|1952-1955 Cushman||1955-1956 The Pisser||1960-1961 First Vincent Racer|
|1962-1963 First Blown Vincent||1965-1966 Magnesium Monster||1967-1979 Quarter Hemi|
|1979-1999 Fuel Injected Vincents||1983-1984 AJS Scrambler||1985-1989 Grey Flash Replica|
|1989-1993 Norton Manx||1990-1996 Black Lightning Replica||1993-1994 Norton Manx Double Knocker|
|2003-2003 The Copycat|
|Click the photo above to view a photo album|
The first time I increased the volumetric efficiency of an internal combustion engine was on my Cushman motor scooter at the age of 14.
With the schooling and help of a local motorcycle dealer who sold all types of British Villiars engined bikes, such as James, Francis Barnett, Dot, and Ambassadors, the project began. Burt McNew became the mentor and friend who inspired me in the lifelong quest for horsepower and speed, which has literally consumed a great portion of my life, as well as a healthy portion of all my cash.
The Cushman scooter was modified in the following manner. Burt explained that all internal combustion engines will increase their horsepower by increasing their breathing--in other words get more air into the cylinder. So a Pontiac car intake valve was modified, increasing the valve size. The intake port was reshaped and enlarged. The exhaust port was opened up and polished.
The Cushman exhaust pipe was pretty unique. Burt had some upsweep pipes off of, I think a Triumph. I thought the upsweep bend was perfect for wrapping around the little 18 cubic inch flathead. I made a flange to match the exhaust port bolt pattern. A Hap Jones six inch megaphone completed the noise package.
My Dad taught me how to gas weld. I wasn't the greatest, but I managed to glue the pieces together and it looked good, I thought, for my first attempt in the metal fab department. Burt took the bends out of the intake manifold and made a straight manifold. The small butterfly carburetor was discarded in favor of a one inch Amal with side float bowl. The head was shaved and reshaped around the valves. The rod was lightened and polished. Burt built up the cam lobes, and actually hand shaped them. They worked, believe it or not.
My Cushman was the fastest scooter in Wichita, Kansas in 1953 and 1954. The Wichita Joyland Amusement Park, roller coaster and all, was owned by my friend Jerry Ottoway's dad. Each year the park put on a steam engine tractor pull and motorcycle races, which included a scrambles course and a sixteenth mile oval track.
I entered my Cushman in the All Cushman Oval Track Race, and won the race, no contest. That day they taped a paper plate with the number 52 to the front forks of my Cushman. Through the years I've retained that number and placed it on most of my racing bikes.
In 1955 I still had my hopped up Cushman, and by then was working at a nearby Standard Oil Service Station. Andy Andrews, my boss, was preparing his customized, hopped up 1952 Mercury two door for the first NHRA sanctioned quarter mile drag race which was being held in Great Bend, Kansas.
Herb Ottoway, Jerry's dad, had set one of Jerry's two racers up on alcohol. They were really trick 125 Harley Davidson two strokes, made for all out top end. Very skinny, light, many bicycle parts. They called the gas one The Spook, and the alcohol burner Super Spook. Herb helped me set my Cushman up on alcohol for the 1955 Nationals, Andy helped me put the Cushman in the trunk of the Merc, and we took off for Great Bend, Kansas.
Andy's hopped up Mercury, I think, turned around 75 mph in the quarter mile. I have no idea what the ET was, probably around 16 or 17 seconds or something. I can't remember. The Cushman turned, as I remember, 69 mph, and around a 23 second ET.
That day I really got a taste of what racing was all about, as I witnessed the big boys in action. Mickey Thompson with his red Chrysler dragster showed up. It was a sling shot, but different from others in that the rear slicks were faired underneath the body. It was beautiful.
And there was Art Crisman's Chrysler powered dragster. Art Arfons' Allison powered dragster, the Bustlebomb, with it's Cadillac front engine and Oldsmobile rear engine, Ollie Morris and his Smoking White Owl, with a 59 AB Flathead, the guys from Texas with their Glass Slipper, Jazzy Nelson with his flathead Fiat coupe, and a host of others. The fastest speed of the meet was turned in by the Bustlebomb, at over 150 mph. Unbelievable in 1955.
I later changed the Cushman from alcohol back to gasoline, as it took three times as much fuel on alcohol. I think alcohol at that time was around 50 cents a gallon and gasoline was around 22 cents a gallon. I couldn't afford the poor mileage nor the price of alcohol.
I suppose it's appropriate after all the hoopla on my Cushman, to tell you of it's demise. There was a place that we called the Motorcycle Hills, just outside of Wichita on K15 south, in the direction of my grandad's farm. The railroad tracks were on one side, and the river was on the other. The railroad had gravel and sand piled up into a hill approximately 1000 yards long. This pile of sand and gravel ran next to the river, which, along with the terrain that the river had worn away, provided the only hump in the landscape for 100 miles in any direction.
The road leading in to the hills passed Wichita's sewage disposal plant. One day a couple of my buddies and I headed for the hills to do a little hill climbing. On the way, the fuel line, which was hard connected to the Amal carburetor with a quarter inch copper line, decided to leak a bit. That pretty Triumph upsweep exhaust pipe that I had fashioned so creatively, broke off at the weld at a not so opportune moment. Flame from the exhaust set the leaking gas line on fire.
Before I could stop it there was already a pretty good fire going on between my legs. I jumped off with my Levi's on fire. The scooter fell over. Gas ran out of the gas cap. Then things really started heating up. I got my jeans put out, and frantically started looking around for something to put out the fire, which was by now engulfing my Cushman.
The sewage treatment cesspool was within 25 feet of the disaster. So.