September 2000 Column 
Home / Features / Cindy's Column
   "The Michigan Madman"
    -a book by E.J. Potter, raved about by Cindy G.
Oh My Goodness!  This is one wild man!  E. J. Potter, also known as "The Michigan Madman" was obviously born with the typical male genetic deficiencies, resulting in obsessions with power and speed.  (See Footnote for the Facts)

Born in the town of Ithaca, Michigan, E.J.'s first motorized vehicle was a bicycle with a lawn mower motor mounted on it. He writes that the bike "unexpectedly . . . went between 55 and 60 MPH by the speedometer on the Buick my mother clocked me with..." Amazingly, E.J. and his Ma both thought this was "normal and OK", which doesn't do a lot for my chromosome theory (see footnote).  He was ten years old at the time.

Review by Grizzy here!

Two reviews of the same book in one month! Most of us read Indian books, and most of us probably find reviews interesting, so how about writing one if you liked (or not) one of the Indian books on the VI Book Page?

So what became of this 10-year-old?  He went on to try his hand at oval track racing on an Indian Arrow.  His first race was memorable and nobody writes about it better than E.J., "The heats were lined up according to how fast you could time in during qualifications . . .The results of all the formalities was that I presently came to be going around the track in third or fourth place, keeping everything under control until I happened to be on the inside of a turn, trying to pass somebody, and hit a rough spot.  This caused me to start going high, and to keep from hitting the other bike and knocking us both down, I threw it down out of the way and got off onto the track with no major damage. I picked up the bike, still running, and started out again with the whole field whizzing past me.  When I looked ahead, I saw that the last bike was nearly ½ lap ahead of me.  All of a sudden it was looking like I had made the long trip for nothing just because I had kinda tried to tiptoe across the bumpy spot like a little old lady would do.  Well, this was not what I came here to do.  I mean, here I am as the most talented and fearless motorcycle rider in Ithaca, Michigan, and these city slickers were all gonna beat me.  Well, to heck with that.  I started to chase those guys like as if I couldn't do anything wrong. Whenever I caught up to anyone I just sorta found a spot for my front wheel and aimed at it, going faster than he was with the plan in mind that I would use my superior knowledge (I thought) and daring to go faster than the target guy.  Every time I would come around turn one, I would come sliding into the wall, and kinda bounce off it and launch down the back straight-away. Well, this continued until I was in third spot, and I noticed that the guy in second was just going too fast for my tactics. Hmmm-must be there's a limit to what I can accomplish even if I do think I'm such hot stuff . . . I ended up with a third place trophy, which was my first of any kind, and gas money to put in my bud's van so we could get home. . . . After I did some racing with the Indian I was using, that was somewhat less than 250 cc's, I naturally discovered that old R-Job (an old 45 flathead Harley with a WR designation sitting on a trailer) behind a guy's house, for sale.  Well, since I thought I was such a great rider, I naturally had to have that bike no matter what." Click on pictures for full size

I am hitting the track after jumping off and dumping it down away from the other rider. I got up and won my first trophy which I still have and still look at sometimes. E. J. Potter

More by Cindy:

"Where have all the Women Gone?"

"Vince and Bill's Excellent Adventure"

"Motor Maids"

"Crocker, Clymer and Cartoons"

Well, I guess oval track racing wasn't quite crazy enough for E.J., so he decided to pursue a dream, a dream that he had sketched in his high school notebooks.  A dream about "horrendous power" -- a Chevy V8 engine inserted into a motorcycle frame. Although all the big kids at high school "hooted and scoffed at such a dumb idea . . . my tape measure applied to the car engine told me that such a thing was not much bigger than a Harley engine, only longer . . . and (I) set about finding a Harley frame to start butchering on.  Ignorance is a powerful tool if applied at the right time, even usually surpassing knowledge."

His first race on "Bloody Mary" was at a dragstrip about 20 miles from Ithaca.  Coincidentally, Art Arfons was also doing an exhibition run that day with his Green Monster car - a car with a V-12 Allison engine in a homemade frame.  E.J.'s bike fired up OK, but the rear sprocket twisted off when he hit the throttle - so he never did race the bike.  But, he writes of that day, "I was sitting in the pit area surrounded by the remains when for the 187th time that day, some guy I had never seen before came up and started looking the thing over.  Being submerged in the depths of dejection I naturally didn't make much of an effort to be sociable.  He didn't say much at all, except that it looked to him like I could eventually make some money with that bike if I would stick to it until I had the bugs out. . . He walked on to the other end of the pits and the crew came running up wanting to know what he had said.  I made some noncommittal response and said "Why, who was it?"  "Art Arfons."  Well, I guess you know how that little tidbit of news made me feel after I, shall we say, had just passed up the chance to talk to the King and really find stuff out."

Ready to go to the dragstrip. Notable stuff includes the starter drive on the end of the crankshaft and the Whizzer motorbike fuel tank. Also check the exhaust system and the unsmooth engine mounting to the frame. Don't forget to look at the tape on the twistgrip. Everything considered this thing is pretty gross although I later was able to surpass it quite significantly with some of my other works. E.J. Potter
So, with that encouragement, E.J. went on to build, race, and wreck many more of what he eventually called Widowmakers.  He raced throughout the United States, Canada, England and Australia.  He did make money at it - although he is the first to admit that once he figured in his time, the expense of putting the bikes together and the expense of travel, it didn't really amount to much more than what you could make by working for someone else.

E.J. Potter writes not only about the V8 Bike, but also about his electric car (for those of you who remember slot cars this is the ultimate), his experiments with cars powered by Allison V-12 engines, his Jolly Green Giant Air Compressor (powered by a J-79 jet engine - also used in the F4 Phantom), and the Double Ugly - an Allison motor mounted in a tractor which E.J. used in tractor pull competitions.   And finally, the Jet Powered Bike - powered with a Fairchild J-44 cruise missile jet engine - and, no, E.J. Potter did not receive a Darwin Award - he rode the bike at Bristol International Raceway and lived to write about it -  and its not an Urban Rumor either -- the pictures are in the book to prove it.  He had fun.  So will you.

Available from E.J. Potter by calling 1-877-A MAD MAN

Footnote:  The Y, chromosome, i.e. the male chromosome, is missing the "leg" that would make it an X, chromosome, i.e. the female chromosome, and on that missing leg are the female characteristics of good judgment, common sense and concern for one's physical well-being.

Here is one of my favorite pictures. In this scene the Ugly Tractor is in the act of winning the annual Indy Super Pull for the second year in a row. Let me just direct your attention to the umbrella over my head and the coat wired under the rear of the engine. The reasons for these items are discussed in the chapter here but just think of the humiliation that all the other contestants were subjected to by this ratty contraption. And remember that these other guys were all of the top pullers in the country. I am glad I was not in their shoes on that day. E.J. Potter
Home  -  Features  -  Archives  -  Back Issues  -  VI Network  -  VI Mailing List  -  Contact VI