Although it's not that easy to make out in this photo, he's actually ripping off the bottom of his shoe. They don't call it drag races for nothing.
Here's real poison; Milwaukee powerhouse (74 inches) with its normally positioned carburetor plus an extra jug tapped in each intake manifold. Note the fuel block below carbs.
Or you can build a long-legged "Texas stroker" by machining a special set of finless barrels (note extra spacers under cylinders to boot) and going nitro route with Dellorto carbs.
Potent in their singular form, these paired up 42 cubic inch Royal Enfield twins with dual carburetion are a handful in stretched frame. Bike runs 123 mph drags, 153 at Bonneville.
Cycle World magazine editor, Joe Parkhurst, turned out with a streamlined Cotton using the latest 15-inch Villiers Starmaker two-stroke mill with square bore-stroke, and sped 86 mph.
They say it's the hottest thing on two wheels in a quarter mile; Clem Johnson's "Barn Job" that touched 149 mph this meet, has done 152! Clem really tips nitro can, smokes off like a fuel dragster on this 85-inch Vincent V-twin. Dellorto pots, dual coil ignition, and custom frame work are seen. Now extinct model runs 2nd and high.
Normally crowded out of the picture by fat-tired rails with 400-inch mills, quarter-mile cycle enthusiasts had a competition explosion when Lions Strip restricted their facility to two wheels only for the All-Western Motorcycle Championship.
Once upon a time there was a motorcycle. It could go as fast in the quarter-mile as any car ever built; that was 136 mph. The time was ten years ago, and Chet Herbert's feared 90-inch Harley, "The Beast", was engaged in a standoff with such dragster greats of that era as Cal Rice, the Chrisman brothers, and the Bean Bandits. It was probably the last time in drag history that two wheels ever gave four a bad time on a drag race strip.
It was about that time the hot rodder found Bonneville racing tires and could no longer contain the powerful surge of the new overhead V8 engines, fat drag slicks were born, and the rails began to smother the bikes in a cloud of rubber smoke. Multiple engines, blowers, and even four-wheel drive combinations made it unmistakably clear that from that day forward, the cyclists would be drag racing in a world of their own.
Despite their refusal at some strips, a lack of true acceptance by any national governing body, and a myriad of other obstacles, that world of motorcycle drag racing is still exciting, colorful, and sparkling with ingenuity, as witnessed recently by the 3000 spectators who came to see 268 cyclists of all categories perform at the recent Lions All-Western Motorcycle Championship.
Cool ones with stock street machines lined up against hot ones from the local scrambles tracks, and weird ones pulled experimental jobs down off the shelf to pair off with the drag pros. Highlighting the progress of the past ten years was Clem Johnson with a completely hot rodded 85ci V-twin that cut a fast 149.59 mph for top speed of the day. Clem's chances for top eliminator honors melted, however, with his clutch throwout bearing when he was excessively held in gear on the line during eliminations and the T.E. title passed to Don McEvoy whose 40-inch Triumph fuel burner went unchallenged after Bonneville veteran Richie Richard's drag-geared Triumph was looped earlier in the meet. McEvoy's performance was exceptional nevertheless, with a dominating speed of 133.86 mph and 10.21 seconds elapsed time. Inside his Triumph, the works: Harman-Collins cam, Robbins pistons pumping 12-1/2 to 1 compression, big valves, and Webco springs. But even it looked stock by comparison to the firebreathin' Vincent built by machinist Clem Johnson; only the cases remained to remind one of its ancestry. The standard 61 cubic inches were pushed out to 85 with sleeved barrels and homemade crank carrying Forged-True pistons that Johnson turned down from Art Sparks' blanks. Even the gears in the Vincent's converted two-speed box were made especially for the job, as were the alloy frame and forks that contributed to the machine's ridiculous weight; a mere 260 pounds!
Amidst these lions' roar, diminutive two-strokes, ranging in size from 50cc to 250cc (3 to 15 cubic inches) flexed their muscles with unbelievable quarter-mile speeds up to 95.74 mph (Yamaha's TD-1 sports model, a 15-incher). At the low end of the displacement scale, a 3 (yes, 3) cubic inch Tohatsu tore up the competition in several classes with a fantastic 53 mph!
Yes, it's been a long time since bikes were big at the drags, but we found them to be a refreshing diversion at Long Beach. With a little encouragement, who's to say that they might not once more battle the big rails in their race for the quarter. To Clem Johnson, it's only a matter of two seconds.