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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

1967-1979 Quarter Hemi

Click the photo above to view a photo album

The Magnesium Monster had been running so well that for the first time I was able to wander around the pits looking at other stuff. What really interested me was the double A fuel dragsters running the 392 cubic inch Chrysler Hemis. They were reporting horsepower readings of an astonishing 4000! You got it. That was when I began to wonder, "Would it be possible to build a motorcycle drag bike that would produce 1,000 horsepower, by using two of the front cylinders, to make a V twin blown Chrysler Hemi drag bike?" Wow. Talk about the ultimate. What would I call it? I was always a bit envious of others using up all the good names. i.e., Barn Job, Nero, Super Nero, Gunga Din, Mighty Mouse, Super Mouse, Double Trouble, The Brute, Turnip Eater, and others. I thought, "Let's see, I'll be using a quarter of the cylinders of the V8 Hemi, and it's sole purpose will be to reign supreme in the quarter mile......yeah! The "Quarter Hemi" was going to be it's handle. Now that I had the idea and the name, two major things out of the road, all that was left to do was to build it.

I bought a 392 Hemi engine, lobbed off the front portion of the two cylinder heads, (not a problem, my band saw was large enough to do the job). Now came the cylinder block, hmmm...this could present a problem. So checking around town in St. Joseph, Missouri, I stumbled upon a steel fab shop who said they could do the job. They said the only problem was that they were doing work on a sky scraper in Kansas City, and the saw was there. So I took off for Kansas City. I found the man I was supposed to talk to, and after telling him what I wanted, he stared at me a minute, then said, "You have to be nuts". Oh well. I have been called worse..

After conversing with Chet Wilson, an engine builder in Wichita, Kansas, as to what the Big Boys ran in those Chryslers, i.e. pistons, rods, and so on, I captured the following for the project. Arias Pistons with Dykes Rings and buttons in the skirt, Mickey Thompson aluminum rods, Donovan 4 bolt main caps, Donovan rocker arms, 2 1/4" titanium intake valves, 2" exhaust valves, a special 990 roller cam ground by Sig Erson. I staggered one set of lobes, allowing the now V twin engine to fire like a motorcycle. Sig Erson push rods and Crower valve springs with aluminum retainers were also used. I modified a 53 ford distributor, also a Volkswagen oil pump, which pretty much finished off the engine package. The cylinders were "O" ringed. A plate was attached to smooth up the sawed off portion of the block. Tuff Block was poured into the water jackets space to keep the cast iron cylinder liners in place. The crank shaft was cut off and reground, (thanks to Chet Wilson) making the second main bearing journal the thrust bearing. The water jackets around the heads were removed. The rocker shafts and the Donavan rocker arms were modified to run in the open, using greased needle bearings.

The project came to a screeching halt as my shore duty assignment in St. Joseph, Missouri was over, and the Navy, in their infinite wisdom, felt that I was needed elsewhere. There was a war going on in Vietnam.

So I went to the Mekong Delta region in Vietnam for a year. This did not--I repeat, this did not do anything whatsoever to increase my go-fast learning curve. (However I did learn how to duck fast)

After Vietnam I was sent to Pearl Harbor for a tour on the U.S.S. Grapple. Luckily, the island had a fine drag strip, and the Quarter Hemi was finally finished, employing an aluminum frame, an eight inch M. and H slick, a 53 series GMC Roots blower, and a modified Harley clutch. It first debuted at the Hawaii International Car Show, where it won the "Best Engineered" trophy.

After the car show, the next weekend the Quarter Hemi was readied and transported to the Hawaii International Raceway Park. I was the rider, and the bike was awesome. It sounded exactly like the double A fuel dragsters, and why not? That's what it was. You couldn't tell when it was running that six of the 392 Chrysler cylinders were missing.

The engine always performed flawlessly, except for one blower manifold explosion during start up. The side of my Oldsmobile took the brunt of the explosion. She looked like Bonny and Clyde's car after their run-in with the law.

The drive line was the Achilles heel of the Quarter Hemi. The clutch and chains were always a problem. The Harley clutch was doubled in the friction plate area. The chains were increased from 50 to 60 chain. Boy. If only the equipment today had been available back then. Slider clutches, two speed Lynco transmissions. What a bike it would have been! The bike was brought back to the mainland after my five year stay in Hawaii. It had to be disassembled for boxing and shipping back. Unfortunately bits were lost in the shipping.

The finality of the Quarter Hemi story is rather strange. As you know, I live in Wichita, Kansas. My daughter Kim said she was talking to a friend one day about the Quarter Hemi her dad had run at the Hawaii Raceway Park. The guy told her he thought he knew where it was. She followed the lead and found the bike at a sports bar in a town called El Dorado, about 50 miles from Wichita, Kansas.

The Quarter Hemi and it's parts have been all over the world. It started in Missouri, made a couple of trips to the Far East with me in my Navy ships, was finished during a tour of duty in Pearl Harbor, was shipped to San Diego, taken to Wichita, then to Grove, Oklahoma, where I made a trade with a guy from Tulsa for a couple of Ducatis and a few bucks. I haven't a clue how it ended up in a sports bar practically in my back yard. Along with the 1970 pictures, I've included the pictures that Kim took of the bike in El Dorado in 2004.

Dave Matson had just gone 225 mph on his Vincent, and by doing so set a record. That gave me an insight which I really never thought of before. All of my racing endeavors had been devoted to drag racing, i.e., sprint racing, for those of you across the pond. Drag racing was a sport where one week you were on top, but the next someone else went faster, and your efforts were quickly forgotten. Records were broken on a weekly basis, and for those of us who did not have financial backing by corporate sponsors, it was becoming impossible to compete in a world class manner.

I went back to the drawing board for my next project. The Quarter Hemi had been a real help in my bank of knowledge gathering as to fuel, supercharging, handling, and drive train components. You just had to have been there and done that to fully understand the physics involved. My go-fast learning curve was improving slowly but surely.