|1988-1989 Beginning||1989-1990 Mock Ups & Test Beds||1990-1992 First Streamliner|
|1992-1994 Second Streamliner||1994-1996 Third Streamliner||1996-1997 Fourth Streamliner|
|1997-1998 Fifth Streamliner||1999-2000 Fifth Streamliner||2000-2001 Fifth Streamliner|
|2000-2001 Fifth Streamliner||2000-2001 Fifth Streamliner||2002-2003 Fifth Streamliner|
|2003-2004 Sixth Streamliner||2004-2005 Sixth Streamliner||2005-2006 Seventh Streamliner|
|2006-2007 Eighth Streamliner||2007-2008 Eighth Streamliner||2007-2008 Visit to Thunderdome|
2005-2006 Seventh Streamliner
|Click the photo above to view a photo album|
After returning from the salt in 2005, I made a thorough inspection of the liner and all of it's components, assessing needed changes. The rear wheel had exploded during one of the runs, damaging the frame--bending it into a horseshoe, and causing both pilots, Don Angel and Hartmut Weidelich, to report poor handling, which pointed to the obvious fact that if the record was ever to be set, it wasn't going to be with this frame.
Building the new frame wasn't as bad as it might seem. Several known improvements were in order. The rear tire, a 6.5" wide, 26" tall Goodyear Frontrunner, with a speed rating of 300 mph, was inadequate for the Vincent streamliner's 400 mph speed potential. A rear suspension was necessary for many reasons. The frame was also heavy, heavy, heavy; it needed to be lightened by several hundred pounds and made stronger.
A six month project ensued in building the new frame, which included a new parachute deployment system, and a new cockpit with all the doo-dads therein.
After I built the new frame, which by the way, wound up around 300 pounds lighter than the old one, I found that a new body was also necessary, as the old body didn't even come close to fitting. The old body was made of fiberglass. The only portions retained were the canopy, the section around the cockpit, and a portion of the nose cone. The aerodynamics were improved by taking the wheel bump off the nose, and enclosing the tail with a flap type door. The sail area was decreased by making the height of the body from the roll cage to the tail shorter, and by removing the tail fin. The tail section was fabricated from aluminum, and wound up 35 pounds lighter than the previous fiberglass tail section.
A note of interest. The body was manufactured without the use of a brake, shear, roller, or English wheel. Lenny McKnight (a Pacific Northwest Section Vincent Owners Club member) flew in from Washington state to help, as the aluminum was formed by hand, requiring more hands than I have.
The engines didn't require many modifications for 2006. The basic concept proved itself sound in 2005, making 10 timed runs, the best being the last run of the meet, piloted by Don Angel at 212.816 mph on a short course of three miles.
A host of minor things were corrected. Lenny manufactured a tach sender. The fuel pump drive and the ignition drive swapped holes. I had to do some welding on the cases to get the oil feed holes to the liners to line up and not leak, and had to regrind the Timpkin main bearing spacers for proper clearance. The top valve guides were sticking, and had to be modified, increasing their clearance. I also installed new buttons in the piston skirts. Lenny turned them on the lathe for a slide fit in the barrels. I did some modification to better secure the HYVO chain housing to the transmission. Lots of engine parts were lightened. I manufactured all new engine mounting brackets from steel. The previous ones were made from aluminum. And the list goes on.
The exterior body panels that I've retained are the nosecone, the section around the cockpit, and the canopy. All required aerodynamic changes, which have been completed. The convex section of the nosecone has been removed. I cut the top half of the nosecone off, made a quick mold, pulled a part out of the mold, and fitted and fiberglassed this to the nose piece. The section of the body between the nose and the canopy was raised one inch by the fiberglass. I then fiberglassed the aluminium canopy and blended it into the starting point of the wind screen.
The improvement is most apparent visually. The silhouette line from the nose to the top of the roll bar section of the cockpit is quite appealing, and much more aerodynamic. All of the seams have been closed on the three body parts to within 1/16 of an inch. The fiberglass work was quite time consuming, taking about six weeks to build what I had in mind. That work is now complete, but it will have been worth it if it adds another five to fifteen miles per hour to the liner's record speed.
The new frame is turning out to be a lot of work, but then I knew it would be before I began. I'm about a third of the way done. I've finished from the nose to the rear roll bar portion of the frame. This includes all brackets, front suspension, handlebar pivots, linkages, helmut restraints, break pedals, throttle pedals, fire bottle, CO2 brackets, and so on. The frame has to be built in sections, as it is cumbersome, and very awkward to manage, due to it's length. By building the frame in three sections, the roll cage section, the engine area section, and the tail section separately, it helps a great deal in keeping the frame straight due to weld pull. The material is chrome moly. The main tubing is 1 5/8' O.D. .058.
As I don't have a tubing vender, I have to make templates of the bends and drive across town to have the local speed shop bend up what I want. All time consuming and a bit frustrating, however all in all, the Vincent streamliner number seven is on schedule to make it's record runs in the latter part of 2006.
Oil contamination is always present with a blown fuel motor. This isn't good. The racer must combat this condition to prevent a serious breakdown of the molecular structure of the oil film that separates metallic moving parts. When this occurs, all kinds of bad things happen. Metallic parts heat up, galled, and have a tendency to weld things together. this ruins the racer's day. I've been there and done that.
Fuel contamination is occurring when a blown fuel engine is running; it has a contamination curve, the most contamination at idle and the least at speed. The relevant factor is time and rpm.
Compare Brian Chapman's run at the drag strip to Black Lightning's run at Bonneville. I've never seen either of the mice make a run, so I can only assume. Brian probably starts the Mouse on a roller, proceeds at idle to a bleach patch, puts on the front brake, has the linko or transmission in high, lights up the tire in the bleach patch, so as to heat up the slick for better traction, goes to the line making a quick churn of the tire, to get rid of any bleach, stages with an opponent, waits for the Christmas tree to give him a go, and proceeds on an 8 second or so run. This takes approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Much of the 3 or 4 minutes is spent at idle, where most of the washing of the cylinders occurs.
With Black Lightning, the engines are encapsulated in a cocoon. During a run, the ambient temperature in the cocoon rises quickly, hence, there's no warm up involved, and idle time is kept to the minimum. The run goes like this. The two blown Vincent engines are started with a remote starter. As soon as I'm certain that nothing has gone awry, and it's running on all 4, I give Hartmut or Don the nod to launch Black Lightning on her run, which takes no more than 5 to 10 seconds. On a good track they're usually able to give the pilot 6 miles to accelerate. If it's a 350 mph run, the 6 mile distance is covered in about 1 min. 20 sec. The pilot will shut the engines off when the "out the back door" timing light is reached. For the purpose of a plug chop reading. Total run time will be around 1 1/2 minutes, predominately at engine speed where contamination occurs to a lesser degree. So oil contamination will be less during a run with Black Lightning than at the drag strip with Mighty Mouse. My oil man for 2005, Tom Murray, was reporting only minor oil contamination during the last few runs, as I had leaned her out a bit. Even with minor contamination we will continue to change the oil every run. Oil's cheap blown Vincent engines aren't. I've found that Kendall oil is the best, in that it has a catalyst quality that surpasses all others.
The redesign and manufacture of the new frame for 2006 is about 75% complete.
How do you go about building a 22' frame in a 24' garage? First, you get yourself a saw-saw and cut an 8' foot section out of the back of your garage, and let the cut-out wall section fall to the ground. There's now an 8'X8' floor, which increases the garage square feet by 64. A trip to Lowes home improvement store, a phone call to my son, and in no time at all the two Max's had a shanty town puka built, covered the outside with plastic, installed fluorescent lights, and finished off the inner walls with quarter inch particle board.
As the frame isn't a high production unit, one off, so to speak, a jig to build was out of the question. Material and time, and the sale of an unneeded jig, was all taken into consideration. I would have had to find somebody that was willing to butcher two Vincent engines, and so on. So in lieu of a jig, a flat, level, 22' long surface had to be made. The house and garage I'm living in, (probably nudging a hundred years old) left a bit to be desired in way of a level concrete garage floor. The remedy was pretty simple. Two sheets of 1/8" 4'X12' aluminum, the same material used at Bonneville for the floor in the tent pit, came to the rescue. In about two hours the sheets were shimmed, creating a perfectly flat 4'X24' surface on which to work. Chalk lines, framing squares, levels, a couple of pedestal lasers, plumb bobs from the ceiling, and a big ball of string, all worked together to create a perfectly straight frame for the 2006 Vincent streamliner.
Don and Hartmut won't have any problem at all keeping it between the two black lines.
Bench vise gave up the ghost a couple of days ago. The thing stripped it's threads while I was working on the new frame for the 2006 Bonneville runs.
Why the new frame?
Hartmut's near disaster due to the rear wheel coming unglued, caused major damage to the frame. I didn't discover this until around six weeks ago when checking the offset required for the one piece steel rear wheel, which I'm having made by Taylor Wheel in California. When the incident occurred, the liner pivoted on one skid, and came crashing down violently, twisting the frame, and bending it into a horseshoe amid ship in the area of the skids.
I spent a day assessing whether I could repair it by straightening, but finally came to the conclusion that although it could be done, it couldn't be done right, and always would be suspect as to it's strength. My pilots deserve better.
Nothing to do but bite the bullet, spend eight weeks of extra labor, procure $1,500 worth of 4130 C.M. tubing, and get to work.
I've designed the new frame 40% lighter, 20% stronger, and the C.G. has been improved by 15%. The frame will be utilized for the oil tanks, for the two engines, for the breather catch can, for the relocated new stainless steel fuel tank, the two engines, the Muncie transmission and the two primaries. The frame will also be used as an air tank, which will provide air for the air shifter on the Muncie.
This cleaned up the Black Lightning's appearance a bunch, and improved the liner's C.G. even more. With the new aluminum swing arm, which by the way, is much like a Vincent. A good design is just that. Good.
The cockpit section of the frame isn't quite finished. The brackets for the air speed indicator and tach have yet to be made. Not a big job; a couple of days work at most. Also the cockpit tub liner has to be made and fitted. It'll be made of aluminum and anodized, as will all other aluminum components, to help prevent the nasty corrosion that is an ever present problem with salt racers.
The cockpit section of the frame weighs in 172 pounds lighter than the old one. When the cockpit section is completed, i.e., tub liner, brackets, and instruments, I figure a net weight saving of 160 pounds. It was a lot of work to maintain strength for pilot safety, make it look good, and make it comfortable for the pilot when suited up. Most of the controls are in the same spot so it won't be a problem for Don and Hartmut to feel confident with a very fast ride. When finished, the liner will have shed around 350 pounds of it's weight, which will improve it's acceleration a bunch.
I just finished the outriggers, (or skids) today, they've been extensively modified, all for the better. The skids now can be adjusted for salt clearance in less than five minutes. This was made possible with a "T" shaped top air cylinder perch that slides in a gib welded to the frame. The air cylinder actuating rods are now attached to the skid pivots by means of a 1/2" Heim fitting. The geometry of the skid pivots is much better, as the pressure point is directly in line with the 1 5/8" tubing of the frame. The way it's designed makes it virtually impossible to bend the frame with a mishap such as happened in 2005.
The portion of the frame between the rear roll bar and the start of the engine layout, is comprised basically of two "U" shaped 1 5/8" tubings tied together with like down tubes. The upper "U" contains oil for the rear engine, as the rear engine's pick up is higher than the front engine's. The bottom "U" is obviously for the front engine. The configuration allows for an adequate head for the oil, both front and rear.
The oil capacity has been increased from two quarts to three quarts for both engines respectively. The reason for the increase in oil capacity is simple. A blown fuel burning engine has a propensity to wash the cylinder walls of oil, and fuel bypasses the rings into the oil supply. Also the blower pressure blows fuel past the intake valve and guide, into the oil supply. All causing fuel contamination of the oil. On a run the fuel entering the oil supply is fixed, depending on the tune, i.e., rich or lean. The fixed amount of fuel contaminates the oil supply less if there is more volume of oil to contaminate.
Black Lightning's chassis is finished from the air intake to the airspeed indicator at her nose, to the hinged fared rear door at her tail, and all in between.
I fired the liner yesterday after a complete rebuild of the engines. All of her mechanical components have been tested, and her appearence brought to concourse condition.
2006 In Review
A tribute to three Bonneville icons, Mike Akatiff, Denis Manning and Sam Wheeler--all designers/builders of magnificent LSR machines. Each in their own way have achieved great speeds. Mike Akatiff made 7 runs, all between 340mph and 349mph; Denis Manning made two runs averaging 350+mph; Sam Wheeler made one run at 355+mph.
How were these seemingly effortless feats accomplished?
Well, to put it bluntly: lots and lots of talent, lots and lots of dedication, and lots and lots of money.
During this year, Denis, with his streamliner "Number 7", was on the salt private time no less than three times. This year's engine spent 80 hours on the dyno. The engine was in and out of the machine more than once. There were various parts that proved faulty during 425hp run-ups, such as the turbo charger duct work, a valve keeper, which nearly "gave up the ghost", requiring more than one tear-down of the engine, and there were oil scavaging problems. Dialing in the fuel curve proved to be very difficult with the new turbo charger. Anything beyond 10 pounds boost at this time is not possible. Denis told me that they had to take 100hp out of the engine for assured longevity.
A campaign was initiated to select a professional rider to give the machine it's best chance. Chris Carr was eventually chosen over 40 other applicants. Chris is a 5 time world champion flat tracker. His skills, I would say, are some of the "best of the best" on a sit-on bike. Chris had never ridden a streamliner before, and his initiation to this new experience was not unlike many others. After being strapped in for the first time on the salt a few months ago, Chris was towed up dead stick. The tow up tether was released; the skids were retracted; and after a short distance the liner went on it's side. It's quite understandable that press releases somehow don't include these facts.
Mike Akatiff during this last year has had his problems as well. As most of you are aware, Top 1 Oil sponsored the Ack Attack liner for a trip to Australia to attempt to break the LSR for Motorcycles. I was told by Ack that the cost to Top 1 Oil was in excess of $120,000.00 U.S. He said that he quit keeping track of the money at this figure. The result was a 250mph run. Weather was the primary Achilles heel for this attempt.
After the return to the states, the Top 1 Ack Attack liner needed a "rethink" as to the HYVO coupler between the engines. Modifications were made and several hours of dyno time were needed to check out the modifications. During Speed Week this year, the HYVO chain had given up the ghost. I think during dyno testing. The chain had jammed up in it's housing and unbeknownst to Ack, had cracked the front crankshaft. Speed Week produced 12 runs while trying to break his existing 329mph SCTA record. The crankshaft finally broke on his last run, taking out the valves and pretty much destroying the engine. In the time between Speed Week and the Bub Meet, which was merely days apart, Ack installed a new 450hp Huyabusa engine (one of his two spares); built an entirely new turbo charger intake system from stainless steel (the old one was made of mild steel, which failed also during Speed Week and on the dyno). During the Bub Meet, on Ack's last run, the coupler between the engines again failed, and destroyed itself. Rocky Robinson, the pilot of the Top 1 Ack Attack, said that they'd been talking over what had to be done to recapture the FIM record.
A third design of the coupler between the two engines is paramount and will have to be done. The Top 1 liner must improve it's acceleration. They have tremendous wheel spin in second, third and fourth gears. Rocky also said to dispel the myth that the liner is experiencing wheel spin at speed, i.e., 5th and 6th gear, as it isn't true. I myself, thought that this was a serious problem for the machine, but I'll have to take Rocky's word for it.
Sam Wheeler was strapped into his very aerodynamic green 1100cc Kawasaki streamliner, E-Z-Hook--knowing full well that the aged front tire would fail. Sam, who uses no tow up, slips the clutch several times to get it up to a speed where the skids can be retracted. The small engine is turbo charged, and has very little torque; as I understand it the power band of the turbo charged Kawasaki comes in at about 8000 rpm, and is red lined at 12,000 rpm. Sam, on this kamakazi run, shredded the front tire at around 340 mph, the onboard camcorder verifies this fact. The bike accelerated to 355 mph with no front tire, culminating in the fastest mile per hour speed ever achieved by a motorcycle.
Sam managed to keep the liner under control for most of the end of the run. It finally went over, disintegrating the carbon fiber body at it's widest point on the right side. Thankfully, Sam emerged from the liner unscathed, although his E-Z-Hook was somewhat worse for wear. There's a bit of a dilemma going on in the E-Z-Hook camp at this time. Due to the special nature of the design, and the fact that a high speed tire that would fit is not manufactured or available, makes the problem difficult, but not insurmountable. Sam said that it would be a major undertaking to modify the liner to accept a wider high speed tire, such as the ones used on Black Lightning and the Denis Manning special, which are one and the same.
So, in assessing what I've just said, there can be only one final conclusion. The three proven fastest motorcycles in the world, having very different characteristics in their make-up, all achieved very fast speeds. There are three factors which determine the speed of a streamliner: aerodynamics, horsepower (torque), and traction.
The fastest doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with the most horsepower. The fastest doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with the most traction. The fastest DOES go hand in hand with aerodynamics, horsepower, and traction. All three of which the Vincent streamliner, Black Lightning, has.
I built an entirely new streamliner last year--new frame, new suspension front and rear, new wheels, new parachute system and new parachutes, new body, nose cone, new rear door, new fuel tank, new cockpit, new controls, new tires, relocation of fire bottles, CO2 bottle, redesigned outriggers, incorporated oil and catch can into the frame, and built the multitude of bracketry to put it all together. I went through the engines and their components completely, correcting many things, and paying attention to every detail.
Not an exercise for the faint of heart. I understood the fierce competition the Vincent streamliner must defeat, and building the new streamliner was without a doubt necessary to achieve the goal I'd set for myself way back in 1989. Using all of the knowledge gained through the years, and all of the knowledge gained from the five attempts made by Black Lightning on the salt, the result is a Vincent powered streamliner capable beyond any doubt of setting the Outright World's Land Speed Record for Motorcycles.
About 8 months into the rebuild of liner #7, it became agonizingly apparent that I had chosen off "a bridge too far". Then I recalled a statement made by one of the pit crew members (as we were loading up to leave the salt in 2005), Lenny McKnight had offered to lend a hand in any way he could, anytime I needed him. If ever there was a time that I truly needed help, this was the time. September 3, the Bub Meet, was accelerating toward me at an unbelievable speed. (I would have preferred it to have been the other way around.) I made a phone call to Lenny in Tacoma, Washington, and five days later I picked him up at the airport in Wichita, Kansas.
A work schedule was laid out for the 24 days of his stay. He did everything I asked him to in an exemplary manner, and with excellent workmanship. Many times he was in the shop before I was, (4:00am) cleaning the shop or repairing some of my neglected machinery and tools. All of this was done with him providing the airline tickets and on his own time. The only thing I provided was room and board and my deepest gratitude. Now for the kicker. Ditto to the above on another 22 day stay, as I had to call him back to Wichita about a month later. A great guy. The Vincent streamliner was able to make the September 3 deadline due largely to his humble and selfless dedication to the Black Lightning Project.
To play in the World Class arena of speed, a man needs very deep pockets. Far deeper than mine. At this time I'd like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the guys and gals who believed in the project and felt that the Vincent marquee recapturing the record was worthwhile enough to support financally. It would have been impossible for me to have gotten the streamliner to the salt this year without financial assistance. Approximately $11,000 was raised from individual VOC members along with a couple of Sections; $6,000 was donated by my immediate family; and $10,000 was somehow extracted from my Social Security check and my Navy pension. An additional $15,000 debt was incurred, as I had to buy a truck to haul the lot to the salt.
The week prior to Bonneville was quite heckic. At age 68, working in sometimes 100+ degree temperatures, my brain wanted to do what had to be done, but my body said, "No." That's when my son, Max Re', and a couple of fellow Boeing workers came to my rescue.
The highway trailer had frozen it's brakes from salt corrosion. Backing plates, magnetic brake shoes and drums with bearings had to be replaced. A quick coat of black paint to cover up the rust, $30 spent on hubcaps to cover up the ugly, the tents sorted out, the poles painted and color coded, again to cover up the ugly, airbags and a tow package bought and installed for the new truck, cost: $800. All of the stuff needed to wrench on the salt loaded and packed, aluminium floor for the salt, power washed and painted, tables painted, and of course all the loading for the trip.
Two days before the launch date I still hadn't gotten around to painting the two rear panels of the new body. And of course the decals had yet to be placed on the liner. I worked until around 10:00pm to take care of these loose ends the night before I tackled the 1200 miles of interstate that stood between Black Lightning and her debut at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats. Even though I was tired, very tired, still I was confident in success, as I knew I had given my all, and created the best liner I knew how to build. This, coupled with the fact that I knew I had very competent pilots and pit crew waiting to see the new streamliner for the first time.
Pilot Don Angel came from San Diego, California.
Pilot Hartmut Weidelich (Ace) came from Aldingen, Germany.
Pit crew members from Canada: John and Caroline McDougall, Barrie Howell (Easy), Tom Murray.
Pit crew members from the U.S: Lennie McKnight, Steve Doherty, Ray Haskin, Bob Bonato, and the newest member from the U.S. Jesse O'Datey. John Caraway was put in charge of the very important job of flipping the ignition switch "on". :o)
Pit crew members from England: John Philipp, Jack Marshall.
Pit crew member from Spain: Nigel Blackbourn (Razor).
Legendary Vincent racing icons, Marty Dickerson, Ron Vane and Sonny Angel took on the formadable task of tutoring the Kansas Bad Man, (who is a well known Maverick, and never pays any attention to anything anyone tells him to do) :o)
The following good people were invited to attend the Bub shoot out, and came to offer their moral support for Black Lightning's 2006 attempt on the WLSR. (Talk about pressure to perform! Wow.)
From England: Eddie Saxton, Ernie Lowinger, Jenny Mortimer, Jenny's daughter, Peter Wafford, Bill Cannon and Sue, Ron Vane's son, John and Dawn Kennedy.
From USA: John and Irene Ulver, Jay Shaffer, Chris Kleps, Gregg Max, Dave Campos, Denise Campos, Boris Murray, Somer Hooker, Sergio Villalobos.
From Canada: Marc Beaudry, Richard Vanderwell, Tony and Ann Cording.
From Switzerland: Jan and Jirgen Kietschmann.
From Germany: Bill Sell.
And others I'm sure.
I must say that other than setting the record, the most exhilarating experience a salt racer could possibly have is driving the last 110 highway miles into Wendover, Utah from Salt Lake City with his beloved machine strapped to his back end, as he mentally prepares to do battle with the great white dyno, the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Point A., Wichita, to point B., Wendover, was finally out of the way. The weather cooperated, as it seemed mother nature was taking a nap, and that was good. While driving onto the flats the morning of the 2nd I was thinking, "This is some of the best salt I've seen in years." Denis Manning, the person who put on the Bub International All Motorcycle Meet, had done an excellent job preparing an 11 mile dry-hard-smooth-superb course for the time trials. Always thinking ahead, I quickly snatched up a spot in the designated pit area next to three porta-potties.
The majority of the Vincent attack team I would say, is not the "broad at the shoulder, narrow at the hip types", they're rather more like escapees from a back lot Universal Studios character audition. Someone once told me, "Experience comes with age". If that's true, we got this puppy in the bag.
After about an hour's wait, familiar faces began to show up, and as soon as half dozen or so arrived, the orchestration of the off-loading and setting up of the tents and pit area began. More and more of the crew and spectators eventually straggled in, some of whom I was meeting for the first time. I was eager to show off my work of the past 12 months, as those back slapping kudos are so all important to the man who has "walked the walk".
The new liner was under the shade of the main tent with her clothes on--black, sleek and slim, with her jewelry of gold leaf Vincent scroll marquee. A sight that activates adrenalin in any true racer beyond a doubt. It's worth repeating that I had just finished building the new streamliner, and that none of the crew members were familiar with it's make up (except Lenny).
Not waiting for the usual, "Let's hear her run", as I had it already next on the agenda to see if anything had fallen off or gone awry from the time it had left it's meager home in my back yard garage to it's secondary home, under the grandeur of the Bonneville Salt sky. The 24 volt diesel starter motor was plugged in; the switch hit; the motors fired right up; the switch was released on the starter. The week had started. The starter kept spinning, causing a bit of panic as we tried to get a battery lead off to break the circuit.
'Not a good situation,' I thought, 'I don't have any spares.' I had built the starter with a Triumph kill button switch. This was removed from the circuit and a toggle switch was jury-rigged. It was again tested and found that the starter solenoid was the one that was sticking.
This was the third time that the starter motor and it's components had undergone the corrosive atmosphere of the Bonneville Salt Flats. The starter solenoid had succumbed to the corrosion and was sticking. Selecting the proper size remedy tool, i.e. a ball peen hammer, precision wrapping of the solenoid housing ensued and we soon freed the bugger up. This precision operation was only required on one other occasion during the week.
The starter again was plugged in, and 3000cc worth of blown fuel Vincent power came to life. It was nothing to write home about--lots of vibration and slow throttle response. It had been running much better in Wichita... It had only been started 4 times after the rebuild of 2006, so not much time had been spent on the tune. The primary reason for this can be found in the word "time".
This had to be corrected if there was any hope of fast runs. One of the thoughts running through my head was knowing that I had liposuctioned approximately 400 pounds from the mass of the machine. I wondered, 'Could this be causing or contributing to the excess vibration?' Another thought was the changes that I had made in the intake track porting of the heads--the changes in the plenum and the modification to the intake horn of the Ron's Racing toilet bowl injector horn. I felt that this was minor and should not have affected the fuel curve to any appreciable degree from that used in last year's attempt.
A few wick-ups on the throttle produced a gush of oil coming from the inboard portion of the primary covers between the coupled engines. This was definitely not good. After the removal of the belly pan, it was discovered that one of the retaining dowels which aligned the three idler gear cluster housing, had wallored it's bores and fallen out. The entire idler housing had to have come loose and all of the bolts and dowels must have received damage, I knew that the entire outer primary housing had to be removed to find out how much damage there was, and whether it could be fixed.
John McDougall and our new crew member, Jesse, were given the task of taking it apart for my inspection. As I expected, all of the dowels had wallored; the threaded portions into the engine cases had wallored and were loose; two grade 8 allen screws had snapped. All in all a pretty ugly sight. The fix was a couple of helicoils installed, the retaining dowels removed, and a generous coat of bearing/sleeve locktite applied, and the dowels reinstalled. The broken bolts were removed and replaced, and everything was buttoned back up. Not the best fix in the world, but without the access of a proper machine shop, as is so often the case with not only Black Lightning, but other Bonneville machines, the ingenuity and skill of the crew can determine the outcome of the day.
The next day after the troops had arrived the liner underwent it's usual tech inspection, which went off without a glitch. Both Don and Hartmut performed their Houdini excape act for the scrutineers, and after the riders meeting the sounds of powerful engines and not-so-powerful engines began to fill the air with varying degrees of decibles. The 160 array of two and three wheeled motorcycles covered the gambut from long, low and sleek, to big fat and ugly. To each his own. After all, it wouldn't be much fun and it wouldn't be Bonneville if the bikes were a bunch of clones.
In an effort not to approach the 2006 attempt in a willy-nilly manner, I had a game plan, and my game plan was about to be tested. Hartmut and Don were scheduled to alternate in the cockpit for those six mile trips from the long course starting line to the final trap timing light. Hartmut was the first to take a ride in the all new 2006 Vincent streamlner. I was fully aware that the engines were not "on song", but still had enough HP to propel the liner down the salt on my scheduled 200 mph first run. Hartmut had gone over 150 mph last year and so had qualified himself to go to the next plateau according to the official AMA Rules, which would be 200 mph.
My main criteria for the run was to check out the handling, as last year's handling, due to the crash which bent the frame, was horrible. Many other things contributed to the bad handling of 2005, which I corrected when I built the new liner. Another criteria was to get a handle on the roughness of the engines. I needed a plug check reading. Two other points I asked Hartmut to give feedback on after the run, was parachute deployment and shifting.
Information gained after Hartmut's first run, was good--very good, and some was not so good. Hartmut had to abort under power, part of the run after only a couple of miles, as the vibration in the roll cage became intolerable, shaking his helmet and head to a degree of extreme discomfort. His visability of the track became non-existent. I assume Hartmut felt that in order to continue the run, it might be a good idea to see where he was going at 200 mph. :o)
Hartmut took the liner to the end of the course to ascertain chute deployment. The chutes came out and worked flawlessly. The larger diameter of both the high speed and low speed chutes initiated a feeling of the rider's positive control in the ever so important "D" acceleration of the liner.
Steve Doherty, again this year, was in charge of the pick up detail, and the liner was soon back in the pits.
A glance at the plugs revealed that two different heat ranges of plugs had been inadvertantly installed for the run, which confused the reading as to what was going on a great deal. The only report from Hartmut was that the engines wouldn't accelerate over 4500 rpm. A check to see if the idler gears were where they were supposed to be, revealed they weren't. The roughness of the engines had been giving those three idler gears a real working over. So it was back to the drawing board on a better fix. John and Jesse went at it again, and the only thing I could come up with was to add additional bolts to hold the idler gear unit in place. I told Hartmut what I was looking for and he commenced drilling and tapping 5 additional bolts to affix the outer robust primary cover to the outboard plate of the idler gear support. John tapped the remaining threaded bolt holes for helicoil installation.
It was also discovered that the drive side rear wheel adjusting slide had broken the weld at it's screwed boss. The axle shifted forward under power, loosening the drive chain and removing the paint work wherever it came in contact. Sheared one of the bolts on the chain guard and eliminated a portion of the fender between the swing arm pivot and the swing arm spring perch. The fix for this was simple. A spacer was made to fit between the axle and the swing arm. The fix for next year will be more permanent and made bullet proof.
All of the primary drive train was put back together. All of the safety checks were made and the liner was ready for it's second run, with Don Angel in the cockpit. The headrest area was opened up by removing some fire proof foam padding on both sides of the helmet area. I wanted to get a second opinion of visability, as the new liner now sported a tinted windscreen, which was different than last year's clear one. Hartmut had left the liner in low gear in his run, so I had no input as to shifting. As the liner would not achieve the desired rev, a logical conclusion on my part was, "It's running too rich". With no plug reading to back this opinion up, I acted upon my educated guess by increasing the main can jet of the fuel system from a 114 to 116 main pill. Remember, this pill returns more fuel back to the tank and less fuel to the engines, thereby leaning the mixture.
Don and the liner were taken to the line. He was strapped in and sent on his way. Steve picked him up and he was back in the pits. I was very anxious to hear his report.
Don said that he got it up to around 5000 rpm, but spent most of the run trying to get it to shift gears. He finally managed to get it into second gear after I think, the third attempt, by holding the momentary toggle switch in it's on position, thereby allowing a maintained air pressure on the shifter piston. He then reported that it was impossible to see out of the liner due to vibration, and the extreme distortion in the polycarbonate tinted wind screen.
So. What did I have here? I had two pilots that seemed to protest a bit about going fast due to their inability to see where they were going fast to.
Picky. Picky. Picky.
It was apparent that I was going to have to do something about this visibility problem or the next thing you know they'd be asking me for hazardous duty pay.
The Runs I
Last year the polycarbonate clear wind screen was not the best, it had minor distortion, but was tolerable to both Don and Hartmut. A fellow who was on the salt and lived in Salt Lake, was somehow found by one of the pit crew members. He was aware of a shop in Salt Lake City that dealt in polycarbonate materials. Tom Murray volunteered to make the 110 mile trip the morning of the fifth to procure a new wind screen. He returned about noon that day with the new wind screen cut to size but not drilled.
My visual inspection of the liner after the last run revealed all four exhaust pipe wraps were discolored a great deal, which showed extreme heat in the exhaust pipes themselves. From past experience I knew that the engines were retarded. Much of the fuel was being burnt in the exhaust pipes. I pointed out to Hartmut where the timing mark would probably wind up on the degree wheel pointer in the fixed mark on the primary cover. The procedure to reset the timing, was as follows: Don would keep an eye on the tach; Hartmut would advance the timing at the distributor, and lock it in when best running was achieved. I was at the throttle and would bring it up to 5000 rpm for the setting.
There was a misunderstanding between Hartmut and myself at this time, as I had pointed to the probable position of the timing, and he took it as where I exactly wanted it timed. This was about a 10 degree advance over the 35 degrees of timing I was running. With the two plug ignition system per cylinder, this gave me a theoretical advance of 40 degrees + the 10 degrees, which should have been plenty. After this was done it did run better, and the plugs showed signs of lean. The high speed fuel pressure regulator was turned down one full turn, increasing the fuel pressure from 55 pounds to 80 pounds. This would certainly take care of any lean mixture, I thought, that may occur at higher engine rpm.
The next couple of days are a bit of a blur. I wasn't feeling up to par physically. The building, the loading, and the long cross country drive had taken it's toll, and I was finding the constant barrage of magazine and television interviews, along with the continuous interruption of my concentration by well wishers, inquisitive spectators, those wishing autographs of T-shirts, posters, etc., distracting from the task at hand. Problems were multiplying that had to be solved--rich or lean, advance or retard, shifting problems, visual problems, and the problem of trying to keep the gear train between the motors together, vibration, and there were probably many others, minor in nature.
While all of this was going on inside my head--inevitably, at a seemingly constant rhythm, someone would come over to me and ask, "When will you be making your next run, and how fast do you think it's going to go?" or, "Would you squat down beside the liner so I can get a picture of you and the engines?" or, "Have you thought that you might be running too rich or too lean?", or "Did you know that NASA has developed a material for it's windows in the space shuttle that are scratch-proof and distortion free?".
But my favorite, and the most frequently asked question is, "Have you ever thought about testing the liner before you bring it to the meet?"
This one always brings a smile to my face, knowing that I had just received an overdraft notice from Intrust Bank of Wichita, Kansas, informing me that there were insufficient funds to cover a $225.00 check that I had just written on Black Lightning's account. Private time on the Bonneville Salt Flats costs in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $5,000 a day.
There were four runs made, as I said before, during my blurred recollection. I can't remember the exact sequence, but I do remember the primary actions I took to remedy the problems. So the only way to relay what took place is by giving an account to each issue.
What about this visibility and wind screen problem? A run was made with Hartmut on board, with the entire windscreen removed. Visibility was obviously not a problem with the windscreen removed. It was noted during the run by Hartmut, that there was no wind whatsoever entering the cockpit. He also said that it was very quiet. I don't understand the physics involved; I can only assume that the cockpit becomes pressurized, creating a pressure in which the ambient airflow skates over the liner configuration with ease. This is a bit baffling. Could it be that a windscreen isn't necessary at all?
Don made a run with the new windscreen in place, and reported very little difference in the distortion. Next, a hole approximately 8" wide and 13" long was cut in the forward section of the canopy. All the rest of the runs for the meet were made with this fix as to visibility.
Now as to rich or lean, advance or retard: After returning to my digs at the Nugget, on I think the third day, and assessing in solitude what was going on, I came to the conclusion that the engines were retarded, and that they were running too lean. The next day, (which day it was is a question mark) I took the high speed regulating valve, turned it around and installed a blank pill. This took the high speed completely out of the circuit of the fuel curve. All fuel from the pump would now go through the barrel valve, then to the four nozzles at the intake ports, and the four nozzles below the injector hat; the metering of the pressure of fuel at these nozzles was now being regulated only by the ramp on the barrel valve (idle to mid-range) and the main can return pill to the fuel tank. Nozzle sizes I selected for even fuel distribution to the four cylinders were as follows: Number 1 cylinder: .042. Number 2 cylinder: .038. Number 3 cylinder: .040. Number 4 cylinder: .035.
There are two physical properties that must be considered for even fuel distribution.
Over the years I've found that the duct work length from the blower plenum to the intake valve is an important determining factor. The longer the duct work the more fuel it takes. The other characteristic of a V-twin motor, which is a variable, is the fact that the blower has a fixed volumetric efficiency per revolution, and turns 50 degrees more in it's rotation cycle from one cylinder to the next.
I selected four .022 nozzles and placed them below the hat to cool the blower. These come into play when the fuel pressure exceeds 10 pounds.
The main pill that I selected was a .110.
The Runs II
The last thing I did was to lean the idle and mid-range fuel curve, as this portion of the fuel curve was way too rich. The barrel valve ramp was closed to approximately 7 pounds leak down. Previously it was at around 14 pounds. The relation to this setting and the butterfly in the hat was changed by 3 flats on the linkage between the butterfly pivot arm and the barrel valve pivot arm, thereby leaning the idle to midrange mixture.
I gathered up the same crew to again set the ignition timing, Don at the tachometer, Hartmut at the distributor, and myself on the throttle. I told Hartmut, "Advance the distributor, keep an eye on me, and when I give the nod, lock it in place."
Ray Haskin plugged in the starter; the engines were fired; and in less than 30 seconds I gave the nod to Hartmut. The engines were running smoother than they ever had before; they were consuming more fuel than they ever had before; and they were running with more advance than they ever had before--around 60 degrees. With all of these known facts the engines without a doubt were producing more horsepower than ever. Some might call it "Luck" but I prefer the term "educated guess".
The engines were now tuned to a state capable of making record setting runs.
The next three runs, as it turned out, were the last three runs. I'll have to tell you my adrenaline was in high gear, and even though it was next to the last day, I still felt Black Lightning could pull it off. The first of the three runs proved to be exhilarating for Hartmut, expensive to the project, a jaw dropper to the competition, and stupefying to me.
I had tuned the engines, and finally they were making lots of horsepower. The crew had made ready the liner under my supervision. All checks were made except one. No one had thought to check the fuel level.
The liner was taken to the line, put in low gear, and Hartmut strapped in.
The Top 1 machine was waiting for the wind to die down. Ack won't let the liner make a run with wind gusts above 5 mph due to it's large sail area, which is about 1/3 greater than that of the Vincent streamliner. We were ready to go; the sequence of runs had been cleared with the starting official. He soon notified me that the track was mine. The liner was fired, and Hartmut was on his way.
Wow. That puppy did accelerate.
Steve and I jumped in the truck to follow the liner down. We soon gained sight at about the 1 1/2 mile mark. There was a 9 inch wide, straight black line on the salt, about a hundred yards in length--then there were a few black marks, broken and not so straight. When we got there the liner was pointing back toward the starting line, and Hartmut was getting out of the cockpit. The parachute rollover switch had activated during it's pirouette down the salt on it's skids, and the chutes did their job of stopping the liner at about 150 mph. Hartmut appeared to be just fine.
At about the 1 1/2 mile mark, during hard acceleration, the liner ran out of fuel and the engines abruptly stopped, locking up the rear tire. The Vincent streamliner maintained stability until the six ply's of the Mickey Thompson 400 mph tire had been worn through, causing the tire to deflate. Black Lightning became her own boss at this point, as Hartmut had no control.
As it turned out, a professional photographer, Buck Lovell, (bike posters) just happened to be standing at the right place at the right time, and captured that moment for posterity. This shot will certainly go down in history much like the Rollie Free bathing suit picture.
The picture shows the Vincent streamliner going backwards at 150 mph with plumes of salt, rooster-tailing upward and towards the front of the liner. The parachute billows in the wind behind the front of the liner instead of the back, as is customary. :o)
So this is what happened in a few seconds of the black filly's young life. Black Lightning had lost a shoe, her trainer had forgotten to give her her oats, her jockey had given her her head, and for the first time she was able to show what she could do.
The Vincent streamliner proved at that time that it had more torque than any of it's competitors, as it pulled a 300+mph gear, and after the first 200 or so feet, accelerated (according to Hartmut) more like a drag bike than a tall, tall geared streamliner.
The liner was soon back in the pits. There had been no apparent damage (other than the $1,000.00 tire) that I could see.
Now to the task of trouble-shooting to find out why the engines had locked up. Hartmut said that he thought the engines had seized. Four plugs were pulled. One from each cylinder. The starter was plugged in and the engines spun. The old rag and the finger in the plug hole trick was used. Well, she spun free and had lots of compression. Next the transmission was checked. Nothing wrong there. Going by what Hartmut told me, and knowing that the gear train between the motors had been a constant problem, I assumed that something had come loose and had gotten between the gears. The primary cover had to come off to check this possibility out. No sooner did we have the cover off (and by the way all of the bolts were intact and tight) than Don brought it to my attention that there was no fuel in the fuel tank!
I was flabbergasted.
How could I have forgotten something so elementary? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
The idler gears and primary were all put back together, as the problem had been located--me. :o(
Lenny, with a couple of other helpers, I think Don and Hartmut, removed the rear wheel. It was checked for damage. Still bright and shiny with no dings. The spare M/T tire was mounted, and Lenny had it all back together in a couple of hours.
As I knew the liner was making a ton of horsepower, I was ready to hang a 360 mph gear on it. My bravado was again being shattered, as after looking for my gearing for about an hour, I came to the unbelievable conclusion that I had left them back in Wichita on the work bench! In this case it wasn't dumb,dumb,dumb--it was tired,tired,tired.
Chris Kleps, a staunch supporter, with a never-give-up attitude, suggested that I try to get someone in Wichita to Air Express the gearing to Salt Lake City overnight. Knowing the liner would pull far more gear than the 300+mph gear that was available, I asked Chris to drive Patti back to our digs at the Nugget, where she tried to phone family members, all to no avail. The idea was dropped.
This gearing thing wasn't as bad as it seemed. I felt that the 300+mph gear at 6500 rpm could be increased by spinning the engines to 7500 rpm red line. This would nudge the speeds being turned by the big boys.
So the last day of the meet was upon us. Denis Manning, now the FIM record holder at 350+mph, wanted to give the Ack Attack every opportunity to challenge his new record, so he extended the cut-off time of the meet, which was noon, to 3:00 in the afternoon. Talk about sportsmanship! A truly generous gesture, but not uncommon among those who believe "the best man" really should win.
I felt that we had a good chance of going really fast and surely would come home with an AMA record well in excess of 300 mph. With the additional three hours to play with, it was possible to get in three runs on the last day.
Don was scheduled for the next run. A couple of problems that had ensued during the week had been corrected. Two of the coils had broken their brackets from the frame during the time the two engines were having their boxing match. Hartmut stated after his last run, that the engines were running smoothly with no vibration.
One other problem that we were having was an intermittent electrical problem of the air shifter solenoids to the transmission. We were able to shift the gears several times in the pits with no malfunction, then all of the sudden we would get no electrical circuit whatsoever. All the switches and wiring were checked, several times by Lenny McKnight. It was found that the problem lay in the solenoids themselves. With no spares we could only hope for the best.
We took the liner to the line, as I said before, Don was scheduled to be the next pilot. He was strapped in and I gave him the following instructions: "Take it up to 6500 rpm in low gear. Make your shift. If it jumps out of gear or doesn't make the shift, hold the momentary switch in the on position." The starter official gave me the course. The starter was plugged in. The engines were spun. Caraway flipped the "on" switch, and the pandemonium of the Vincent power plant turned many heads of the competition. Damn--she sounded sweet.
Don accelerated down the course. Steve and I began the chase, which by the way is a futile one, because the Ford pick-up, even when floor-boarded, can't even come close to staying with the Vincent streamliner, which was quickly becoming nothing more than a black dot in the distance.
Again, at about the 1 1/2 mile mark, we saw that Black Lightning had turned off to the left of the course. 'Now what?', I thought. On our approach nothing seemed to be wrong with the liner. The tires were up, and there was no oil running out of it.
I asked Don what happened. He said, "It was running real good, no vibration. When I made my shift the momentary toggle switch lever broke off. I tried to move the little nubbin that was left, but to no avail. So I aborted the run."
Well, nothing to do but take it back to the pits. Boy. I was beginning to wonder if this salt racing thing was all that it's cracked up to be.
Back in the pits we replaced the toggle switch; made a few shifts in the pit, finding that on a couple of occasions that intermittent current problem appeared. It seemed to be becoming more punctual. As the liner had pulled away effortlessly in low gear, I made the decision to lock the transmission in high gear, reverting back to my old drag bike days where it was commonplace to pull a 3.0 gear on my one gear only, magnesium framed, 93 cubic inch, fuel burning Vincent.
Hartmut had the next ride, which turned out to be the last ride of the meet for the Vincent streamliner.
Without going through the usual orchestration, the liner had no problem whatsoever pulling the 1.6 one-gear-only gear. While leaving the line, the high speed parachute deployed. All I could say was, "Shit. Oh shit." It was kind of like when a disaster takes place, and your whole life flashes by you in a split second. I thought to myself, "What does this mean, and what's going to happen?"
First. The liner had more grunt than it has ever had, and I knew Hartmut wouldn't detect the trailing parachute under acceleration. The next thing that flashed into my mind, was that earlier in the week, when the engines were running sour, I had ordered the removal of approximately 1/3 of the finger weight that engages the slider clutch, and backed off two turns on the springs, both reducing the pressure on the plates at any given rpm. What I knew was going to take place when the liner reached a mean speed to where the drag of the machine, and the parachute overcame the friction coefficient of the clutch, was that all of this was surely going to cause the clutch to be fried. I was right. It was.
Back On The Trailer
The fried clutch put us on the trailer, and ended the week's hard work. As so often happens with a low budget attempt, spares often become the Achilles heel, as it was in this case.
In anticipation of a record run, Stephen Doherty had several bottles of bubbly on ice. He broke it out; toasts were made by many, including myself, and camaraderie permeated the air. It was obvious that this congregation of good, friendly people were disappointed, but not to a point of giving up on the project. All, including myself, assured the return of Black Lightning in 2007.
That evening, as usual, Denis Manning put on an awards banquet for the participants. A good number of our party attended the banquet. This, in itself, was enough for many, as it was a quite historic occasion in that the FIM record, which had stood for 16 years, was broken twice in less than 24 hours. Mike Akatiff with his Top 1 Ack Attack set the record first at 342mph, and Denis Manning with his "7" upped that to 350 mph. This happened at a scheduled meet and not on private time, as was the case with the Easy Rider Dave Campos record, and also with the Lightning Bolt Don Vesco record. The awards were passed out, Sam Wheeler took home the prize money for the Fastest Time of the Meet and the Best Engineered award.
The Vincent streamliner had gone 188 mph at half throttle, with the engines running sour, earlier in the week. I thought that the 188 mph might once again be the fastest of the antiques. As it turned out it wasn't.
The last of the awards that the Meet had posted had been passed out. Denis took the stage, and I felt that this was going to be a wrap-up speech for the event. Denis pointed out that there was still one more award to be presented. This award was the first of what was to become an annual award. The Buell Brothers Racing Team were the creators and sponsors of this award. It was to be a cash award of $1,000 accompanied with a trophy. The essence of the award was to recognize the most dedicated effort put forth by an individual in the quest to achieve.
The official name of the award is: "The Spirit of the Event"
I began to look around the room to see who was going to stand up, as it hadn't registered in my brain yet that he had just said, "I'm proud to announce the recipients of this first annual award--Max and Patti Lambky."
Not stated, but to be honest, a large portion of the credit for this award goes to the enthusiasts and supporters of the Black Lightning Project.
I'll finish this report on a positive note. I feel better than I ever have about the certainty of the Vincent streamliner's capability to set the LSR. Why do I still think this? In 2006 the Vincent streamliner exhibited more torque than any of the three record setters, as it accelerated rapidly from a dead stop, pulling a 16 gear with ease. None of the three top competitors can match this feat. The three top competitors reached speeds of 342 mph, 350 mph, and 355 mph.
The Vincent streamliner didn't do this, but can do this--will do this--and more.