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Cross-Canada adventure in a freshly restored 1951 Ford


Bill Paul’s 1951 Ford at the first border sign, crossing from Alberta into Saskatchewan.

Story first published in the Calgary Herald Driving section. All photos courtesy Bill Paul. I took a particular interest in this story because Paul didn’t build his car to be a show-only specimen; he actually used the car as it was meant to be driven. No trailer queen this one.

Realizing a dream can take time.

Case in point: Calgarian Bill Paul and his 1951 Ford Two Door Custom – it took him more than 20 years to restore the car.

Completing the restoration was just the first part of the dream. In 2012 the semi-retired carpenter and his wife Vivian drove the Ford across Canada to their hometown of Brookfield, Nova Scotia. There, the Ford carried them in a parade that was part of the Coming Home to Brookfield festivities. Check that one off the bucket list.

In 1988 Paul bought the rusted-out car from a farmer near Langdon. At the time, he was renting a house in Calgary and had use of the garage.

“I’d become involved with the Nifty Fifty’s Ford Club in 1986 (that was the year the club got started), and I didn’t have an old Ford,” Paul recounts. “So, I went on the hunt and found this one.”

After taking the car to pieces, he spent a year or two working on various parts until the landlord sold the house. The next place he rented didn’t have a garage, so the project went to a property owned by a Nifty Fifty’s club member, where it was stored for the next few years.

As the couple moved from house to house the Ford sometimes went along, other times staying in storage. In 1993 when the Pauls bought a home in Riverbend and put up a garage the Ford came home for good.

“I began to putter with it a little more than I had before,” he says, and adds, “but it wasn’t until 2006 or 2007 that I really started to put my heart and soul into it.

“The guys in the club kept asking me if I was ever going to get the car together, and I thought, OK, enough fooling around.”

He had the body media blasted, and discovered more rust than expected, especially in the floor. Rusted metal was cut away, and new panels welded in – including floor, quarter and rocker panels.

Paul used a drill-mounted wire brush to clean up frame rails and applied a rust neutralizer before having the chassis painted black.

To lessen the pain on his pocketbook Paul would take two or three items a year, over the years, to be chrome plated.

“I did it piece by piece, a little at a time,” Paul says, “so I didn’t wind up with one big, expensive chrome plating bill.”

New nuts and bolts were used to put the car back together. Also new were many mechanical components, including brake drums, shoes and lines, shocks and front end parts.

Paul restored the car to original specifications with the 6-volt electrical system. He kept drum brakes all around, the three-on-the-tree manual shift transmission and manual steering. He added some custom touches, including the Continental spare tire kit, sunvisor and dual exhaust.

The engine in his car had a hole in the block, something he couldn’t see when he first bought the Ford. So Paul purchased a running 239 c.i. flathead Ford V-8 from a club member, and installed this engine in his finished car.

“It ran, but I thought it sounded noisy,” Paul says. “It had always been my intention to finish the car and drive it back home, and when I learned about the Brookfield homecoming, I bought a freshly rebuilt flathead and put it in the car.”

Ensuring the Ford was topped up with fluids, the Pauls left Calgary at 8 a.m. on July 14, 2012, and headed east on the Trans Canada.

“I probably had about 300 or 400 miles on it by then,” Paul says.


Crossing from Saskatchewan into Manitoba. The rebuilt flathead was running hot.

And that’s when the adventures began. In Saskatchewan Paul says he noticed the engine was starting to overheat, but it wasn’t until he was just outside Winnipeg that he really got concerned.

They made it to his brother in law’s house, and Paul spent some time locating a new radiator cap, which he replaced. But as they were leaving Winnipeg the driveshaft fell out of the car.

The rear yoke had a hairline fracture, and it had finally given up. At the Winnipeg garage there was nothing the mechanic could do without a replacement, so Paul phoned one of his Nifty Fifty’s friends.

“I have a bunch of parts stored there, and he got a yoke out and sent it overnight to Winnipeg,” Paul says.

Driveshaft back in the car, and now well into Ontario, the Ford began overheating again. Paul would periodically stop by the side of Lake Superior, fill a jug with lake water, and add it to the radiator.


From Manitoba into Ontario, driveshaft fixed, cooling problem getting worse.

In Sault St. Marie Paul located a new thermostat at NAPA, had it installed at the Firestone garage, and continued on.

“The car wasn’t boiling the water out, but we were just losing water,” he says. He continued to stop, topping off the radiator, for the rest of the journey.


Stopped by the marker denoting entry into Quebec.

The Pauls arrived in Nova Scotia on July 20 at 8:45 p.m., the night before the day of the parade, with a car that was overheating. Insult to injury, the generator had also quit.

Paul figured they’d come too far to miss the parade.

He phoned a few of his Nova Scotia car friends that evening, and at 8 a.m. Saturday morning a replacement generator had been found and borrowed. Paul got it in the car and narrowly made the 10:30 parade lineup, with five minutes to spare.

The Ford made it through the parade, and Paul then spent several days pulling off the heads to track down the overheating issue. One head was bowed, and after it was planed Paul noticed it was also cracked.

A replacement head was located in Truro, and it was planed and installed. The generator and starter were rebuilt at Al Roland Auto Electric in Truro, and Barry Weatherby, also of Truro, tuned up the car and gave it a once over. He noticed the front-end alignment was out some 20mm.


Entering New Brunswick (above) before finally arriving in Nova Scotia (below) at 8:45 in the evening, car overheating and now not generating current.


“I didn’t think the car had been handling that well, but it had been professionally aligned before we left Calgary,” Paul explains.

They left Nova Scotia on Aug. 14 for the return trip, and made it into northern Ontario when a valve guide clip let go, leaving the valve useless. There was no cell phone service, so Paul decided to nurse the car into Winnipeg.

With the mangled clip removed and replaced with one sourced from a Winnipeg flathead enthusiast, the Pauls were back on their way to Calgary.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, but the car was still overheating after 10,621 kilometres.

Paul has since had replacement heads inspected for cracks and planed flat. With new gaskets, he hopes the overheating issue will be a thing of the past.

Here’s hoping  the completion of his next dream, the restoration of a 1956 Ford convertible, will be finished soon.


Pete Young of Occhio Lungo: Revealed


I penned my most recent Cycle Canada New Old Stock column about Pete Young, proprietor of the Occhio Lungo blog. His site is dedicated to everything old motorcycle, leaning heavily towards the veteran era (but not always!).  Plenty of interesting posts on Occhio Lungo.

In preparation for the column I drafted a list of questions, and Pete more than generously answered each one of them, in detail. I could use only a very small portion of our exchange in my 750-word column, but his answers are simply too good to waste. Here is the full dissertation.

All images are courtesy Pete Young and Occhio Lungo.

1. How did you first get interested in motorcycles, and what was your first machine?

I grew up in the desert of Eastern Washington, and my dad bought me a Honda ATC 110 for my tenth Christmas.  I’ve been riding bikes ever since.  I’m 42 now, so that is 32 years on bikes.  The first bike that I bought with my own money was a 1972 CL 350.  My friends and I wanted to make café racer bikes, but Tritons and BSA’s were too expensive.  I know that resonates with a lot of guys today, but this was in the 1980s!  Then, as now, 70’s Japanese bikes were an affordable way to play around.

veloce exh nut 6

2. Where did you learn to be so self-sufficient with tools? Did you have a mentor, or are you self-taught?

In the old days (ha!) kids like me took metalshop class in ninth grade.  I loved that class, and learned the basics of running a Bridgeport mill, a lathe, stick welding, etc.  My dad had taught me how to spin wrenches already, as we restored a 67 Camaro as a father and son thing.  He was very self-sufficient, and taught me about plumbing, wiring, how to swing a framing hammer, how to lay sod, and many other things like that. When I went to college to learn engineering, I took a part time job as a machinist helper / engineering technician at a supplier to Boeing.  I was responsible for some very basic design tasks, and to fabricate some parts from my drawings or from those of the staff engineers.  The shop foreman was a kind and patient man, and he let me burn a lot of hours doing setups and scrapping a few parts before I got one that passed inspection.


3. How does your engineering background inform your motorcycle hobby?

I’m lucky in that I get paid to do something that I would do just for fun.  Bearings, linkages, and castings occupy my thoughts all day, whether I’m on the clock for a client or thinking about a motorbike or car.   My background in engineering design has shown me a lot about manufacturing processes.  Not just the typical machine shop stuff, but also waterjet or laser cutting, rapid prototyping, sheetmetal tooling and other fun stuff.  And I’ve worked with some great shops and vendors across America and a few in Asia too.  All of that has helped me to understand that restoring a bike, or building a bike from scratch is not as hard as it appears to be.  Men did this work 100 years ago with tools that are primitive compared to what we have today.  They did it without carbide tools, or TIG welding or alloy steels and often without a high school education.  Surely we can try to emulate, or maybe equal, their efforts?


4. When did you get your first Velocette, and what drew you to that particular make?

During the 1990s I began to look further back into the past, beyond the 1970s bikes that had excited me until then.  The pre WWII Velocettes were striking, painted black with gold trim and bright chrome fishtail mufflers.  The girder forks and rigid frames looked very purposeful, and the racing pedigree of the KTT and Thruxton bikes was impressive.  But since I began studying the Veloce company and their bikes, I’ve grown to like them more for their engineering and inventions.  They created so many things that we use on bikes today: positive stop foot shifters, the dual seat, adjustable rear suspension, etc.  They are good riding bikes, and their owners tend to use them.  In 15+ years, we’ve ridden our MSS for thousands of miles, and my wife Kim has also ridden her 1930 KSS (350cc OHC) all over the western USA and Canada.   Older and older bikes grab my eye each year and now I’m finishing up the restoration of a 1913 Veloce now, which has been a big two year project.


5. What machines grace your garage?

We have just over a half-dozen machines in total, mostly Brit single cylinder bikes from the 19teens, 20’s and 30’s.  I also play around with one American bike, a 1916 Excelsior twin.  The 1938 MSS has remained our most “modern” bike for the last 20 years or so.


6. You’re not a collector who hoards your machines – together with your wife and children, you ride them. Those experiences set you and your family apart – does it also bring your family closer together?

Machines are for riding, it is as simple as that, just as ovens are for baking, and boots are made for walking.  Static machines in a museum are nice to see, but they really come alive when filled with fluids and fired up to make noises and cut a good line on a curvy road.

Kim and I rode together for years before we had children, and decided that we didn’t want to stop once they arrived.  So I found a Dusting sidecar for the Velo MSS when she was still pregnant, and fitted it to my Velo and waited for the baby to arrive.  (Kim made me wait until each kid was about 8-9 months old before they could ride in the chair…).  What was the question?  Oh yeah, family.  We love riding together, seeing the backroads, stopping for ice cream, pointing at the deer or hawks that we spot from the bike.  It can be a great educational experience too, stopping to see and explore caves, or learning about the Gold Rush and the mines, the geology of places like Glacier Natl. Park or Mt. Lassen.  The kids are still relatively small, aged 8 and 10, so they tire of riding on the back of rigid bikes after several hours.  Frequent stops and some pep talks help us to keep going on the 5 day rallies.


7. Do you encourage your kids to help out in the shop?

I do, but at their age it is still hard for them.  Welding and grinding doesn’t excite them as much as dolls and video games.  But I try not to force it, and ask them to do some fun things like painting or assembling the newly plated parts.  They have been more excited lately as I’ve gotten their help to set up pillion seats footpegs on some of the bikes for them to enjoy.

8. Your shop; is it a standard double car, or single, or? What kind of tools do you have in there?

Years ago we found a dilapidated old Victorian home that featured a three car garage and some space for a workshop.  It was love at first sight.  The shop has a lot of the typical tools for our hobby like a good lathe, welders, grinders, etc.  A table top mill has been very helpful, and a lot of random things like a tubing bender, hydraulic press and an assortment of hammers.


9. You took part in the first Cannonball run – were you prepared for the challenge?

Ha!  That’s a good question.  It seemed that I was, but the C’ball is a tough event.  I prepped for a year, and brought my 1913 Premier and also my Excelsior as a backup.  (We didn’t realize how strict the rules were going to be until we arrived at the start, and the X wasn’t allowed).  In addition to prepping two bikes, I took up jogging 4 days a week and tried to eat healthy.  Anyway, I had ridden the Premier for several years before the C’ball, and it was in good shape.  But the crankpin broke on the first day.  It took a lot of effort to tear down the bike, find a shop at midnight, make new parts, install them and get back on the road.  I missed a day and a half of the Cannonball due to that, and several other half days for breakages like the V belt pulley.  98 year old steel can and does fail due to fatigue, but I cannot complain.  That’s just the nature of the old bike game.  I was stubbornly determined to ride the bike across the USA and to the finish, and that is exactly what I did.  On the last day, the motor seized after the oil sump drain let the oil escape.  There was still about 100 miles left in the day, so I poured a quart of oil into the spark plug hole, rocked the bike back and forth and freed up the piston.  Then I rode it carefully to the pier in Santa Monica and drank a very cold beer.  It was the best beer I’d had in a very long time.


10. The Veloce that you’ve most recently finished, I believe, is intended to be ridden in the 2013 Pioneer Run in the U.K. What encouraged you to enter?

Knowing that the bike was to be 100 years old, Dave Masters invited me to join him on the Pioneer Run from London to Brighton.  Dave is a Velo fellow and plans to ride his own 1912 i.o.e. Velo.  So we made plans for me to finish the bike, and ship it to England.  We’ll celebrate the bike’s 100th birthday with cake and ice cream at the finish in Brighton.  It is terribly silly and expensive, but that is what credit cards were made for.  Besides, I won’t be here for the bike’s 200th birthday. (Update: the cylinder base on the Veloce cracked while break-in miles were being added, scuppering the plans to attend the Pioneer Run. Ironically, the 2013 Pioneer Run was cancelled due to snow …)

042003-collgwd 008

11. Why did you decide to start blogging about vintage motorcycles and the technology (or technologies) that were first being tried? You’re shining a light on the fact that most of what we’re seeing on today’s machines has, at one time or another, already been tried.

Thanks, I’m glad that you like reading Occhio Lungo.  It is exciting to see how engineers and designers solved the same set of problems 100+ years ago:  How to carry a person on a motorized bicycle or car.  Each designer tried their best, but of course there were many possible solutions and many of them didn’t work as well as others.  But as you mentioned, there were great things done before WWI, such as disc brakes, water-cooled two strokes, electric, steam, gasoline power and also hybrids, mono shock rear suspensions, telescoping front forks, transverse four cylinder motors, shaft drive, OHC, etc.  The marques that failed often had the most innovation.  It all fascinates me, and I wanted to share my fun with readers from around the world.  I never expected more than a dozen people to read it, but it has surprisingly found an audience of hundreds of people per day.   The message is supposed to be about the fun of studying old technology, coupled with the joy of riding early machines, and the How To articles that show repairs and fabrication in the workshop.


12. How much has the computer and social media changed your perspective on vintage motorcycles and the hobby in general?

Over the past three years, I’ve become friends with people from places like Tasmania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, quiet corners of Ireland, Spain and France and so many other places.  Email, Facebook and blogs/websites have opened up the communication to so many far flung locales.  There are only a few people in San Francisco who don’t get bored talking about veteran and pioneer machines.  But across the globe there are plenty of guys who want to chat, share tuning tips, trade parts, etc.  And as a research tool, the internet is better than any library that I can find.  When searching for documentation on a specific model of machine from 100 years ago, sometimes only one person or library has a manufacturer’s brochure.  But scanning it and posting it to a web page, or emailing it around the world has become so very simple.  After looking around for a year via the computer, I had contacted people in clubs and accessed private libraries, and had amassed more information about 1913 Veloce motorcycles than anybody had possessed since 1913.  (That sounds like a lot, but it is really just some old adverts and a few period photos).  Still, that information allowed me to know what the bike should look like when I restored it.  That was impossible just 20 years ago.  If we do it right, our restorations today can be much more correct than those done in previous generations.

A history of Triumph’s Tiger 100

First published in the Antique Motorcycle (the magazine of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America) in my Pulp Non-Fiction column, a look at Triumph’s T100 model as seen in the literature of the day.


Triumph Twin of 1935.

Let’s take a close look at the Tiger 100, a model powered by a parallel twin engine produced by the Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd. I won’t go into detail about the start of the Triumph company, preferring to tuck into the story in the late 1920s with the introduction of two men instrumental in the evolution of the British motorcycle, Val Page and Edward Turner. Page was chief designer at Ariel when he met Turner in 1928. Ariel boss Jack Sangster had hired Turner to develop a square four engine; the basis for the long-running Ariel Square Four.

While testing his square four engine at Ariel, Turner made up a 360-degree twin crankshaft, and ran this uncoupled in the back half of his four, an arrangement otherwise known as a parallel twin. Turner said in the Ivor Davies’ book It’s a Triumph that Page paid particular attention to the characteristics of his ‘experimental’ twin. Whether Turner’s work was an influence or not, in 1932 when Page, himself a keen engineer and designer of rather striking motorcycles, left Ariel for employment at Triumph he soon had a running 650cc vertical twin motorcycle. Introduced in 1933 at the Olympia Show, the Model 6/1 was part of Triumph’s 1934 sales program.

I have a 1935 Triumph brochure, and the ad copy for the 6/1 twin states: “This modern power unit of new design has many features which are entirely original. The cylinders, while cast ‘en bloc’ are vertical, side by side, one cylinder each side of the centre of the crankcase (having a firing angle of 360 degrees), and have adequate air passages between them. They maintain the characteristics of two single cylinders, having separate detachable single port heads. The valve gear (two valves per cylinder) is operated by push rods fully enclosed and working between the two cylinder barrels.”

Page’s twin wasn’t the first for Triumph. In 1913, the company built an experimental 600cc side-valve vertical twin that featured a horizontally split crankcase. There isn’t much other information about the engine, and the war intervened in its development.

More than just the 6/1 twin, Page designed a range of Triumph singles with 250, 350 and 500cc sidevalve and overhead valve configurations. None of these Triumphs were inexpensive to produce, and by the mid 1930s the company was facing financial turmoil. Ariel boss Jack Sangster saw an opportunity to purchase the foundering Triumph works, and he moved Turner over from Ariel. Page had already jumped ship, taking his considerable design talents to rival maker BSA.

In 1936 at Triumph, Turner became chief designer and managing director. His first exercise was to take three examples of single-cylinder machines, originally designed by Page, and dress them up with a sportier image. He created the 250cc Tiger 70, 350cc Tiger 80 and 500cc Tiger 90, all with polished alloy primary cases, chrome plated gas tanks with silver-sheen painted side and top panels and purposeful high-level exhaust systems. The frames were rigid, and front suspension was supplied by a set of girder forks. These singles proved quick sellers, but Turner had something else in mind for Triumph, and it was an entirely new twin.

Turner drew a twin-cylinder engine, and dubbed it the Speed Twin. Featuring a vertically split crankcase housing a single, central flywheel, the 498cc engine became one of the most popular motorcycle power plants of all time. Crankpins are “in line”, allowing both pistons to rise and fall simultaneously. The cylinders fire alternately with power impulses spaced evenly at 360 degrees. Early Speed Twin motors are fitted with a six-stud cast iron barrel and cylinder head, with separate alloy boxes housing both the rockers and valve adjusters. Camshafts are situated high in the crankcase, gear driven through an idler gear by the right side of the crankshaft. Separate pushrod tubes run fore and aft of the cylinders.

In 1937 the twin-cylinder engine looked very similar to what would have been a conventional twin-port single-cylinder unit, without being much wider or heavier. The twin made only four more horsepower than Triumph’s 500cc single, 28 h.p. compared to 24 h.p. But the power delivery of the twin rivaled that of the single; it was much more refined, with better torque and pull from low speeds, plus it was easier to start.

Turner dropped his parallel-twin engine into the heavyweight Tiger 90 single-cylinder cycle parts sprayed in Amaranth Red and the Speed Twin was first shown in 1937. It was available to the public in 1938, and sold very well. There was some trouble with the original six-stud barrel to crankcase fixing configuration, and in 1939, eight studs were introduced. Bigger news for 1939, however, was the addition of a sporting stablemate to the Speed Twin in the form of the Tiger 100.


Triumph Tiger 100 of 1939.

Inside the 1939 Triumph brochure, the maker states: “Triumph have long held the view that for sports use the O.H.V. single of over 350 c.c. is an obsolete type, and the overwhelming endorsement of this view by the serious motor cyclist during 1938 has encouraged us to produce the multi-cylinder “TIGER 100” to replace the “TIGER 90” single. This super-tuned brother of the successful “SPEED TWIN” is a most impressive machine both in performance and appearance and will undoubtedly become a firm favourite.”

Tiger 100 motorcycles made approximately seven more horsepower than the Speed Twin, and were fitted with 8:1 high compression alloy slipper pistons, with all internal moving parts polished. Providing sparks and electrical current was a Lucas magdyno sitting on a platform behind the cylinders. A single 1” bore Amal carburetor fed fuel and air through a new manifold designed to increase flow. Stock head and barrels are of cast iron, but racing enthusiasts could order an aluminum-bronze cylinder head. Almost race-ready from the factory, the machine was equipped with mufflers of the open megaphone-type, but with quickly detachable ends that incorporated baffles and tail pipe.


Triumph Tiger 100 of 1948.

In my 1948 Triumph brochure, the Tiger 100 has been updated with telescopic forks, and the new sprung hub an extra option. Gone, however, are the sharp-looking megaphone-type mufflers, and the magdyno has changed to separate magneto at the back and dynamo at the front of the engine. Ad copy states: “The TRIUMPH “TIGER 100” is an ultra high performance sports machine with a specially tuned engine capable of completely satisfying the desires of all who wish to travel fast and far. At the same time it retains that flexibility and smoothness which make it a very pleasant motor cycle when high speeds are not desired.”

Triumph’s Tiger 100 continued in similar specification until 1951, when the motorcycle was fitted with a nacelle-style headlamp and long bench-type seat. Frame is still rigid, with a sprung hub offering the only rear springing action. The motorcycle is a cracking performer, says a 1951 Triumph booklet dubbed Tuning the 1951 Triumph Tiger 100. “(The T100) has always responded well to the efforts of amateur tuners, and has taken a successful part in competitive events in all parts of the world.”

The copy continues: “The 1951 Tiger 100 is a new model incorporating a new engine of advanced design with an aluminum alloy cylinder barrel and head, and many other features calculated to provide enhanced performance. This machine is both lighter and faster than its predecessor, and although it is supplied from the factory to roadster specification only, a special feature is the provision made in its design whereby it can, at a most reasonable cost, readily be converted by the knowledgeable owner from its standard form to racing specification.”


Triumph’s legendary Tiger 100 Racing Kit.

Enter the special Tiger 100 Racing Kit, a package of parts in its own container that could be supplied to an owner on receipt of their engine and frame numbers. The components were available separately, but the Racing Kit came complete with either 8.25:1 or 9.5:1 compression ratio pistons, racing profile camshafts, valve springs, twin Amal Type 6 carbs with remote float and dual throttle cables, Smiths 8,000 rpm tachometer, one gallon oil tank with quick release cap, exhaust pipes with megaphones, footrests, handlebar, number plate, short rear brake rod, folding kickstart lever and set of gaskets.

“Success in racing does not come by chance,” the brochure explains. “It is the result of experience and painstaking preparation both of the man and the machine.” While the T100 booklet dealt in the main with the machine, there were also a few paragraphs about the physical and mental requirements of ‘the Man.’

In a brochure published 24th October 1952 (this would be the 1953 model year) the company produced a Tiger 100 and Tiger 100C. Both still had rigid frames, and the T100C appears to have been prepared from the factory for racing, complete with the dual Amal carbs, high compression pistons and racing cams. Horsepower is rated at 42@7,000 rpm when fitted with a racing exhaust, quite an improvement over the 28 h.p. of the original Speed Twin engine.

Triumph introduced their swingarm frame in 1954, and the Tiger 100 was so fitted. In the 1955 brochure there is just the Tiger 100; no sign of a Tiger 100C (it was a one-year only offering), nor word of the Racing Kit. The T100 is listed in the 1956 brochure, and a new splayed-port twin carburetor head is offered as an extra for the speed enthusiast.


Triumph Tiger T100 of 1955.


Triumph Tiger 100 of 1957.

Triumph moved to unit engine/gearbox construction in 1959, and the Tiger 100 made the change. The last brochure I have is from 1965 and it lists the Tiger 100 and Tiger 100S/S. “A machine with a host of successes in production machine racing and gaining gold medal honours in the International Six Days’ Trial for the past four years, the Tiger 100 has more than proven itself in these tough marathon endurance tests. Produced especially for the sporting rider who demands the ultimate in performance from a 500 c.c. machine,” the copy states.


Triumph Tiger of 1965.

The Tiger 100 motorcycles eventually culminated in the Daytona 500cc machines, which ended production in 1973 – a 34 year run. The name returned to a motorcycle thanks to the new Hinckley Triumph company, which introduced a Tiger in 1993. Years of competitive successes, especially in American flat track, enduro and Daytona races, have ensconced the Tiger 100 firmly in history, and it’s all thanks to Edward Turner’s parallel twin engine.

Modern Motorcycle Mechanics and Speed Tuning (1945) Reprinted

For those who are interested in older motorcycles, this is the manual to have. Written by J.B. (Bernie) Nicholson in 1945, the treatise was the follow-up to the Fist Edition of 1942.

Plenty of information regarding early American motorcycles such as Harley-Davidson and Indian, and popular British brands of the day. The book is a snapshot of the motorcycle industry as it was set to recover from the Second World War, and also features a special chapter on training Army riders, as well as a section on Speed Tuning.

Not a word of Nicholson’s advice has changed, we’ve kept the book exactly as he wrote it. Printed with pride in Canada, where it was first published, and then sent around the globe. Visit to purchase.

Calgary hits the Salt

Calgary has a burgeoning land speed racing community. This is a follow-up to my post of Sept. 21.

Thanks to Liz Leggett and Joanne Meyer for the photographs.



Aerotech Salt Liquor LSR. Photo Joanne Meyer.

More than just a couple of readers were interested in learning, well, more.

In this column of 14 September I wrote about three Calgary teams who built land speed racers and trekked to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I made mention of two other teams, but their stories weren’t included.

To rectify that, here’s an accounting of Aerotech’s Salt Liquor 1934 Ford and The Rod Shop’s Wingin’ It belly tanker. In mid-August 2012 both were first time salt flat participants.

“We were in a pub in Kensington, having a pint and watching Speed TV,” says Dave Meyer, president of the Aerotech Group of Companies. “That’s when Reed said we should build a 1934 Ford and hit the salt.”

Reed Sutherland is an Aerotech employee, and according to Meyer, the team was formed that very evening. Within a week, Meyer purchased frame rails to get started on the build.

“That’s when my wife asked if I really thought this was a good idea, because none of us had ever built a race car before,” Meyer says.  “I told her we could do this with Terry Graham’s help.”

Since 1963 Graham’s been involved with building vehicles that go fast, from oval track cars to tractors. Graduating from SAIT’s aircraft maintenance program in the early 1960s, Graham soon had a job in Edmonton at Faulkner Aircraft.

“In Edmonton Ron Fernworn and I raced a hokey Buick, and then a flathead on the oval,” Graham explains. “Then, I moved to Calgary and we got friends and investors to help build Stampede Speedway.”

That oval track in north Calgary later became Circle 8 Speedway, and Graham went on to open Airport Welding where he built successful race vehicles, including an Indy car, for Frank Weiss.

Airport Welding is where Meyer apprenticed under Graham’s watchful eye.

Terry Graham on the salt. Photo Joanne Meyer.

“He took me right out of high school, and excluding my parents, nobody’s taught me more,” Meyer says. “Aerotech’s got 60 employees, and without Terry’s mentorship, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Every Tuesday evening and Saturday afternoon Graham, Meyer, Sutherland, Paul Jolicoeur, Trevor Buckler and Matt Latrace met to work on the car.

“It was kind of a slow process at first,” Graham says. In 2010 the team took what they had built down to Bonneville and ran it through tech inspection. Both the inspectors and other racers made suggestions, and when the car came back to Calgary the team got serious, extending the chassis and reconfiguring the front of the vehicle.

Essentially, Graham became the crew chief when he retired from his job at Calgary’s Valley Metal and focused on the car, which features one of his built-up 490 cubic inch Chevrolet engines, saved from his tractor racing days. Plenty of sweat equity from the team meant they were ready to tackle the salt in 2012.

Salt Liquor. Photo Joanne Meyer.

“I’d never sat in a race car before, and it was a little unnerving because we’d never even put (this one) into gear,” Meyer says of getting onto the salt. “The fastest I’d ever driven before in my life was 70 mph in the truck on the way down.”

In all, 10 runs were made in the 770 horsepower Salt Liquor car in the AG/CC class. The best run was 318.7 km/h (198 mph) before they dropped third gear due to some shifting issues. Right now, the car’s apart and the gearbox is being rebuilt while the engine is on the dyno for more tuning. They’re going back in 2013, but are happy with their novice attempt.

Meyer says, “I think we did quite well for our first year, and Terry guided us through the process. Any credit rides on his shoulders.”

The other Calgary team hitting the salt was Tom Racz and his crew at The Rod Shop. They built a lakester from the wing tank of a Canadian T-33 jet trainer to compete in the XF/GL class.

The Rod Shop’s Wingin’ It lakester. Liz Leggett photo.

They got stated by cutting the tank in half, establishing the chassis perimeter, and planning just where the engine, transmission and rear differential would go. A chassis built of rectangular rails and round steel tubing soon took shape, with the 286 cubic inch stroked and bored flathead Ford at the rear of the vehicle.

In 2011 The Rod Shop planned to finish the build, get to Bonneville, pass tech inspection and run on the salt.

They ran out of time and did not have a completely finished vehicle, but just like the Aerotech team, took the car down for tech inspection.

They learned some lessons, and in order to become a record contender Racz replaced their single-speed gearbox with a two-speed Ford transmission. That change meant the rear of the chassis had to be lengthened some 10 cm.

Both the Ford flathead and the gearbox were built up by Calgary’s Trevor Landage – and the car was still being worked on this year when it was loaded for the drive to Bonneville.

“Just before we crossed the border the turbo blew in our Ford F-250,” Racz says. “But we ran like that to Ogden, Utah, where the dealership looked at the truck. We spent the day working on the car in their parking lot, getting all of the little things finished.”

When the team got to the salt flats they passed tech, but they had to replace their six-point harness with a seven-point belt, and Racz had to purchase fireproof underwear – seriously – before he’d be allowed to run the car.

Wingin’ It lakester. Liz Leggett photo.

Racz went through the rookie orientation, which he said gave him a bit of confidence before his first attempt at a two-mile run.

“It was our first run and I couldn’t get the car in gear,” Racz says. “So, we shut the car off and put it in gear, then started it again. Well, it started to roll immediately, and I thought the push truck was already getting me up to speed.”

Little did he know that the truck was nowhere near, and the clutch was grabbing, sending him down the track. “I just went for it,” he laughs, “And about three quarters of the way through the run I remembered to breath.

“I can’t describe the feeling — when the run was over I just started laughing uncontrollably. It was the craziest, wildest most insane thing I’d ever done.”

With the clutch properly adjusted Racz started to get into a rhythm, and he says: “The thrill of the ride exceeded the fear of dying.”

Their top speed was 257.7 km/h (160.113) mph, and they were chasing a 315.4 km/h (196 mph) record. Back home, the team has pulled the engine for disassembly, rebuilding and tuning and plan to clean up some of the car’s aerodynamics before heading back in 2013.

Racz says, “It was the most incredible time of my life, and I can hardly wait to do it again.

Here’s another little note.

If you go fast enough on the Bonneville Salt Flats you join a select group of folks — there’s a 200 MPH Club, and there’s also a 300 MPH Club. There are two Canadians in the latter fraternity, and they’re both Calgarians.

In 1996 Les Davenport made a 314.563 mph run in an AA/lakester (501 cubic inch or larger engine).

Most recently, in 2008, Curtis Halvorson of Extreme Engine Development helped an American family construct a diesel streamliner. Not only was he responsible for the drivetrain, he was also asked to drive the vehicle.

Halvorson says, “On the eighth and ninth run of the car I was able to eclipse the existing 36-year-old record of 236 mph with a new record of 307.876 mph. The next year (2009) I was still driving the car and at the same event, upped my existing record to 341.167mph with a terminal velocity of 353 mph on my one pass.

“This number made me the fastest Canadian in history on land as well as the fastest diesel on the planet.”

Smiths instrument restorer Dave Sauerberg — RIP

Dave Sauerberg died on Oct. 5, 2012. He was days away from his 75 birthday. A talented restorer of Brit-iron, and perhaps best known later in life for his deft touch with Smiths instruments, he will be missed. In the following story, written some five years ago, there’s a reference to the number of instruments Dave restored. On my 1951 Triumph T100, I’ve got No. RB1232, and I’m fairly certain it was one of the last — if not the last — to leave his bench.

Dave had recently sold his instrument repair business, and thankfully he had the opportunity to pass along his knowledge to Andy Henderson of

God speed, Dave.

Dave Sauerberg in 2001 at the Ponoka Rally in Central Alberta. He was aboard his restored Matchless G3/LS. All of his restorations were simply meticulously detailed.

You just never know what’s around the next corner. Hopefully, it’s a new opportunity. When Lethbridge, Alberta resident Dave Sauerberg turned a corner in 2003 he discovered he had a remarkable talent for rebuilding Smiths motorcycle instruments.

At one time optional extras, Smiths speedometers and tachometers became standard fare on just about every make of British motorcycle, from Ariel, B.S.A, Norton and Triumph, and plenty of others in between. There are thousands of Smiths clocks out there, gracing what are now vintage machines. As those instruments age the chances are good they will at some point need servicing – lubricants dry up and needles get wobbly.

Sauerberg began his motorcycling career in B.C.’s lower mainland. In 1950 he was 13 years old when he bought a Whizzer motor for $10. His uncle, an experienced tug boat engineer, helped rebuild the engine. Sauerberg learned how to replace the Babbitt bearings on the connecting rod, and how to set up the Whizzer to run. The pair also fabricated some necessary brackets to hold the motor in a balloon-tire bicycle frame, something Sauerberg hand-sanded and painted with a brush.

“That’s probably where I got my philosophy ‘If you’re going to do something, make sure it’s done right’,” Sauerberg says of the mentorship provided by his uncle Knut Karlsen. “He’d tell me, ‘That’s not good enough; it has to be the best you can get it’.”

Sauerberg kept the Whizzer for a year or two, and moved up to larger and faster bikes as time went on. He road raced and drag raced his motorcycles, the majority of the bikes being British-made. So when Sauerberg began restoring motorcycles in the late 1990s some of the first projects he undertook were Brit bikes. He’d do full, factory correct restorations as well as custom jobs. But for every project he undertook, he never gave restoring or rebuilding the instruments a second thought.

That is, until John Oland of Motoparts in Edmonton challenged him to the task.

“I remember him (Oland) saying, ‘I’ve seen your detail work. If anyone can do it, you can. I’m going to send you two instruments with bezel kits – if you wreck them you can throw them away’,” Sauerberg recalls. “Well, I thought, the instruments are mechanical, why shouldn’t I be able to fix them?” Working in his own double-garage workshop, he had to make his own tools in order to get the clocks apart without doing irreparable damage. In fact, he had to make several tools.

A Smiths clock, whether it’s a speedometer or a tachometer, is about three and a half inches in diameter. The workings are in a housing that resembles a tuna fish can, except a little bigger. A piece of round glass covers the instruments’ face, and there is a seal sandwiched between the glass and the can, and between the top of the glass and the thin chrome ring that holds it all together. The chrome ring is called a ‘bezel’. Sauerberg can get the bezel off easily enough, but getting one back on requires a tool that will roll and crimp the band around both the glass and the can.

Smtihs produced two styles of instruments – chronometric and magnetic. Chronometric speedos and tachs are actual clockworks, the name itself derived from ‘chrono’, meaning clock, and ‘metric’, meaning all internal screw threads are metric. Chronometric instruments, according to Sauerberg, are very intricate and complicated, full of cams, levers and escapements. The second type — magnetic clocks, are much simpler.

The first two clocks Sauerberg repaired for Oland was the magnetic type. “I sent them back to John and he said they were just gorgeous, and that he’d be sending any more instruments that required rebuilding to me,” Sauerberg explains. He quickly figured out what makes the magnetic clocks tick, so to speak, and Sauerberg says he also soon learned what causes a magnetic instrument to fail. Usually it’s dried up lubricant, which turns into a hard wax. And he also learned three or four reasons why a needle will wobble – and it’s all got to do with internal clearances. “I don’t want to give too much away, here, though!” Sauerberg laughs.

Sauerberg rebuilt a few more clocks, and began sourcing his glass and even the printed faces locally. For the seals, he had a special press and cutter made. Every time he orders seals, he sends the tooling to the manufacturer. At some point Sauerberg gave up restoring the British bikes he loves, and focused strictly on repairing Smiths instruments, going so far as to build his own calibrator to ensure the clocks he repaired were telling the truth.

“Magnetic speedos are good up to about 60, 65, 70 mph,” he says. “Then they exponentially drop off, they get lazy, and can be out by as much as 10 per cent.”

It took some time before Sauerberg felt comfortable working on the more complicated chronometric instruments. “I sure didn’t like working on them at first,” he says. “The learning curve was quite agonizing. But I learned. I had to learn. Nobody was around to show me how, and it took a full year before I understood the intricacies of the chrono.”

There are now 27 dealers sending Sauerberg their Smiths instruments for repairs and rebuilding. He has dealers across Canada, from the west coast to the east coast. He also works with dealers in California, Oregon, Florida and even Hawaii. And it’s all word of mouth; he’s never advertised, and doesn’t have a website.

When he first started he wondered how much business there could possibly be, but says every time he turns around there’s another instrument that requires rebuilding. He keeps track of the clocks he’s repaired, noting them in a book and by placing a small decal on the back of the instrument. Starting with RB100 (RB stands for Retro Bike), on March 12, 2003, Sauerberg is now affixing label RB633. That’s 533 instruments in four years.

“By the end of today, I’ll be up to 535,” he says.

Salt attack

Trillion Industries Triumph Bonneville. All Trillion images courtesy Spindrift Photography.

Too much sodium is detrimental to our health.

Yet, a growing number of Calgarians have a penchant for salt.

But it’s not the tabletop variety that’s got local gearheads revved up. It’s the flat and level ground in Utah at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

For decades, speed junkies from around the world have traveled to the flats with their custom-built hotrod cars, trucks and motorcycles. On the dry lakebed, these enthusiasts attempt to set land speed records.

This year several teams from Calgary visited the salt, including one that’s been going down for the better part of a decade (Ted Allan and North of 49), one with three years experience (Gord Driedger), and another getting their first taste (Derek Pauletto and Team Trillion Industries).

There were other teams from the city, but we’ll focus on these three.

This was Ted Allan’s best year ever.

In 2002, Allan and the North of 49 team took a heavily modified 1928 Model A Roadster pickup to the salt, where the truck was competing in the ‘B’ street roadster category. Powered by a 427 c.i. (7.0-litre) big block, naturally aspirated Chevrolet engine the roadster was fast, putting Allan and the team past the 321 km/h (200 mp/h) mark.

However, at the time, they were chasing a 344.4 km/h (214 mp/h) record that eluded them. They returned in 2003 and 2004, sat out 2005, and then ran each year up to 2009. That year, a piston wrist pin seized, and Allan sat out 2010.

Somewhat dejected, he began to question the aerodynamics of the old Model A pickup.

“That’s when my wife said, ‘If you’re going to think about building a new car, I’ll buy the body and the metal for the chassis’,” Allan says.

Ted Allan and North of 49, image courtesy Ted Allan.

That perked him up, and he decided to create a rear engine modified roadster using the Chevrolet engine from the pickup. Construction started October 2010, and a running vehicle was ready for Speed Week in August 2011.

With the engine behind him, and a longer and more aerodynamic body in front of him, Allan was confident he’d be faster.

And he was. Putting a new car on the salt, he had to run the shorter 4.83 km (3 mile) course before being allowed on the longer 8.05 (5 mile) track. Right off the trailer, on a shakedown run, Allan qualified for a record, backing it up with a record-breaking run with an average of 370.1 km/h (230 mp/h) in the B/GRMR (B=engine less than 439 c.i./Gas Rear-engine Modified Roadster) class.

Nobody beat that speed by the end of 2011, and the team became world record holders.

That winter, the crew modified the engine with new heads and dual four-barrel carburetors. Spring 2012, they dyno tested the changes. The reworked heads made no difference, and the dual four-barrel carbs actually robbed them of horsepower.

They returned the engine to its original state, but swapped out the automatic transmission for a standard gearbox. Again, right off the trailer in Utah, Allan set a record of 387.5 km/h (240.8 mp/h) in the Fuel class –without the help of third gear.

Allan was shifting first, second and to fourth, as the gearbox was jumping out of third.

With the gearbox fixed by mid-week, Allan took on the Gas class, setting a 399.76 km/h (248.4 mp/h) record with a 402.97 km/h (250.4 mp/h) qualifying run, backed up by a 397.83 km/h (247.2 mp/h) run. For the first time, Allan broke the 402.33 km/h (250 mp/h) mark – an achievement that makes him a 200 MPH Club lifetime member.

“Our learning curve was a bit bumpy,” Allan says of his years on the salt. “And now, I’m just mulling my options about what’s next. But we’ll be back on the salt, that’s for sure.”

Another Calgary salt flat competitor, Gord Driedger, bought a 1953 Studebaker coupe out of California in 2010. The car had been built as a racer, equipped with a flathead Ford engine.

Chopped and channeled, the Studebaker has just 76.2 mm ground clearance. Front fenders and hood are fibre glass; the rest of the car is all steel.

Driedger, on his first run in 2010, managed 218.9 km/h (136 mp/h). Over the course of Speed Week Driedger made 10 more runs, with 241.2 km/h (149.9 mp/h) his fastest. The record for the XF/GCC (Flathead Ford/Gas Competition Coupe) class that year was 251 km/h (156.7 mp/h).

He went down in 2011, ran very close to 156 mp/h, learned more about the car and the salt, and returned again in 2012. Unfortunately, he didn’t break the record, although he had installed a closer ratio gear set.

“I’m maxed out at horsepower, and that’s as fast as I’m going to go in these conditions with that motor unless I make some changes,” he says.

Driedger plans to fabricate new ductwork to get cool, fresh air to the engine, and will install a crankcase vacuum pump. The pump will remove excess pressure from the crankcase, thereby making it easier for the pistons to travel on their downward stroke.

“The record now is 157.701 mp/h, and we made 156.066 mp/h,” Driedger says. “I’m very close; I’m bumping up against it.”

He’ll be back in 2013 for Speed Week.

“The salt is part of my life now, and I don’t have any plans to quit – there are only so many Speed Weeks left in a guy’s life,” Driedger laughs.

While Allan and Driedger raced Speed Week, welder and machinist Derek Pauletto of Calgary’s Trillion Industries attended BUB Speed Trials later in August. The trials are for motorcycles only.

Pauletto challenged himself, basing the build on the remnants of a 1970 Triumph Bonneville to run in the M/PBF (Modified/Pushrod Blown Fuel) class. He used the front frame loop, fork and engine of the Triumph, but everything was heavily modified. Pauletto designed and built the custom rig, but had plenty of help putting together and tuning the engine.

Basically, he took antiquated British engineering and pulled it into the 21 st century, outfitting his 650cc racer with current technology. He installed an aftermarket turbo for a 1.8-L Audi car, and modified throttle bodies from a 2003 Honda CBR for fuel injection. Custom cams, pistons and crankshaft went in the Triumph cases, and an HKS F-Con V Pro fuel management computer system was tricked into thinking it was running a two-cylinder Toyota Supra. That work was thanks to automotive computer tuning gurus Reg Reimer and Chris Hart of Calgary-based RCTS.

Pauletto and crew got the bike to start on Thursday, August 23, ran it on the dyno on August 24, and were on their way to the salt flats at 8 p.m. that night to make the Sunday tech inspection.

They made it, passed inspection, and squeezed two qualifying runs (171.94 km/h – 106.838 mp/h and 172.28 km/h –107.049 mp/h) out of the motorcycle before being sidelined by electrical gremlins.

“Our venture didn’t end on the best note, and we couldn’t make up the stuff that happened,” Pauletto says, and adds, “I definitely grew some grey hair and added a couple of wrinkles, that’s for sure.”

There’s no question he’ll be back, however.

“You get out there and you’re surrounded by the salt – it’s an eerie and surreal place, like nowhere you’ve ever been before,” Pauletto concludes, and adds, “For sure, there’s always next year.”

Daughter searches for dad’s long lost Cobra

The whereabouts of Lloyd Samaha’s 1963 Shelby Cobra remains a mystery.

Calgarian Mary Ann Samaha’s late father sold his Cobra before 1968 when she was born.

While she was growing up, Samaha told Mary Ann stories about his beloved car. He always wondered where the Cobra ended up.

The story goes like this.

On February 2, 1964 a Cobra was shipped from Los Angeles to Pflueger Lincoln-Mercury in Honolulu.

Samaha co-owned a restaurant in Hawaii, and he purchased the Cobra from the dealership. The car cost $5,195, and with its Class “A” accessories that included aluminum rocker covers and different tires the total was $5,475.

Immediately, Samaha began racing.

“My dad ran a high-end steak house, called Canlis,” Mary Ann says. “Racing his Cobra was just fun on the side.”

He’d chosen a car built for competition, as noted American racer Carroll Shelby based the Cobra on a lightweight platform from English automaker AC Cars.

Mark II Cobras, which is what Samaha owned, were equipped with a 289 c.i. (4.7-L) Ford Windsor V-8 and were built between early 1963 and 1965.

According to daughter Mary Ann, he was competitive.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of this stuff,” she says of the numerous trophies the family still has. “As kids, we always had them in our rooms, they were in every room of the house. And, all of the newspaper clippings I’ve just organized into binders.”

According to one of those aging, yellowed papers, Samaha began racing in 1959 when he borrowed a car and drove ‘the old Kahuku’ track. He then bought a beat up Jaguar for $400, and enjoyed the competitive spirit of club racing.

Mary Ann says her father never told her why he eventually invested in the bright red Cobra, but the car, and his racing days, were important to him.

“Even when he was teaching us to drive, it was always about that racing mentality and being defensive,” Mary Ann says. “It was part of our lives.”

Samaha moved his young family in 1965 from Honolulu to San Francisco, his home city. He shipped the Cobra there on Pan American airlines. Once settled, he raced the car a few times at Laguna Seca.

“But, he had two young kids, and I was on the way,” Mary Ann explains. “It just wasn’t practical to keep the car anymore, and he sold it for only a few thousand dollars.”

The family moved to B.C., her mother’s home province, in 1981, and Mary Ann to Calgary in 1987.

In late 2000, as the Internet was burgeoning, Samaha asked Mary Ann if they might use the computer to help locate his Cobra.

“All we knew at the time was that it was a red 289 Cobra,” she says, and adds, “We didn’t know the all-important chassis number.”

Mary Ann found Ned Scudder, Shelby American Automobile Club Cobra registrar, and gave him those few details. Without a chassis number, he couldn’t help.

Samaha died in 2007, and Mary Ann then decided somebody somewhere had to know something concerning the whereabouts of her father’s old Cobra. This time she was armed with a list of modifications that had been done to make the car competitive, and she sent them to Scudder.

He responded immediately, and called Mary Ann.

“He said, ‘I found the car, and I have a photo I have to get to you’,” Mary Ann says. “He also said to be prepared when I saw the image.”

Scudder knew of Cobra chassis No. 2238, and knew its history except for its first owner – Samaha. When he read about the racing modifications, he instantly put two and two together.

Cobra 2238, according to Scudder, had been put back on the street. In 1969 it was left at an Albuquerque, NM service station for a water pump repair. When the owner came back to collect the Cobra it had been stolen.

It went unrecovered until 1974. Missing its engine, and shot full of bullet holes, the Cobra was discovered crashed at the base of Mt. Taylor near Grants, NM. But all of the modifications Samaha had made matched those found on the stolen car.

It was the photo of the crashed car Scudder wanted to share with Mary Ann.

“A part of me was really sad when it was found, and I wouldn’t be able to tell my dad about it,” she says. “But, to have shown him that photo would have broken his heart.”

Rescued from the mountain, the Cobra was eventually restored, and sold almost repeatedly until a German buyer purchased it in 1989. Currently, the owner of the car is unknown, but the vehicle is still thought to be in Germany.

“I will continue Googling the car in the hopes that I will one day find it. If I could just sit in the car, and feel what my dad felt when he bought it, that would be enough,” Mary Ann says.

She concludes, “It was gone before I was around, and even though I never saw the car with my own eyes, I just can’t let the mystery go.”


History on a Post Card

This column was penned for my Pulp Non-Fiction column that appears in the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s magazine, The Antique Motorcycle.

Motorcycling history surrounds us, even when attending a simple jumble sale. Read on.

Self-promotion: On News Years Eve in 1910, the Eclipse Machine Co. sent out this post card (and presumably many others like it) to promote its line of motorcycle clutches among American riders. In the process, the company also shone a spotlight on a talented young racer of the era, Raymond Seymour.

Welcome again, fellow antique motorcycle enthusiasts, to Pulp Non-Fiction. Last issue’s column focused on Douglas motorcycles, produced in Bristol, England. For exactly half a century—from 1907 to 1957—Douglas built one of the most distinctive motorcycle lines in the world, based almost exclusively on the flat-twin engine design.

This issue, I’d like to change gears and highlight how a single post card led to some interesting discoveries about a company on this side of the Atlantic.

At a recent flea market, I stopped to visit a seller specializing in the post card trade. The cards were neatly categorized, and I thumbed through the Transportation file, discovering a gem—a little 5½” x 3¼” card that brings to light two different chapters of early American motorcycling.

The card features an image of a motorcyclist riding next to a river, with a caption reading: “Raymond Seymour, of Los Angeles, Cal., amateur world’s champion, on the speedway approaching Washington Bridge, New York, using an Eclipse Free Engine Pulley and Coaster Brake on his Motorcycle.”

On the back of the card is the printed message:

“Dear Boys: Real merit makes Raymond Seymour the leading racer of this country. It also makes the Eclipse Free Engine Pulley the leader among its kind. It has all of the desirable features—none of the faults; the lightest, the neatest and absolutely the best.


The card I have was postmarked on December 31, 1910, in Elmira, New York, a town near the Pennsylvania state line in central New York State. But the bridge shown (not to be confused with the more famous George Washington Bridge) connects Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City. Nowhere is the brand of machine identified, although it bears some resemblance to a Reading Standard.

Here, though, is where the discovery of a single paper item can open up a whole chapter of history, thanks to the availability of information on the Internet.

As mentioned, there are two distinct areas of interest on this card. First is the Eclipse Machine Co., and second, racer Raymond Seymour.

A little bit of online research turned up the fact that the Eclipse Machine Co. started life in 1895 as the Eclipse Bicycle Company, based in Elmira. For the next four years, until 1899, the company produced bicycles. It then began specializing in the making of coaster-brake rear hubs offered to the public as the Bell Hub Bicycle Brake and, later, the Morrow Coaster Brake. In December 1902, the firm changed its name to the Eclipse Machine Company.

But one of the best resources for learning more information about the Eclipse Machine Co. turned out to be the AMCA’s very own virtual library, available through the Club website at (you’ll find it by going to “Features” in the menu across the top of the page, then down to “Virtual Library”). This is a wonderful resource, consisting of hundreds of scanned historical documents such as parts manuals, original sales brochures, service guides and dealership papers. Best of all, AMCA members can download any of those documents free of charge.

I found a single document for the Eclipse Machine Co., in the form of a 1913 manual. Its full title is the “Eclipse Motorcycle Dealers Ready Reference Showing Types and Sizes of Eclipse Engine Shaft Pulleys.” It is a slim piece outlining the wide range of machines the Eclipse Engine Shaft Pulleys—what we would refer to as a clutch these days—would fit, including bikes from American, Armac, Curtiss, Detroit, Emblem, Excelsior, Flanders, Greyhound, Harley-Davidson, Haverford, Indian, Marvel, M&M, Merkel, Minneapolis, Pierce, Pope, Reading Standard, Sears, Spacke, Thor, Wagner and Yale.

In 1912, the Eclipse Free Engine Pulleys were fitted as standard equipment to Emblem, Merkel and Yale machines. The units were optional on Detroit, Haverford, Marvel, M&M, Pierce, Pope and Wagner motorcycles. And with numerous flat or V-shaped pulleys in a range of diameters, the clutch could be made to work on many other machines. Just a year or two later, the Eclipse clutch found its way onto machines fitted with two- and three-speed gearboxes, allowing a rider to shift gears.

Prior to the Eclipse clutch, belt-drive motorcycles used a tensioner pulley to connect or disconnect engine power to the rear wheel. But those systems required frequent adjustment and could not be used with the more reliable drive chains that were becoming common in the motorcycle world.

Courtesy AMCA Virtual Library.

The Eclipse clutch was designed very much like the clutches still used on most motorcycles, with a stack of “driving” and “driven” plates that could be squeezed together to transmit engine power to the final-drive belt or chain. According to the Dealers Reference, the Eclipse clutch could be controlled by either a side lever or a hand lever. Instructions for adjustment were the same for both: “IF THE CLUTCH SLIPS, loosen the screws in the face of pulley and turn the Tension Adjusting Ring slightly to the LEFT, again tightening the Screws very firmly in place. TO INCREASE THE SLIPPAGE, loosen screws slightly and turn Tension Adjusting Ring to the RIGHT, being sure to tighten Screws.”

One difference between the Eclipse design and modern clutches is the system used to compress or expand the clutch pack (thus connecting or disconnecting the engine from the rear wheel). Most modern clutches use a pushrod to separate the plates, while the Eclipse design used a helical worm-gear design that the company referred to as a Triple Thread Screw.

By the mid-teens, many manufacturers were developing their own multi-speed transmissions and clutches, which meant that Eclipse’s motorcycle market was drying up. But beginning in 1913, the company found itself playing a key role in bringing another convenience to the motoring world: electric starting.

Most early automobiles featured a hand-crank starting system, which made starting the engine an onerous and potentially dangerous task. In 1910, inventor Vincent Bendix developed an electric starter that required a helical worm gear very much like the one Eclipse was using in its motorcycle clutch. And he contracted with Eclipse to produce what would become known as the “Bendix” drive that connected the starter motor to the automobile’s engine.

In 1914, the Chevrolet Baby Grand became the first car offered with Bendix-designed electric starting, and the company sold 5,500 of the electric-start vehicles that year. By 1919, more than 1.5 million Bendix starters were in service.

Eclipse continued making sundry other mechanical components, including braking systems for automobiles, airplanes and bicycles. It’s unclear exactly when Eclipse stopped producing their motorcycle clutches, but they were likely finished in that line of business by the end of the teens.

In 1928, the Bendix Corporation acquired control of the Eclipse Machine Company, bringing an end to the Eclipse name. But the company’s innovation, in the form of its helical Triple Thread Screw, remained a part of most automobile starter designs into the 1960s (and in many motorcycle electric starters, too).

Now for the other interesting angle of research, and another perfect example of how pulp and computer mix. I had heard of racing legend Raymond Seymour, but turned again to the computer for information. Googling Seymour’s name, I found fellow AMCA member Pete Young’s excellent blosgiste,, where he had written a post about Ray Seymour and his contributions to the world of motorcycle board-track racing.

In 1909, at the age of 17, Seymour set many speed records aboard a Reading Standard motorcycle. During that year, Seymour rode his V-twin Reading Standard to record speeds of 72 and 73 mph at the Los Angeles Coliseum, before setting a world record for the mile at 47 seconds (76.6 mph) on the same track. Seymour raced on many other board tracks across America, but in 1910, Reading Standard stopped supporting racers. Seymour then moved to Indian, where that company provided him with one of its factory eight-valve machines.

Seymour was mentored by Canadian-born speed sensation Jake DeRosier, who was one of the first factory-backed racers. DeRosier was a star of American board-track racing, and in 1911 was the first American to compete in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races.

Under DeRosier’s tutelage, Seymour raced Indian motorcycles in 1910, 1911 and 1912 before retiring. Although he was still highly competitive, Seymour likely left the sport as a result of a board-track tragedy on September 8, 1912, at the New Jersey Motordrome.

Seymour was leading the race that evening when his Indian teammate, Eddie Hasha, lost control of his machine and crashed into the crowd, killing himself and six spectators, along with fellow racer Johnny Albright. The subsequent publicity over that tragedy put another nail in the coffin of board-track racing.

As Young points out: “Board track racers did nothing but go FAST. The bikes had one gear (top gear). They had no brakes, no clutch, nor suspension. They had no throttle; the carburetors were set to wide-open throttle all the time. If they needed to slow down, there was a button they could use to ground the magneto to the frame (stopping) the spark at the plugs. But of course the bike would continue to roll forward with its momentum. The motors spewed oil from the constant-loss oil systems, made worse by the holes drilled into the motor heads and barrels used to increase power. This oil went onto the rider, the rear tire, and onto the track. The front forks were set up to go straight, not to turn sharply. The tracks were extremely high-banked, almost like the wall of death tracks.

“(Racers) did all this with the technology of the time, i.e. Schebler carbs (aka the Controlled Leak), clincher tires that pop off the rim sometimes, primitive metallurgy in the connecting rods, pistons, chains, etc. And they went over 100 mph regularly. With this combination, riders had little chance to avoid the crashes that often occurred… During crashes the wooden track would give splinters up to 8 feet long. Riders wore minimal protective gear, typically a wool sweater and jodhpurs, maybe a leather helmet and puttees over their lace up shoes.”

Seymour was one of the lucky survivors of this culture of speed, but his life after retiring seems a bit of a mystery. Stephen Wright, noted author of the “American Racer” books, told me, “(Ray) was a fast rider, but he just wasn’t a very glamorous guy.” That could account for his relative obscurity later in life.

In 1913, one source suggests Seymour became a traveling representative for the Indian Motocycle Company, and Wright says that in the late teens, and perhaps into the early 1920s, Seymour had an Indian agency in northern California. “After that, he just sort of falls off of the map,” Wright noted.

All of that history stems from a small post card produced in 1910 by a company promoting its products through what is now a very quaint medium.

The Eclipse Machine Co. remained in operation in Elmira, New York, until 1928 , when the company became part of the Bendix Corporation. Photo by Paul Osborne

Off-roading teenager makes her mark

All images courtesy Mitch Brown @

Giant logs, a pit full of split firewood, a muddy water hole and large boulders.

All are sections of an off-road motorcycle course in a relatively new sport called endurocross, or enduro X.

“Ice racing, trials, hare scrambles, hill climbing, flat track; all of those dirt bike skills come together in endurocross,” says Lexi Pechout.

The 15-year old Calgary racer is proving her mettle in endurocross ( She just returned from Los Angeles where she participated in the X-Games 2012 Women’s Enduro X Finals.

In a field of 10 women, some almost twice her age, Pechout finished fourth. That’s very respectable, given she had a poor start and was caught up with another racer at the beginning of the first lap.

But, Pechout’s philosophy got her through the race.

“I felt really intimidated,” Pechout says. “There were a lot of fast girls there, and I didn’t really know how I was going to get through the race.

“But, I knew if I psyched myself out, I’d never do very well, so I just relaxed and decided to have some fun.”

Pechout says she was late getting off the starting gate, and early in the lap there was a tight 90-degree corner where racers not only had to turn, but navigate riding over a large log. At the log, another racer fell on top of Pechout, and it took both of them more than a few seconds to get untangled.

At that point, she was dead last, but determined to close up the gaps and chase the leaders.

Pechout has been riding for years. I first met her at the Blackfoot Park (Wild Rose MX Track) about 11 years ago, where she had a tiny Yamaha PW50 dirt bike equipped with an even tinier sidecar.

Her father, Siggi Pechout, has been passionate about all things off-road motorcycling his entire life, and that Lexi would be riding at such a young age was a given.

He is a founding member of the Second Gear Motorcycle Club, which is dedicated to encouraging and promoting an interest in the more technical types of off-road riding, including trials and hare scrambles (

“There are a variety of skills required to negotiate the terrain in endurocross,” Siggi says, and adds, “We cover all of them in the Second Gear club.

“And usually, wherever I was riding, Lexi always rode and competed at the same venues as I did.”

Just last September an endurocross track was put together at the Wild Rose MX Park in Calgary. This was Lexi’s introduction to the sport, and endurocross allowed her to use all of the skills she’d been learning while competing in events such as trials and ice racing.

“I loved it,” she says of the first time she rode the endurocross track. “I ride it all the time now, because I prefer the more technical kind of riding.”

Endurocross is different from motocross, another popular form of off-road racing. Endurocross is slower and more involved. Motocorss is generally faster with large jumps.

“I’m all right on a motocross track, but it does scare me a bit because I don’t like jumping as much,” Pechout says.

Pechout says she’s learned a lot from her dad, and two other mentors, Shane Cuthbertson and Stephen Foord. She has been racing a 2011 KTM 250XC, a motorcycle that is supplied to her by Cycle Works Calgary. Last week, Cycle Works presented her with a new 2013 KTM 250XC.

At the X-Games Enduro X in Los Angeles, she also had some professional help dialing in her suspension courtesy of Ride Concepts Calgary.

Pechout is set to start Grade 10 this September, but will spend this summer competing, riding, and working. She clears tables at the Austrian Canadian Club during weekend banquets.

“I can’t wait to get my driver’s licence, because I currently rely on my parents to drive me to the track,” Pechout says. “And I’m there five days a week.

“I see myself doing this for a very long time, I love it so much.”