Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yamaha Two-Stroke Threesome

This collection of Yamaha two stroke production racing motorcycles includes a 1969 Yamaha TR2 350, a 1979 Yamaha TZ125 and TZ750. The TR2 was the first production racer to take on the factory bikes at the Grand Prix level. 1969 was the year the 150 mph 350cc was launched and this machine is number 19 made. It still has matching frame and engine numbers, in fact, all three of the these bikes do. Owned by Jacques DuPont, aka Jack, it was lasted raced by Timmy Sussman in the 1972 Daytona 200 and was sent to the Isle of Man for the T.T races at some point, but no confirmation of results has been located thus far. It was recently sold from the original owner's family after being laid up since 1973.

In 1973, 500cc FIM World Champion Giacomo Agostini famously left Italian manufacturer MV Agusta for Yamaha. He took a stunning victory on the Yamaha TZ750 in the Daytona 200 race in 1974. Yamaha domination had began in earnest then and lasted for more than a decade at the speedway.

The TZ125 is a single cylinder, water-cooled 125cc two stroke with monoshock rear suspension. Weight is a mere 165 pounds and top speed in the range of 120 mph.
The TZ750 is one of the last mono shock ' OW31' replica's made by the factory. The TZ750 was made from 1974-1980, about 500 in total. Initially, they had twin shock rear suspension before getting upgraded in 1975 to the monoshock. Besides revised exhaust pipe routing that became a signature of the incredibly fast racer, numerous other changes, it was now capable of speeds in excess of  180 mph.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Yamaha TR2 production racer

1969 marked the introduction of the TR2 348 cc production racer from Yamaha Corporation. Starting with serial number 900101, the two stroke, twin cylinder engine featured twin carbs and a 5 speed gearbox bike also featured a featherbed Manx style frame and proper, massive drum brakes front and rear. Making 54 hp and revving to 9,500 rpm, the 111 kg. machine was capable of speeds over 150 mph.




I received a call a few months ago asking me if I had any interest in a TR2, one that had been in same family since new. The original owner, Jacques "Jack" duPont, of Delaware was ending his long career as a racer when the TR was launched in the spring of 1969. He immediately purchased one to race in the USA's AMA road racing series. I'm still doing the research on specifics but a few things are known. The bike was shipped to the Isle of Man to be raced in 1969 or 1970. It's crate was damaged en-route and the fuel tank cap was crudely but expeditiously repaired. The bike was last raced for the duPont's by Timmy Sussman. It was an early production, numbers matching motorcycle in 'as last raced' condition.

After a few prospective buyers opted out but the more I read the more I was intrigued, I had to have it. The TR's had enjoyed much success and would be succeeded by the TR2B and TZ350 in quick succession. Yamaha was entering it's 'Golden Age' of International road racing domination. Riders like Kel Carruthers, Don Emde, Rod Gould, Phil Read, Jarno Saarinen plus countless others realized they had a potential Grand Prix winner if they followed the exhaustive maintenance schedule and applied some creative tuning. Within a year, the dominance of the TR2 and smaller TD2 led to nearly entire grids made up of Yamaha branded motorcycles. If you wanted to win, you rode a Yamaha.


Eventually, Yamaha would replace the TR with the TZ series when water-cooling became the next great leap forward. A few years later, with the "Giant Killer" getting outgunned increasingly dependable larger capacity offerings from Suzuki and Kawasaki two-strokes, Yamaha unveiled the next arrow in its arsenal, the legendary TZ750. Thus began the next chapter in putting the average rider on world class equipment at a price nearly everyone could afford.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Simeone Museum 2015 Classic Motorcycle Collection

The 7th Annual Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance Collection at the Simeone Museum was a celebration of the finest BMW, Land Speed Record and Police Motorcycles.
Photographer Dawn Deppi captured all the action at the Kick Start Party on Saturday, August 15. She also shot the image of the poster bike this year, David Markel's immaculate 1928 BMW R28.
 Guest of Honor Cook Neilson, former editor of Cycle Magazine was on hand to talk about his experiences racing against BMW's during the early days of AMA Superbike competition. His Ducati, 'Old Blue' was tuned by longtime friend and colleague Phil Schilling and went toe to toe with the mighty Butler & Smith BMW's during their peak years.
Earlier in his career, Neilson drag raced a Harley-Davidson and eventually made record setting runs at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on the bike. He was there when Bob Leppan piloted the twin Triumph engine powered Gyronaut X-1 to record speeds.  

The Britten V1000 powered White Lightning streamliner was on display minus it's engine, but showing off it's meticulous engineering underneath the skin.


Harley-Davidson tuner Charlie Kowchak was recognized by Cook Neilson for his efforts over the last fifty years.

A threesome of pre-war BMW's

"The Guppy", a Suzuki Hyabusa LSR that still holds the record of the world's fastest naturally aspirated sit-on motorcycle at 254 mph. Owner Larry Forestall and pilot Mark DeLuca were on hand to demonstrate the machine.
Peter Calles brought a pair of Italian lightweights to the event. The 1949 Gilera and 1957 Ducati Elite were top quality restorations that are reflective of Peter's passion and work.


The 'Worlds Fastest Motorcycle", the Gyronaut X-1 still holds the record (245.667 mph) for the fastest Triumph in the world. Designed by Alex Tremulis, designer of the Tucker automobile and numerous other cars, it has been restored to it's former glory now.

The Britten V1000, one of only ten made. Still as shockingly beautiful and innovative as when it was launched more than twenty years ago.

For more information on the Gyronaut X-1, check out :

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ray Petty Manx Norton

Ray Petty was one of the most respected tuners of the Norton Manx engine. Petty was an accomplished racer himself, getting his start in 1939 on a 250cc Imperial. He spent most of his war time service in the U.K. developing his trade as a skilled engineer working at the Vickers aircraft experimental shop under the tutelage of Francis Beart. When the war ended, both men joined Norton to prepare Manx racing machines. He continued to road race motorcycles too, even winning as International Six Days Trial Gold medal off road. When his racing career wound down, he employed  many top riders of the period, including legendary racer Derek Minter, the "King of Brands" with whom he shared many victories. Such was the fertile mind of Petty that many interesting, innovative ideas found their way onto bikes. This was followed with the inevitable complete 'Petty Manx'.  The last British Championship won by a single cylinder machine was in 1971 on a Petty-tuned Manx. Ray Petty continued this type of development work until his death in 1987.

American vintage motorcycle racer Chris Jensen has spent most of his seat time on Ducati's small and large and even Yamaha TZ250's over the last twenty years. He'd been looking for a Manx after throwing a leg over one a few years back at a race weekend.
He found a very special one in the form of 'RP3', the Ray Petty Manx #3. It's one of just handful of true Petty built period Manx racers, it one of two being actively raced today. Summerfield Manx in the U.K. started building replica's in the late 1990's, but Chris's bike is the real deal.

Chris brought the bike to the Iron Oxide Garage for some fine tuning before his next race in a week's time at Loudon, New Hampshire with the USCRA. Long time Manx racer and tuner Dick Miles shared his knowledge with Chris to help dial in the bike to help reach its potential.


Chris has spent an significant time in the last year since it's acquisition optimizing the machine. The bike is surely the ultimate development of the Ray Petty dream machine at this moment.


Belt drive and numerous other modern go-fast goodies blend
seamlessly with the 1971 Petty-built frame.

Running 18 inch alloy rims, a Ceriani front end and rebuilt brakes
ensures that the Manx handles very well. The original Petty forks are stored for later use.

Modern silencer meets the ever tightening sound regulations with ease and improved mid-range performance and ground clearance over the stock megaphone pipe.  A stock 1961 Norton Manx frame sits in the background, awaiting a rebuild.

The Iron Oxide Racing garage will soon be torn down to make way for a parking garage in the name of 'progress' and urban renewal. Oh, the story it's walls would tell if they could talk. So many great cars, motorcycles, racing go-karts, and wooden boats have been worked on here. So many interesting characters have visited these premises, too. The city where it's located has promised to provide the owner with a new space to replace it with, but time will tell how well that plan goes. Well, at least we've got the memories.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

1978 Ducati 900 Super Sport

We had just finished celebrating Ducati at an event I organized in 2011 when I was offered a 1978 Ducati 900SS, the legendary Super Sport. I wasn't looking, but threw caution to the wind and went for it. While these machines are not as desirable, in collector terms, as the 750 Super Sport, the 900 SS still rates high on the 'bucket list' of bikes sporting 1970's road machines.


There were some fantastic machines on display and the bellow of Italian L-Twins blatting from Conti pipes washed over me as the bikes left when it was over. Our Special Guests that fall weekend included Cook Neilson, winner of the 1977 Daytona Superbike Race at Daytona Speedway, Nobby Clark, tuner for Mike Hailwood who scored a hugely popular win at the Isle of Man in 1978 on a Ducati 900SS, Dave Hailwood, son of the late World Champion Mke Hailwood and Eraldo Ferraci, whose teams won AMA and World titles on the legendary brand from Bologna, Italy. There was some serious Ducati desire in the air with that company, so it seemed destined to happen.


Cook won the Daytona Superbike race in 1977 on "The California Hot Rod", aka "Old Blue". The bike he and Phil Schilling built was 750SS based mongrel of the first order, utilizing the best bits regardless of the source. Neilson claimed he had the "Unfair Advantage" with the bike. Aside from Paul Smart winning the Imola 200 race  in 1972, this was the most significant win in Ducati history, particularly in the United States.


Before jetting back to the U.K., Dave and I drove to Eraldo Ferraci's shop to check out the bike which was in for a service. Once I laid eyes on it, it was over. A deal was done and a week later, the bike was at it's new home with me.



The bike had been maintained regardless of cost and is a strong runner. Once used to the starting drill, the Ducati and I became fast friends. I am very fortunate to live near some of the best back roads you could imagine, and this is a bike to experience them on. It stunning silhouette and rapturous exhaust note are reason enough to own one. It's a no-nonsense, take no prisoners sport bike that begs to be flogged.


The 900 Super Sport is, of course, the model that followed the ground-breaking 750 SS, using the same frame and 'all-business' design ethos that made for a great production racer in it's time. This bike had been in the same ownership for nearly thirty years and had a stack of invoices for service and parts showed someone cared a great deal for this superbike of the seventies. Starting the bike up on the centerstand, off the bike's right side is a the kicker that makes it all happen. No electric starter on this machine. When these were new, the included a spare pair of Conti 'mufflers' along with the stock Silentium pipes. They even threw in a pair of 40 mm carbs to be run without filters instead of the 32mm carbs and airboxes on the stock machine. This bike had all the go-fast goodies and the stock parts too. The original Speedline cast magnesium alloy rims have been replaced by a beautiful pair of shouldered alloys since the originals were prone to cracking.

According to the owner, only fifty-three 900 Super Sports made it to the USA in 1978. That the Japanese manufacturers were offering bikes with electric starters and four cylinders for considerably less money was just one of the problems faced by Ducati.  This machine features Bosch electrics. When Mike Hailwood won the Isle of Man F1 Race in the summer of 1978, Ducati's fortunes took a turn for the better. The bike Mike won on was a Steve Wynn prepared Ducati with full fairing and Ducati duly turned out a streetbike replica that is another blue chip collectable Ducati today. It may well have saved the company. In 2009 Ducati launched a MH900E , the Mike Hailwood Evolution sports machine as a tribute to Mike's great comeback on the Isle.

                         Here's a short video of that historic ride with Hailwood at the Island:


A friend suggested the SS on my Ducati stood for Super Scruffy, but I'm pretty sure he's jealous that he doesn't get to ride his trailer queen show machine anymore, it's too pretty to take out and ride. Well, I bought this one to ride, because that's what the former owner did and what I intend to keep doing. When he told on his one "illegal street race" I was shocked to hear it was against a Ferrari 275GTB in the Philadelphia suburbs in the 1980's. He claimed he had the Ferrari covered to around 100 mph when the car stormed by. After that, the Ducati then went to Fast by Ferracci for head work, new pistons and a swap to Mikuni carbs. Dyno'd at 67 hp, top speed was likely in the 130-140 mph range. Raw, rapid and single-minded in purpose, the SS does indeed deliver on what it's looks promise, a real factory built production racer for the road experience.

More insight on the Ducati 750SS and 900SS Wikipedia entry :

Because the price of the 750 Super Sport was very similar to 900, very few 750s were produced with the majority of them being shipped to Australia, Germany or staying in Italy for racing applications.
By 1978 the bike looked identical, but several significant improvements had made their way into the motor making them more reliable and solving problems with engine cranks breaking. The electronics also improved as well as some minor timing tweaks making the bike run more efficiently. Most notable was a majorly redesigned gear shifter that made the bike a lot easier for owners to live with the bike. Most 1978 900 Super Sports also came with a dual seat and lockable tool box. The solo seat was available as an option. The 1978 model bike is considered to be the finest iteration of the bevel drive square case Super Sports. The 1978 900 and 1979 750s were the last to retain close links with the Imola racers and the last to come with the "old fashioned" spoke wheels. it was also in 1978 that the Isle of Man TT Formula 1 race was won by a 900 Super Sport.
In 1979 the Super Sports were painted black with gold accents to appeal to the British market. Cast Campagnolo wheels replaced the Borrani alloy rims and a Mike Hailwood Replica was made available in very limited numbers painted in lavish green and red schemes. The new changes, specifically the black and gold paint and cast wheels were very successful at making an aging design look more modern. The 1980 model stayed essentially the same with no notable changes. Essentially, the Super Sport was being transitioned into the Mike Hailwood Replica.