Although my life has consistently revolved around 4-wheel racing, jalopies, midgets, sprints and drag cars of many shapes and sizes, I have always been fascinated with motorcycles. Just out of high school in 1950, a friend of mine, Joe Larson, asked me if I would take care of his bike while he and some friends took a sail boat for a cruise to the Bahamas. I was working at the old Culver City Airport at the time and was more than happy to accommodate him. It was a hopped up Triumph Trophy TR6 on a Tiger frame, small tank, slight kick-out front fork, a bigger and narrower front wheel and tire, bobbed fenders and racing style short handlebars. It was metallic blue with lots of chrome; one beautiful bike. It was so beautiful, I didn’t ride it much but when I did, it was fast and a lot of fun. Eventually Joe came back and I had to give it back, but what an experience.
I owned my first bike back when I was on the LAFD. I had a Triumph Thunderbird and when weather permitted, I road it to work and back. I was never really happy with that bike, for one thing it had a Lucas ignition and electrical system and at night the headlight was brown at best. I constantly had a sore ankle from kick starting that thing and at times I would stand on one side and use both feet on the kick-starter so I could start the darn thing. I finally sold it and about 1970 bought a brand new black Harley Sportster and that was a real bike. I had it for about 4 years and finally sold it for more than I paid for it but kicked myself later for getting rid of it.
When my drag racing days began I was always fascinated with the drag bikes. When the early strips were in operation, the bikes usually had the fastest times and won a lot of meets. Of course the guys and gals that go back as far as I do remember that the two wheelers were always bad news. One king of the jungle was the “Beast”, the 90 inch fuel Harley of Chet Herbert, (Doug’s Dad). The Beast got a lot of write-ups, won a lot of races and was spectacular to watch. Another impressive application to two wheels was Clem Johnson’s Twin Vincent, the cleverly engineered “Barn Job”, a nitro burning 96-inch monster built and ridden by Clem Johnson. I believe it ran near 150 mph. Very often the cars would go faster but the bikes were quicker. When the tire companies finally caught up with the horsepower the cars were putting out, the 4 wheelers finally overcame and the picture began to change rapidly. It was a good mix of mechanical engineering against brute horsepower. It’s fun to watch the bikes now but innovation is gone. I still like the two wheelers but the powers-that-be have the bikers hands tied and although the speeds are faster, it’s just not the same. That’s the way I see it.
See ya’ at the races