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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.”

Derek Pauletto: The man behind Trillion Industries

After writing the story about Derek Pauletto’s CB650 (which first ran in Motorcycle Classics magazine) it seems there’s a bit of momentum behind the builder. His work was featured on Pipeburn’s blog, and I thought it might be appropriate to post a recent Q&A with the man who operates Trillion Industries. Pauletto’s Trillion Industries is based in Calgary, Alberta, and the Q&A was written for the Calgary Herald’s Driving section as an introduction to the 2012 Calgary Motorcycle Show.

Derek P. of Trillion Industries with his 1979 Honda CB650. All photos courtesy Spindrift Photography.

Q: Did you grow up in Calgary? Was there a point when you realized you were interested in working with your hands?

A: Yes, we moved to Calgary in 1978, when I was five years old. We lived in Marlborough Park, in the city’s northeast. I was born in North York, Ontario but work brought my family west, and I’ve been here ever since.

My parents have Super 8 movies of me when I was four years old using a wood saw. My dad was in construction, and I loved to work with wood. I built my own toys, Star Wars Snow Walkers, airplanes, but mostly things with wheels. I was never satisfied with things unless they were perfect, and when I built with Lego, the most fun was building. I’d usually take it apart right after putting it together.

Q: What do you remember as a pivotal creative event in your life?

A: Shop class in junior high school. Our garage consisted of minimal tools — a vice, a hammer and a saw. Then I came to a place where I could release all of my ideas. Having access to tools was pivotal, without tools you can’t do much. You can use a rock as a hammer, but that only gets you so far.

Q:. What encouraged you to trade wood saws for a welder, and how old were you when you did that?

A: I took my first year apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker through high school, but when I turned 18, I just started to chill out with my buddies and kind of slacked off for a couple of years. I think I was sick of woodworking, as I’d been doing it since I was five. Also, wood had been a hobby, and I was probably thinking now I have to work with wood for a living.

I was working in an auto upholstery shop when I was trying to find myself, and they had a little welding machine. They told me I couldn’t use it, so I took a SAIT night course in welding. That opened my eyes. After that, I was allowed to use the welder in the shop. Then, I crashed my motorcycle and a friend told about a specialty welding shop where I could take the aluminum parts to get them fixed. I took the parts and also gave them my resume. That was on a Thursday, and was hired on the Saturday.

Q: When did you get your first motorcycle, and what kind was it?

A: I was 18, and I bought a 1988 Suzuki 600 Katana. Previously, motorcycles figured a bit in my life, but I was getting into muscle cars with a 1968 Cougar. Friends had motorcycles, and it was in high school when I twigged to bikes.

1979 Honda CB650. Trillion bar-end signals, Kawasaki ZX-636 inverted forks with custom machined triple clamp.

Q: What was the first motorcycle that you customized? Was it done out of necessity (was the bike missing parts that you had to make)?

A: Probably my 1988 Honda Hawk GT. I bought it from a friend, and it was in pieces in three boxes. I had to make my radiator from a Honda CRX car rad. It was $500 for a new one and I’m making $8 an hour, the math didn’t add up. I repaired the tank, and made my own fork components. This was in 1995 and 1996, working at my new job.

Custom-built v-twin project, Rovad.

Q: You built Rovad (a complete, frame up project) for a local client right after you branched out on your own with Trillion Industries; how important was it to have as much freedom as you did on that project?

A: I was grateful for that freedom. The customer had some pictures, and he wanted a big rear tire, a big engine, and he wanted it black. He didn’t want a chopper, but something a little more sporty. I literally drew up some rough sketches, and he said go with it. He encouraged me to just do it. I really was lucky for the opportunity to do what I wanted. Most of Rovad’s components are ideas of mine that, over the years, I could never do. For example, the billet rear swingarm.

Rovad swingarm, designed and built by Trillion Industries.

Previously, I had been in a phase where everything was welded, but I was learning that you can bolt things together and still be a welder. There was more to it than just being a welder, there are all kinds of ways to fasten stuff together. Welds are nice, but in certain places welds look kind of chunky.

Rovad allowed me to combine the machining world with the welding world, and I learned the possibilities are endless.

Q: You’ve moved on to build custom British-based machines; isn’t that ancient technology, or is that motorcycle history important to you?

A: Calgary’s Bob Klassen was a big influence, as I was working on his British motorcycle stuff. I just got a twitch, the technology was just so simple and everything I was doing was more complicated. I built a supercharged Triumph custom, and created my own rear frame and front girder fork. It was simpler technology, and I got to chill out a bit.

It’s getting harder and harder to do something completely different; there are a lot of paths, and I just took a different one.

Q: How much riding do you get to do? Or, is the actual construction process what you enjoy the most?

A: I definitely enjoy the construction process. This year, I didn’t get to ride very much at all. Work is just busy, and being a family man, I’m not there enough for my wife and kids as it is. I do want to slow down a little more, and I’ve got some projects finished now that I can ride anytime. I don’t ride enough because I’m building my own bikes. Work comes first, and then the personal stuff gets fit in. Leading up to the motorcycle show, I’ve been working seven days a week for more than a month.

Q: One of your current projects is the construction of a fuel-injected Triumph motorcycle to compete on the Bonneville Salt Flats – can you provide some details on that machine?

A: It’s a 1970 Triumph 650 engine, with a 1971 Bonneville head. I had a scrap 1970 Triumph frame that was butchered pretty bad, and I will modify the front hoop, build a hardtail, and run a conventional Triumph front end. The bike will be lower, sitting 3.5” off the ground.

I’ve always had (going to Bonneville) in the back of my mind. Ten years ago I’d heard about it from mostly car guys (for whom) I helped make parts. And then, Roger Goldammer built a land speed racer on an episode of Biker Build-Off, and I thought that was pretty cool. We went to Wendover, Nevada in April, 2011, and took a Bonneville Salt Flats tour, and then we went down to see BUB Speed Week in August. We watched the races for a couple of days, and I asked all kinds of questions. We plan to enter the Modified 650 Pushrod Supercharged class.

Q: What inspires you to get up each morning?

A: Coming to work and starting on projects gets me excited. And I get excited about learning. I get to see my family every morning, and I’m always looking forward to holidays. Every day is one step, and always one step forward.

Honda CB650, above and below.

Trillion Industries and a wild custom CB650

This story about Calgary’s Derek Pauletto and Trillion Industries was first published in Motorcycle Classics magazine. All photos courtesy Kurtis Kristianson and Spindrift Photography.

There’s a trend emerging in the motorcycling community, one that sees relatively unloved classic machines transformed into something the original maker would never have imagined. Many online forums and blogs showcase cleverly designed choppers, bob jobs and café racers, and plenty of them are based on motorcycles of the late 1970s and early 1980s that originally didn’t have much grace. Take the humble Honda CB650, a four-cylinder model sold in North America from 1979 to 1982. Honda produced thousands of these motorcycles, yet how many of us remember them? Honda’s CB650 didn’t have the charm of the smaller CB550, or the power of the larger CB750. No, the CB650 just isn’t considered an important motorcycle.

That’s not to say it isn’t a good motorcycle, though. Calgary, Alberta welder and fabricator Derek Pauletto learned just how reliable his 1979 Honda CB650 could be after he bought it for $300 from a co-worker’s older brother. The first time he laid eyes on the CB650 the machine was outside, leaning up against a garage. Covered in leaves, the Honda had obviously been exposed to the elements for a few months, but it had brand new tires – hence the $300 asking price.

“I wasn’t attracted to it, and it wasn’t my style,” Derek says. At the time, Derek was interested in more modern, streamlined equipment, but adds: “I thought I might be able to get the thing running, and I didn’t have a complete bike to ride at the time,” It took him only a few short days to sort out the carbs on the CB650 before it roared to life, and Derek began using it to commute to his last year of welding classes at tech school, and to his job at a local welding and fabrication shop. While at this shop Derek became known by vintage motorcyclists for his skill with a TIG welder, and his ability to bring back from the dead almost any cracked or otherwise destroyed piece of aluminum, including British motorcycle engine cases and primary covers. Derek now runs his own shop, Trillion Industries, and he continues to be a go-to guy for alloy welding repairs.

But for those two years the CB650 proved to be dead reliable, always starting on the button and never protesting. It was easy on gas, and cheap to run, but when Derek finished putting together a 1988 Honda Hawk GT project for himself he was prepared to sell the CB650. So he stuck a $500 price tag on it, and waited for a buyer. None ever arrived. Neither did they at $400, or even $300.

“Friends were laughing at me that I wanted that much money for it, and were telling me I was wasting my time trying to sell a motorcycle like that,” Derek says. “But that CB650, it had gotten me from A to B, and I had ridden it for two years. As ugly as at was, it was a good bike, and I felt insulted. So, I said ‘screw it’, and decided to take it under my wing and fix it up.”

By fixing it up, Derek was obviously not talking about restoring the CB650 with paint and some shiny chrome plating. When Derek began contemplating just what he’d do to the CB650 it was during the heyday of stuffing very fat rubber into the back ends of American-made v-twin motorcycles. On a bit of a lark, Derek wondered when someone would create a fat-tired sport bike. That line of thinking sent him off to do some research, and he became familiar with café racers. It was then he began to appreciate the 1960s and early 1970s period of custom ‘sport bike’ motorcycles – café racers. Derek’s plan was to take his old CB650, an unloved classic, and use the machine as a platform for his unusual vision of the café style.

First on his agenda was widening the original Comstar mag wheels. While unliked by some, Derek appreciates the five-spoke pattern of the Comstar wheel. Plus, some of his motorcycling friends told him widening a Comstar simply couldn’t be done. Wrong thing to say to Derek. “At the time, I really liked to go against the grain, and I don’t think anybody else was using Comstar wheels on their customs,” Derek says. “And then when people told me it couldn’t be done, well, it became a challenge to widen the Comstar rims.” A visit to local bike wrecker TJ’s Cycle yielded a second set of rims, a matching 19” front and a larger 18” rear as opposed to the stock 17”.

Derek cut the flanges off each side of the rear rim before rolling out two 3” x 3/16” flat aluminum strips. These hoops were then welded to each side of the rim, and the flanges welded back on, increasing the width from 2.5” to 8.5” to accept a 250 series rear tire. Easier said than done. Looking back on the project, Derek says widening the rims was the hardest part of the entire build – and that’s because the rim flanges are hollow, and not solid aluminum, making them very delicate to weld. His perseverance and dedication to building custom Comstar rims never flagged, but the CB650 project stalled after completing the widening chore.

After completing the wheels, Derek branched out to open Trillion Industries. While known for his aluminum welding repairs he also took on some serious one-off fabrication jobs, including constructing a helicopter and a frame-up custom v-twin motorcycle. As he focused on getting the business running, the CB650 sat from March 2005 to November 2006 before Derek got back to the build, completely stripping the CB650 down to the frame. To accommodate both the widened Comstar front rim and the beefy twin radial brake calipers Derek fit a complete – including handlebar and controls — 2003 Kawasak ZX636 inverted fork, machining new triple clamps from billet aluminum to expand the fork by 1.5”.

Fitting the 8.5” wide wheel in the rear involved Derek lopping off the chain adjusters from the original swingarm, using them to build a completely new unit extended by 2.75” and widened by 6”. “I bent and welded up the tubes, and definitely made up a swingarm that is far more robust than what that engine is ever going to put out,” Derek laughs. He widened the CB650’s frame on the left hand (chain) side and cut away all extra brackets.

Derek redid all of the frame welds after an old timer at a local bike show – where the frame in the rough was on display – said: “Kid, I don’t know about these welds,” Derek says. “I was worried for a minute until I saw he was pointing at a factory Honda weld!”

Giving the CB650 its café racer credibility is a fiberglass CR750 replica fuel tank and rear tail section, ordered from Airtech Streamlining in Vista, California. These pieces were for a CB750, but Derek cut them and re-glassed them to fit, and also frenched in the rear taillight. Up front a light sourced from the Harley-Davidson V-rod parts bin gave Derek the modern flair he was looking for, yet the lamp wasn’t so radical it no longer looked like a headlight. Bar end signal lights are pieces Derek made, and the rear units are Watson’s Designs LEDs, set into the swingarm near the lower mounts for the Kawasaki ZRX rear shocks.

Derek rebuilt the CB650 engine top to bottom, starting with new valves in the shaved head – something he did to slightly increase the compression ratio. New rings were fitted to the standard pistons and all new bearings and seals were used in the overhaul. The four carbs are stock 26mm Keihin piston valve units, but Derek has plans to upgrade to flat slide 26 mm instruments. He’s not after horsepower. “It’s a 30 year-old 650, why try to chase after the horsepower rabbit?” Derek says. “You couldn’t take it anywhere near what a modern 600 will do now.”

To get power from the narrow engine to the wide rear wheel Derek simply welded a 1.75” tube between two output sprockets, supporting the outer portion of the device in a bearing that’s actually caged to the frame. The foot pegs would be recognizable to riders of dirt bikes, as the Fastway stainless steel pads are from the world of motocross, and these are fitted to Derek’s own brackets and controls.

Now, that unusual exhaust. It’s made up of Suzuki GSX-R titanium headers that were being scrapped. Derek used as much of the tubing and fittings as he could, and manipulated them to dump into a Yoshimura canister. The bike is actually very quiet, and isn’t obnoxious at all when running. In homage to Honda racers of the 1960s, Derek’s friend Donny Klukas painted the machine red and striped it in yellow and silver.

“This is my interpretation of a modern café racer,” Derek says, and of his CB650 he adds: “I didn’t buy the project bike from Elvis. It was mainly because people made fun of my baby — people get attached to things, even ugly duckling motorcycles. I guess it became more of an exercise about what could be done to an unloved 30-year old motorcycle, and it just got carried away. It doesn’t make much more power than it did, and it wasn’t ever about the power, but more about the looks and how things can be transformed.”



Engine: 627cc SOHC, four stroke air-cooled inline 4 cylinder, 59.8 x 55.8 mm bore/stroke, est. about 55 hp @9000 RPM

Top Speed: yet to be determined

Carburetion: 4 Keihin piston valve 26 mm

Transmission: 5 speed constant mesh, chain drive

Electrics: CDI, 12V 9ah battery

Frame/Wheelbase: modified steel tube duplex frame, 56″ wheelbase

Suspension: ‘03 Kawasaki inverted front forks, lengthened swingarm (2.75”) and widened (6”), twin ‘04 Showa reservoir rear suspension shocks

Brakes: Dual 320mm radial disc front and 200mm single disc rear

Wheels/tires: original Comstars widened 3.50×19 front-120/70/19 Avon Cobra, 8.5”x18 rear- 250/40/18 Avon Cobra

Weight: 415 lbs. (189 kg) wet

Seat height: 34.0”

Fuel capacity:  4.0 gal. (15.1L)