The Bonneville project was intended to immerse the designers of the reborn Indian Motorcycle Co. in its legendary history and serve as the inspiration for the next generation of Indian Motorcycle models as the marque gears up for it’s centennial year in 2001.
The 80” Chief was built at The Shop, in Ventura, Ca., and was comprised of 3 decades of Indian parts, from 1927 to 1947. We used a ‘37 Chief rigid frame, a ’47 Chief fork and fenders with a ’27 Chief front wheel, and a ’37 Scout rear wheel. The tanks were made by Yellow Spear Restoration, and were axed 4”. A race motor was being built, but it was not ready for Speed Week, so we took the motor out of my personal 1933 road Chief to test the handling of the chassis, and tune the components. We are using a King Clutch, Kiwi transmission gears, Jim’s engine shafts, JE pistons of our own design, stainless steel valves, Kiwi Bonneville cams and lifters, and a Starklite hand clutch conversion. We are also using our own “Fre-Flo” Bendix/Kiehin carb manifold adapter, which allows us to use the larger venturi, accelerator pump type carburetor, Everything aside from the Hand Clutch conversion and King Clutch has been used for over 30K miles on the street. We intend to run in the MVG 750 class, which is Modified chassis, Vintage (pre 1956), and Gas powered. In addition, flathead motors can drop 2 classes down from an OHV, so we are competing against all 750cc OHV motorcycles. The current record was held by a Triumph, with an average of speed of 122.948 MPH in 1997
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|Sunday, August 13, 2000
My good friend, Tomas Padilla and I arrived at Wendover, Utah after spending the preceding seven days at Sturgis. It was the first time either of us had been to Speed Week, and seeing racers parked all over town told us we had entered “Gearhead Heaven”. After checking in to our hotel, we drove the 10 miles from town to the entrance of the “Salt”, then about 6 miles to the pits, and located our team, comprised of Vance Breese, our Pilot, Mickey Goodin, our Crew Chief, Roger “Ramjett” Chatelet, and Vance’s wife Char. Vance has raced motorcycles at Bonneville for years, and has gone over 300 mph in his Sportster powered streamliner. Mickey and Roger are also Bonneville veterans, having helped Vance in his many projects.
We first went over the starting procedure, using a set of rollers to fire the Chief off, because we had removed the kickstarter boss from the frame to make it as narrow as possible, and the bike was geared so tall that we could not bumpstart it.
At the starting line, one has to be ready to go, so each of us had a job to do, and we had to it quickly, as there are many people waiting to run, and the temperature on the Salt was over 100 degrees. The starting line is about 7 miles from the pits, and we would be using the 5 mile Short Course, as the 7 mile Long Course was for 175 mph and over vehicles.
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|We would unload the bike from the truck,
lay the rollers down, and Tomas would back the truck onto the rollers.
While waiting for our turn, I would help Vance with his leathers, while
Mickey was making the last minute inspection of the bike. We would then
back the bike onto the rollers put it into 2nd gear, and I would steady
the rear as Mickey would steady the front, Tomas would then put the truck
into drive and bring it up to 10 mph, which would spin the bike at approx.
20 mph. The Chief would roar into life, I would put it into neutral, advance
to the line, and keep it at about 1500 rpm, while Vance would make the
final adjustment to his helmet and leathers. Meantime Tomas, Mickey, and
Roger picked up the rollers, loaded it, the ramp, and themselves in the
truck, and got ready to chase Vance to the finish line to pick him up.
When the starter was notified that the track was clear, I would jam the
shifter into 1st, and Vance would take off, with me running back to the
truck to go down-course. At first, we looked like the Keystone Cops,
but after a few times, we got the routine down, and started looking pretty
Monday, Aug 14th
|Tuesday, August 15
We get to the Salt at 6:30 am and make another run, but can’t seem to get over 121 mph, and we are still having the fuel valve problems. We go back to the pits and change the gearing to the highest we have, tiewrap the petcock open and do a onceover on the motorcycle.. We make one more run and turn 123.047 MPH. The Chief has qualified for the record and the motorcycle immediately goes into impound for the night, waiting to make a backup run early the next morning. Impound is where the officials seal the motor, and no changes other than spark plugs and oil are allowed.
Wednesday, August 16
|Thursday, August 17
It’s another 5:00 am morning, and after six days on the Salt, with back to back 100-degree weather, we are on the final day of Speed Week. It’s the proverbial “Last Call” Everyone is bone tired and wore out, and our backs are to the wall. We change oil & plugs, retighten a few fasteners, and Vance pulls a 122.207. The bike goes back to impound, where we remove the rear head, and the officials measure the size of the motor. Everything checks out, and we cop a new Land Speed Record of 122.991mph with an 80” street motor.
Bonneville was the experience of a lifetime, and I would recommend to anyone that if they have a chance to attend Speed Week in 2001, DO IT! The people I met, and the vehicles that I saw were worth the trip, much less being involved with some great guys in chasing a Land Speed Record, and getting it with a 1937 Indian.
We are now planning to go back on September 20th with our race motor installed, and see if we can better our speed.
Thursday, September 21
After making a couple of trial runs at 122+, we blasted 127.885 mph with a head wind, and qualify to break our own record of a month ago. Because weather conditions were turning to rain, and the wind was getting stronger, the officials allowed qualifiers to make the record runs as soon as the vehicle came out of impound. We returned to the course, and proceeded to turn 124.463mph, with an average of 126.174 mph, besting our own record by over 3 miles per hour.
The 4 speed trans worked without a hitch, and we felt that with a hotter spark, we could have gone even faster. We plan to install the “Yowee” electronic ignition next time, along with some other improvements that we are testing. We plan to be at the El Mirage meet in SoCal on May 6, 2001. See you there!
A personal thanks to Vance Breese for sharing his knowledge with me in designing the “Phantom”, my guys Don Smith and Kurt Morrow for all the OT hours prepping the bike for both trips, “Kiwi” Mike Tomas for coughing up the parts to build the race motor, and Lee “Pop” Standley for showing me the Indian way back in 1967, and always being there when I need help. Also, a special thanks to Indian Motorcycle Co. of Gilroy, Ca. for underwriting and backing the project. Historically, Indian was always a patron of racing, and the present leaders understand that their future begins with the past.
Photos borrowed from the very nice American motorcycle industry magazine MPN, since David's original photos got delayed. They will be posted here when they arrive.