MD
 

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Discussion Starter · #67 ·
This thread is international now with posts from Sweden and Australia. Thanks!

And thank you Larry for your kind comments. I have enjoyed reminising about the days I was involved. I will be the first to tell you I was no Joe Smith or Boris Murray but I did do what they did for awhile in the early days of Fuel Bikes.

I am going back one year to 1968, the year I saw my first Fuel Bike and the year I bought this bike. I have mentioned meeting Danny Johnson at the '67 Daytona Bike Week. I ran into him again at the NHRA Springnational in Bristol Tennesee a few months later. He had his street bike there but I was a long distance truck driver and asked my dispatcher for a Monday delivery load in Tennesee and he had one. I drove the rig there and got paid for it. Danny told me there he was going to experiment with a low dose of nitro in his bike. That fall he was at the North Carolina Mountain Fall Rally. I rode my Harley there. Danny was helping a customer tune his stock bore and stroke Sportster. Danny had worked it over thoroughly so it ran like a big incher. They called out a big inch Sportster and bet the guy 50 bucks they could outrun him. He knew all about their bike and jumped on the bet. He beat the owner handily and collected his 50 bucks. Then Danny offered to race him again in 30 minutes for 100 bucks. The guy figured there was not any kind of tuning that would make him lose. He took the bet. In that 30 minutes Johnson changed carbs. The guy said if he was changing to alcohol that was OK. It isn't going to make that much difference. After all, his bike had 20 more cubic inches. To be honest I thought Danny was going to lose another 100 bucks.

When they raced again Danny's bike won by several bike lengths and the guy grumbled as he paid off. I asked Danny how in the hell he did that with changing carbs. He smiled and said he was running about 15% nitro. He said he was building a T/F dragster and would have it out in early '68.

Fast forward to the spring of '68. I still had not seen a Fuel Bike Dragster but Leo Payne was coming to Georgia. He was like a rock star to me. Danny told me he would have his new Fuel Bike there to make some virgin passes with and hopefully get some help from Payne. When I got there and saw Leo it was like I was looking at Elvis. I could not believe I was actually looking at in person the guy I admired so much.

Danny was on the rollers to make his first shakedown run. He didn't get to that weekend. He blew it up on the rollers. Then Leo came out and made his pass. I had a smile from ear to ear. Johnson was a fast learner and did well in '68. And as mentioned in an earlier post he insisted I trade my street bike for this dragster. I will always be thankful to him that I did.
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
This was at the NHRA Gatornationals a few years ago. We were invited as part of the Vintage Race Car display. We fired it a few times and I did a short burnout. There were many many people who told us they had never seen a multi-engine T/F Bike before. Those are the leathers I raced in but I can't zip up the jacket. You know how leather shrinks over time. HAHA!
 

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Yep, that is my old Double...
I was pretty sure it was you or Marion Owens old bike. I went with Owens because he was closer. Wrong as usual.
Thanks for posting and clearing up my mistake.
Sorry 'bout that.
Larry T
 

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Discussion Starter · #71 ·
Folks,
We are blessed to have one of the "greatest" joining us. He has a wealth of knowledge and an elephant's memory. I might add that Joe was also one of my inpirations when he took over the spotlight from Leo Payne in the late 60s. Look for him to share some of his memories from his long career. Thanks for joining us Joe and let the questions from our readers begin.
 

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Thanks for starting a great thread Frank. I finally dragged my ass over here upon seeing it. I'm looking forward to some more stories from yourself and Joe.

Here's another view of the Freight Train. Perhaps you could tell us something about the Norton triple.



 

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Discussion Starter · #79 · (Edited)
To start where I left off when I sold my first Fuel Bike in 1970, I did not race much for a couple years. I was spoiled on nitro and did not care to ride anything else (know what I mean Joe) but being newly wed and now with a child on the way a new Fuel Bike was out of the question. I did keep up with what was going on in Danny Johnson's racing. He went from a rookie Fuel Bike racer in '68 to AMDRA T/F Champion in '71. And there was a "new kid on the block" and I do mean a kid making a statement in North Carolina. I was at the Rockingham North Carolina Nationals in 1970 or '71 and they had a Fuel Bike class among all the car classes. When they got ready to run the bikes I went into the staging lanes to see if I knew anybody. There was this teenager standing next to a Fuel Harley and I wondered who his father was, the rider of course. Well my jaw dropped when it was time to run the bikes and this "kid" starts putting on the leathers. I was looking in disbelief when he fired the bike on rollers to make a pass. "Oh shit" I thought and was REALLY concerned for his safety. I needn't be!! He rode it like a pro.......and he was only 16-17 years old. His dad, who was there, had to sign a waiver. Anyone know who this "kid" was? Joe, you know so you don't count.
 

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To start where I left off when I sold my first Fuel Bike in 1970, I did not race much for a couple years. I was spoiled on nitro and did not care to ride anything else (know what I mean Joe) but being newly wed and now with a child on the way a new Fuel Bike was out of the question. I did keep up with what was going on in Danny Johnson's racing. He went from a rookie Fuel Bike racer in '68 to AMDRA T/F Champion in '70. And there was a "new kid on the block" and I do mean a kid making a statement in North Carolina. I was at the Rockingham North Carolina Nationals in 1970 or '71 and they had a Fuel Bike class among all the car classes. When they got ready to run the bikes I went into the staging lanes to see if I knew anybody. There was this teenager standing next to a Fuel Harley and I wondered who his father was, the rider of course. Well my jaw dropped when it was time to run the bikes and this "kid" starts putting on the leathers. I was looking in disbelief when he fired the bike on rollers to make a pass. "Oh shit" I thought and was REALLY concerned for his safety. I needn't be!! He rode it like a pro.......and he was only 15 years old. His dad, who was there, had to sign a waiver. Anyone know who this "kid" was? Joe, you know so you don't count.
I'll take a wild guess.

John Dixon.
 
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