As always, when a new streamliner is built, there are three things that have to be taken into consideration. The manpower available, and the machine shop equipment needed. I had pretty much solved the machine shop situation by restoring a couple of Vincents for Larry Feece, and plowing that money into needed tools while my streamliner was in Vancouver, Canada. The manpower was no problem, as I was retired and willing to put in the multitude of hours required.
The third thing and the thing that is usually the hardest, is the financing of the new Vincent streamliner--this time #6. I called the Editor of the VOC club's magazine (who had also been the Administrator of the Vibrac 2002 attempt with the liner) and told him of my plans. I knew the Vibrac group had raised a considerable amount of money for their project, and I thought it would be a good idea to go to the same people. So I submitted a formal request for financial help from the VOC Executive Committee early in 2003, but they had a lot of things going on at that time, and said they would have to deny my request as they were short of funds and unable to help.
Man O Man. What was I going to do? I finally decided to go back to my donation support list from 1997, as I still had the books. I sent out approximately 600 letters of request to former contributors, and, as I remember, about 135 responded. These were made up of private individuals, some smaller motorcycle clubs, and a few VOC Sections.
Nevertheless, it was enough to get started on streamliner #6. I might add that there was $3400 left over from the coffers of the Vibrac effort, which Robert Watson handed over to John MacDougall, along with the financial records from the Vibrac attempt. John sent me the financial records, and I had John send the remainder of the $3400, after the purchase of oversize liners from L.A. Sleeve, to Terry Prince in Australia, as he was building the 4 1/2" stroker cranks and cylinder muffs. I sent Terry an additional $1000 to cover that cost.
More money was raised from the sale of the stock crankshafts, although one main shaft was broken, and the five speed Surtees gearbox, cams, pistons, and other minor discarded parts from the Vibrac endeavor. As these items would not be used in the build of streamliner number six, they were sold to Larry Feece for the sum of $3500 to raise additional needed funds.
So began the massive undertaking of designing and building an entirely new streamliner, which I felt would be competitive against the now so called, "Big Three": EZ Hook, Ack Attack, and Lucky 7.
My first step was to build an entirely new frame. (Well, not entirely, approximately 25% of the old frame was retained) After about 4 1/2 months the frame was far enough along for a rider fit. Dave Campos was to pilot the new machine, so arrangements were made for him to show up here in Wichita for a cockpit fitting. He brought along his friend from Albuquerque, the famous drag racer of the '60's and '70's, Boris Murray. Boris also had liner experience in that he was the pilot for a couple of Denis Manning's earlier streamliners, one with duel engine Triumphs, and one with duel engine Nortons.
A couple of former Vibrac members were also invited for a look-see of what was going on. John MacDougall and Guy Sanford made the long trek down from Vancouver, Canada. John MacDougall had earlier expressed his desire to help me where he could in the undaunting quest to make the Vincent once again "The World's Fastest".
Eventually a date was set and the group showed up on my doorstep. All in all I felt that they were pleased with the progress so far. The fitting of Dave in the cockpit didn't go off without a hitch. He had several suggestions, and requested a few changes. Nothing big, but all had to be done--as my desire, as always, was to make the rider happy, thereby giving him confidence in the liner's construction.
John and I finalized what was to be done, who was to do what etc. on the major engine modifications. He was to undertake the task of building two 1 1/2" main shafts for the Terry Prince 4 1/2" stroker cranks. Also he was to machine the Terry Prince muffs to accept the over bore L.A. Sleeves.
I took on the task of designing and building primary drives, boring the cases for the oversize liners, building the remote starter system, modifying the jack shaft to transmission drive, modifying the Muncie transmission, building a new blower to cylinder head manifold system, building a new blower drive system, acquiring new cams, (the same grind that had been used in Brian Chapman's Mighty Mouse) lightening all the cam timing gears, and the list goes on.
In addition to the engine modifications for 2003-2004, I designed and built a new skid mechanism (which once again allowed skid height adjustment in relation to ride height), entirely new handlebar instrument panel, canopy and body etc.
Originally we planned to assemble the engines in Wichita, Kansas. However, about that time John MacDougall had a serious health problem. He was unable to come to Wichita, so I took everything I'd been working on to his place in Vancouver, Canada. We spent about 30 days putting the Timpkin Taper main bearings in the cases, and bolting the lump together. She turned out pretty shiny and looked good.
I brought the lump back home and continued on with the project. The clutch had to be fitted to the unfinished jack shaft, and all the engine brackets had to be made fixing the now 3000cc power plant to the new frame. It took quite a bit of time to fit the Muncie transmission and get all of the sprockets lined up, i.e. jackshaft sprocket to transmission input sprocket, which by the way, was now a HYVO chain and sprocket system that I designed. The rear swing arm was eliminated in the frame modifications, and for the first time the rear wheel was to be run rigid.
The second streamliner that Bob George built had been rigid, and was reported to work O.K. And then there was the fact that Al Teague went 438 mph with a rigid rear wheel set up. So it seemed like a reasonable idea, but in the end proved to be not the way to go.
A two year span had now passed in the building of streamliner #6. During this time Dave Campos had written me a nice letter explaining his position in regard to riding the streamliner. He said that his wife was very concerned about the prospect of him riding the liner with the possibility of him getting hurt. She had told him, "What would be gained? You already have the AMA and the FIM record." It was disappointing news, but I understood.
Now I had the additional problem of getting somebody in the cockpit. I asked my old friend and previous rider, Don Angel, also a skilled mechanic, if he'd consider the ride, and without hesitation he agreed. I felt that I didn't want another rider situation, so I decided there had to be a back-up rider. I found my back-up rider on-line in a Vincent messaging group. His name is Hartmut Weidelich from Aldingen, Germany. Hartmut had extensive mechanical and racing credentials, and I felt that he would be the man for the job. We have since become very good friends.
The liner was done.
In retrospect, the 5th of August 2004 to the 19th of August 2004 was at times hectic, spattered with encouragement from well wishers, both verbally and with many reaching into their back pockets to support Black Lightning financially. A sterling performance by all the pit crew was apparent and appreciated.
I had originally planned to leave Wichita the morning of the 4th for the NA rally at Deer Lodge. My friend and helper on the project since 1996, Mike Shea, had driven down from Maryland, a 1200 mile trip in his 3/4 ton truck. The plan was to set off from Wichita with two trucks, as everything pertaining to the pit and liner was here. The only exception was that John MacDougall of Vancouver was to bring a set of tools and a few spare parts he had lying around the house for use if needed. Steve Doherty of California volunteered to bring the plyboard floor for the pit along with some fuel cans. He was originally going to bring the fuel, but we later found out that a tanker truck with alcohol was being provided by the S.C.T.A. at the salt.
Mikes truck in my eyes was a bit suspect in it's ability to complete a round trip of some 3800 miles, so it was decided to use one vehicle to haul everything.
The launch date had to be postponed by a day and a half due to the discovery of a bent exhaust valve on number 1 cylinder three days before we were to leave. That, coupled with the trailer people who were working on both the salt trailer and the highway trailer and did not finish the job on schedule as promised. The ol' saying "if something can go wrong it will" was proving it's merit. By the time we finished loading we didn't leave the house until about 2 p.m. on the 5th. To make it to Deer Lodge by the 7th as promised a non-stop straight through drive was in front of us. The route selected was straight north on 80, then hang a left on 81. Pretty simple, huh? Didn't get 20 miles out of Wichita when the only old tire on the trailer decided it had enough abuse with the excessive weight that the operator insisted it should handle. The score ended with: Tire 1; Operator 0. One hundred dollars and 4 hours later--Deer Lodge here we come. With the one week old new fender now flapping in the breeze due to the forces incurred by the blow out, the idea of pulling into Deer Lodge looking good gradually also began to be deflated.
Only got lost once in a deluge of rain somewhere in Wyoming. Had to back track 50 miles to get headed again in the right direction. Mike was driving when the mishap occurred, (or so I say, he has a different story). I would prefer to report that the rest of the trip was uneventful but it wasn't.
Once a motorist pulled alongside frantically pointing at the rear. He seemed quite excited so we pulled over for a look-see. The safety chains had been dragging, wearing one in half. The one that was worn in half had been flapping and did a number on the trailer light plug. We fixed what was most needed and that was the tail lights to the trailer. The rest of the entire trip was conducted without trailer turn signals and stop lights. So after the makeshift repair, off we went, now playing a game of "Russian roulette" with the safety chains.
But the most exciting moment and what really got my adrenalin going-- early morning, misty rain falling, when a deer decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the road. We missed the deer but you would be amazed how wet asphalt can put the trailer into the drivers seat, so to speak. After several near jacknives the old 1500 Chev's front wheels took a bite and straightened her out. So after 2200 miles, which equates to 44 hours of window time, there was a sign along the road that read "Deer Lodge". FINALLY!
So here we were on the outskirts of Deer Lodge, getting a little excited in anticipation of what the Vincent bunch would think of streamliner number 6. There had never been a picture taken of Black Lightning nor had it ever been set on the ground where you could step back and view it's aerodynamic lines with all it's vitals in one piece. For the past two years she had been gradually taking shape bit by bit in my small garage, never seeing the light of day except for one occasion where I had taken it in an incomplete state to my son's car show in Moline, Kansas.
The drive through Deer Lodge was only encumbered by one traffic signal about half way into the three minute drive. Deer Lodge exceeds New York only in the number of letters in it's name.
The windows were down and I could hear the familiar sounds of a couple of Vincents that had their throttles turned on a little too much for the 35 mph speed limit. We pulled into a filling station at the far end of town. Did I say far? To be more exact I should have said end of town. The motel was across the street where a good majority of the Vincent group were obviously staying. I spotted a few trailers and a couple of guys who had their tools out working on their pride and joys. It wasn't long until a small crowd had gathered around the trailer. The wrinkled fender was not the center of attraction and went unnoticed.
After getting a briefing from a couple of fellow VOC members as to the lay of the land and what was on the agenda for the last couple of days of the rally, my next move was to find Bob Bonato. They told me he was driving around in his Studabaker as his magneto had given up on his Rapide. The gala events of the rally were being launched primarily from the prison yard and it's parking lot. The trailer was turned around and pointed towards the other end of town. So after a two and one half minute ride we pulled into the parking lot of the prison. Didn't experience any traffic jams or anything of that nature. We probably just hit it lucky I suppose. The first recognisable face I saw was Bill Easter's of California. He was with his girlfriend, who I must admire for her tolerance. This is just my opinion, which I have formed over the years. Anyone who owns a Vincent will tell you that their girlfriend has to understand that, for instance, if the Vincent needs an oil change and the girlfriends car needs an oil change--need I say more?
It was not long until the Studabaker pulled in with Bob at the wheel. We exchanged greetings and I could see that he was a very busy man. So after 30 minutes or so of chit chat with other NA Rally attendees it was my turn to have a little of Bob's time. Found out where I was to stay, where to off load the liner, what was the schedule for tomorrow.
Bob wanted the liner in the walled in outdoor recreational area of the prison. It was decided that the prison would make an excellent back drop for picture taking. Also this area is secured with a chain link fence at night. A concrete pad was selected for the liner adjacent to the prison building that used to house the bad guys. I will admit that it's a pretty eery place, with the guard towers and all. It wouldn't be a place that a fellow wold like to spend a lot of time, two days was enough for me, and I could leave at will.
It wasn't a problem to off load the liner, Mike supervised the willing helpers and in about 30 minutes the liner was finally sitting in the open void of all the debris of pit essentials and trailers which distracted a great deal from her purposeful appearance which states, "I'm fast".
Lot's of people were taking pictures and asking questions, however, Mike and I were pretty beat after the 44 hours on the road. All we wanted was a good meal, a shower, and a bit of sack time. We left the liner in the safe keeping of the prison. Found ourselves a local restaurant and bar that said they had the best steaks in Montana--either they were right or I was very hungry. Talked a bit with the waitress, who pointed out that Deer Lodge has a ratio of 8 to 1, bars to churches. It's my guess that it is quite possible that Deer Lodge may turn into the Sturgis for Vincent riders. All Bob would have to do is get a Honda motorcycle that we could work over with a sledge hammer, and talk someone into opening up a tattoo parlour. What do you think? Of course we would have to put extended forks on our Vincents, make them rigid, paint them some candy color and detune the lot to get the full effect. I won't get into body piercing for the ladies, for if we are ever going to make it happen we'd better ease into some of the aspects of the idea.
Sorry guys about the two week delay. Had to take care of a pressing problem, i.e., my garage. After two years of cutting, welding, sanding, machining, painting and fiberglassing, my garage took a severe beating. If you can imagine building an entirely new streamliner in a 22'X22' space, when the liner is 21'. Upon my return the garage looked like somebody had thrown a hand grenade or two inside; so a bit of paint, moving machines around, some new shelving, some electrical work, more shop lights, all in an effort to organize and start the 2005 modifications to the Vincent streamliner.
I think I left off at the point of my arrival in the evening at Deer Lodge. Found Bob Bonato's house without a problem. Bob was very gracious in offering his house for not only Mike Shea and myself, but also for John MacDougall and his wife Caroline. We stayed at Bob's house for a few nights. After finding all the stuff to make coffee, we settled in and made ourselves feel at home. Jay Shaffer, whom I'd never met, was also staying at Bob's place. We hit it off quite well talking about motorcycles, racing and a bit of politics. Another fellow was also staying with Bob, but his name escapes me at the moment. You would just have to meet this guy. He certainly had his own views about the world's problems and had a format for solving them.
After a good night's sleep and a morning pot of coffee, off to the happenings of the day. We all arrived about the same time at the compound area of the prison where Black Lightning had spent her night. Caroline set up a table where the liner T-shirts were to be sold.
People started making their appearance around 8 a.m. It was good to finally be able to shake hands and thank the many contributors who had made the Bonneville trip possible. Many of them I had corresponded with on jtan or by post, but had never met personally. I found it amazing that no one actually looked like their words sounded. A bit perplexing. Someone ought to do a study on this one. The T-shirts were selling like hotcakes, and the usual show and tell was going on. Had a long talk with Dave Matson, an old friend and a compadre in challenging the salt. He's been at this longer than I have by far, and always has an interesting story to tell.
Talked to Bob and told him to put out the word that I'd be firing the liner up around 11 o'clock. Fifty or so people gathered around to hear the red bitch rock and roll. I plugged the starter in and after a couple of turnovers Black Lightning came to life. I let her warm up for about a minute, checking the heat on all four cylinders. They were all firing. Wick'd the throttle four or five times to make a little noise, then shut her down. The group applauded, grinning ear to ear.
Later on that day there were quite a few rally members who were disappointed that they were off doing other things and didn't get the word when the Vincent liner would be fired. So again the word was put out that the liner would be fired around 2:30 that afternoon. I had forgotten to turn the fuel off after the first start up and in the excitement and pressure I was under, i.e., (What if this thing doesn't start?). Surely this isn't hard for one to understand, who claims his pride and joy is a one kicker, and to prove his point he kicks, kicks, kicks. And after complete exhaustion, swearing at his love, pushes her to the nearest hill as a last resort. This drill has happened since the invention of the internal combustion engine. Then there are those who truly have easy starting Vincent twins. Tom Nelson, while at the rally showed off his easy starter to me by firing her up by hand. That's right, folks. You heard right, by hand. It certainly impressed me and I've owned thirteen riders over the years, and none of them could be started by hand. Probably about half became one kickers (most of the time) after lots of work. The others? Forget it. 2:30 rolled around, the starter was plugged in, the engines rolled over spitting about a cup of fuel out both pipes. Anyway the fuel was wiped up off the ground and a check was made to see if somebody was standing by with a fire bottle. That taken care of the engines were fired. The second fire up wasn't as impressive as the first, as number two cylinder wet her plugs and she never cleared. The second fire up was running only on three cylinders. Only those who heard it the first time picked up on the fact that it didn't sound as healthy as before.
The rest of the day was spent selling "T" shirts and answering questions about the liner.
The next day was pretty much the same thing, showing and telling. One thing worthy of note was when Marty Dickerson, after riding Bob's Amanda, figured he was ready to give anything that moved over land or sea a go, so he climbed into the cockpit of the liner for a fitting. Many of the spectators of this event looked on to the spectacle with envy, wishing that their physical stature was compatible with the cockpit area. You know what I'm talking about, 230 pounds, tall, broad at the shoulders and narrow at the hips type. Myself and John Caraway were among the envious on lookers.
Marty's legs were too short to reach the pedals. To remedy this several suggestions were made. The most promising was to put Marty on a medieval stretching rack. I think all agreed that this was the easiest way to correct the problem--except maybe Marty.
The next day was spent relaxing and scouring the prison courtyard looking for Jay Shaffer's keys to his bike. We never did find them, but Jay got it sorted out somehow.
There were three bikes that were at Deer Lodge which were built exclusively for L.S.R. records. Dave Matson's record breaking nitro burner, the Vincent streamliner, and a B.S.A. M20 500cc flathead with a nitrous bottle hanging on her side. The liner and the B.S.A. flaty were commonly referred to during the rally as the ying and yang of salt racing. The B.S.A. had six records to her credit never exceeding 100 mph. The nitrous bottle was to be tested for the first time in 2004. When the loud button was pushed, the m20 exceeded the 100mph goal by an astonishing eight mph. Three more records fell to the mighty m20 during Speed Week. My hat's off to this effort.
That afternoon the liner was loaded by rally participants, all the gear was loaded, well almost, somehow the fans were left in the prison yard. This was not discovered until we arrived on the salt. We were scheduled to leave at 0800 the next morning.
The evening proved to be a fun time by all. Bob had the rally banquet well organized. Good food, on time, I might add. Live music, and all the normal things that go on like handing out trophies to well deserved participants, and rounds of applause for those involved who had worked so hard to make the 2004 Deer Lodge North American Rally a sterling success. Thanks Bob, for your personal hospitality to me and undaunting perseverance in making the N.A. Rally a moment in one's life to remember.
The banquet's last event was dedicated to raising a few sheckles for Black Lightning's never ending thirst for dollars. Bob suggested that I bring a few rejected or no longer used bits associated with the five previous streamliners. A quick look around the ranch didn't produce very much stuff, as most all had been hauled off to the dump after each remake. Any way, I brought what I had, thinking "this is a waste of time, the whole lot won't bring a hundred bucks". Boy! Was I surprised! The canopy lid brought near $300 if I recall. The handlebar assembly brought over $200 I think, and with the Chamber of Commerce of Deer Lodge donating $360, the action produced nearly $1,300.00. There are no words that can be written that would adequately show my appreciation to those supporting Black Lightning, both well wishers and financial supporters, so I will just say "thanks".
The next morning a caravan of four vehicles pointed their noses south from Deer Lodge. Mike and I took the lead with the liner in tow. John MacDougall and his wife Caroline were next. Barry Howell was next. By the way Barry rode a Vincent around the world. Tom Murray and his friend Bernie Vanson took up the rear. By the way, Tom and Bernie rode their Triumphs around the world. I wonder who chalked up the most breakdowns?
For those who wish I would shut up and get on with what happened at Bonneville, well o.k. We're almost there.
After an uneventful trek to Wendover, gassing and feeding stops and the usual waitress peering out the window and asking, "What is that thing on the trailer?", we had arrived at our destination. The Chevy truck was 3,300 miles the worse for wear since leaving Wichita, the home of Black Lightning.
The now three month old Black Lightning , who had been sired by Black Lightning number five and number five by number four and so on, was to compete for the first time with the reigning champion, "The Bonneville Salt Flats". Many of the hopefuls that compete for the crown in their class pull up lame for one reason or another. Three mighty Vincent steeds went for the crown this year at Bonneville, each with far more potential to achieve the task for which they were bred. Rest assured that the trio will be back in the hunt for their crowns in 2005. Again rest assured that each will achieve their goal without a doubt. Now my reason for making such a bold statement is not that I have a crystal ball that foresees the future, but I do understand what makes the world go around, and that is "dedication" and "perseverance." The only thing that will change my opinion about the evolution process required to set records is if one of the current trio puts their bike on the trailer and says she hasn't got the horsepower to do the job. And that, boys and girls just ain't going to happen. There is always the potential of an unforeseen weak link, or human error--that's racing. But going back to the dedication and perseverance factor, the weak links eventually go away. So hang in there. Don't go away, "Gone With the Wind" was a long movie, but nobody left until the credits were given and the caboose was put on the screen, "The End".
After a long battle with the desk clerk about my reservations at the Rainbow Casino/ Motel, we got our five rooms on the same floor next to each other. Had a good nights sleep. The next morning we all ate breakfast at the truck stop which is at the entrance road to the flats. John MacDougall and I made a quick run to the salt bed entrance to check out the course and salt conditions. The salt was great and the forecast was good for the next four days, "no rain". There was some minor things that had to be checked on the liner and one thing that had to be fixed. When we off loaded the liner at Deer Lodge, the canopy wouldn't open. There are two 100 lb. gas cylinders that lift the canopy when the latch is released. The gas cylinders are in a horizontal position when closed, which creates a 200 lb. force trying to push the canopy aft. The canopy was designed to be adjustable, giving it the ability to close up the air gaps between the canopy and the portion of the body which is in a stationary position. The hinge, which is at the front portion of the canopy has milled slots with bolts which allow both fore and aft movement as well as up and down movement. The vibration from the trip loosened the bolts, causing the canopy to move aft, making it impossible to open the canopy with it's latch, as the design intended. The fix was to drill and tap 1/4 20 stop bolts to take the strain off the slotted portion of the hinge. Next I wanted to check the valve lash, as the valves had not been run since the bent valve ordeal three days prior to the liner's departure to the N.A. Rally. One other thing I wanted to check was the chute deployment. The new body was reshaped at it's tale and the chutes had never been fired to see if they would exit the new tail section properly.
There's a large parking area adjacent to the truck stop, so we off loaded the liner and set up the tents and commenced with the task at hand. One other thing that had to be fixed, which I forgot to mention, is that the air intake box mounted to the injector hat, has a flat lip around it's circumference that supports a piece of foam weather stripping, the kind used on old house doors and windows. When the body of the liner is in place. the fiberglass portion of the airscoop intake marries itself to the foam, forming a seal to prevent the hot ambient temperature inside the shell from entering the air intake. Also the seal allows the airscoop to do it's thing, i.e., at high speeds providing a positive pressure to the blower intake side. In an effort to form the lip on the aluminum box, I hit it with a hammer, breaking a portion of the welded lip. John fixed this with a little J.B. Weld.
We fixed the canopy problem (we thought) with the two alanhead capscrew stops. Tested the parachutes, they exited just fine. I had brought three boxes of shotgun shells and assigned Tom and Berni to take the shot out and fill the shot cavity with hot glue. This is required for the powder to burn and go bang--needs back pressure. No back pressure--no bang. We checked the valve lash and found two slightly bent push rods. All of the rocker covers had been relieved on the lathe and numbered. I had inadvertently put a couple of covers on in the wrong spot. We had spare push rods, so not a problem. We also discovered that one of the adjuster screw cups was broken, one side of the cup was gone. Had a spare screw adjuster, so not a problem. Next all the oil was drained from the duel primary cover. Found aluminum filings in the front engine oil tank. Rear engine O.K. Secondary primary drive O.K. Transmission o.k. Found filings in the breather catch can. What had happened was that the blower drive chain was too loose and the chain was rubbing in it's housing. As the front engine crankshaft is lower than the rear engine crankshaft and all of the cavities which had aluminum filings are married together due to the crankcase breathing system employed. The blower drive housing shavings found their way just about everywhere. The front engine oil tank was removed and flushed. The blower drive housing was flushed, as well as the catch can. The oil filter was changed on the front engine. The blower chain was properly adjusted, the primary was flushed, and all received fresh oil. With that taken care of we got word that the owner of the truck stop didn't want us in his lot. I offered him $200.00 for rent for one more day and he declined. He said, "You salt racers think you own the place!" H-mmm. Nothing to do but breakdown the tents and move.
After being told that we had to leave the parking lot, I decided to suspend any more work on the liner until we were on the salt in our pit. We hoisted the liner onto the salt trailer and took it to the end of the entrance road leading to the salt bed. The S.C.T.A. sets up a road block at this area to keep racers off the salt so that they can do their work preparing the two courses, setting up cone markers and laying down black lines 100 yards apart (I've been told that the 100 yards shrink to about 20 feet at over 300 mph.) on the full length of the short course well as the long course, grading the salt. setting up timing lights at the 2 1/4 mile, the 3 mile, the 4 mile, the 5 mile and the out the back door timing clock on the long course. The long course is for cars, trucks and motorcycles that are over 175 mph machines. The short course is for machines under 175 mph. These machines do not require parachutes for stopping. I don't know how many clocks are set up, nor do I know how long the course is, as I have never run the short course.
The next day was pretty much a day of rest and shooting the bull with fellow racers. I was interviewed on tape by Mrs. Shearer, who has recently been making a film/documentary on each year's contenders hopes and particulars on their machines. Caroline MacDougall made a run into town, bought fans, some consumables for the liner, and a couple of coolers for the daily sandwiches and drinks that were provided to the pit crew. Hartmut and his friend Marc was scheduled to fly in from Germany. Barry Howell volunteered to make the 110 mile drive into Salt Lake City to pick them up. (He's so easy)
The next day, the morning of the 13th, had finally arrived. We were there about 4:30 in the morning to hook up the two trailers. The reason for getting there early is the fact that the road going onto the salt is about three miles in length, two lane, but quite narrow. With the 400 or so entrants for the event you can see that the road gets pretty congested. The high rollers add more than their share with their 18 wheelers, that carry their toys and most often complete machine shops with spares for practically everything on the car. Then there is Black Lightning, the V.O.C. hopeful that has to consider and ponder a 10 cent cost increase in the gas budget to get to the salt. Nevertheless at 0600, when the flood gates were opened for the 400 contestants to enter the salt, Black Lightning was the first in line. The reason is that it is important to get your pit area set up and organized so you can get your vehicle in the next line, which is the first race of the event. The 13th was tech day. The drill is to get your vehicle in line as soon as possible, as this is quite time consuming.
The troops were in force by this time, the tents were being put up and the pit started looking pretty good in about an hour an a half.
In attendance from across the ponds, were Hartmut and Marc from Germany, Peter Wafford and his grandson who's name escapes me. Dick Perry and Ruth Perry from the UK, and later Terry Prince from Australia. The crowd from Canada, many former "Vibrac" members who saw fit to join the Lambky effort were Barrie Howell, Tom Murray, Bernie Vanson, John MacDougall, Caroline MacDougall, Ron Peers, Mark Mcknight, Ken Molynaus, Tony Cording, John Keatley, Kevin Keatly. From California came Don Angel, Sonny Angel, Larry Feece, Steve Doherty, John Caraway, Lenny Mcknight, Brenda Mcknight, Ray Hasken and his daughter, and Bill Easter and his wife. Bob Bonato, the NA Rally organiser, showed up for a couple of three days. And of course Mike Shea and myself. Forgive me if I left anyone out, it wasn't intentional.
An important scheduled member of the group was missing and that was Dave Campos. He had agreed to help with the riding chores. He had said he would school Don and Hartmut in the particulars of riding a streamliner. I had received a phone call from my wife Patti, while in Deer Lodge, she told me that Dave had called her to say he would not be able to make Speed Week. He had a serious kidney infection and a kidney stone that most likely needed surgery. He is now doing fine and feels pretty good about still holding his FIM record at 322.149 mph. However, he recognizes that he is no longer the "Worlds Fastest". So with Dave being a no show it was up to me as Crew Chief to make all the decisions pertaining to the rider's schooling.
The pit had been set up and some preliminary things had to be done before going to tech. The reason was that the more professional you look, with an appearance that you have all your ducks in a row, can only be a plus for getting your machine and designated riders through tech. A motorcycle streamliner requires three tech inspectors to sign off their portion of the rule book that is applicable, two of the inspectors cover the motorcycle portion of the streamliner and there is one car inspector that covers the portion of the streamliner that is applicable to cars, such as fire suits for the rider, fire bottles, and so on. First we had to suit up Hartmut with the fire suit to see if it fit. It did. So the next step was to see if he could get in and out of the liner under his own power without assistance. Next was to see if he could meet the time requirement to exit the liner in 20 seconds being fully strapped into the six point safety harness with the canopy closed. He could do this much faster than Don. (Boy, to be young again and have some of that dexterity and speed back.) The next thing was to familiarize Hartmut with the layout of all pedals, switches, levers, buttons and pull knobs which have to be memorized to a point of being able to touch each with your eyes closed. There were four foot pedals employed in the 2004 attempt; there will only be two pedals employed in the 2005 attempt. More on that later. The pedals are: gas pedal, brake pedal, tow release pedal and clutch pedal. They are in a cluster, not more than a foot square, and not visible to the rider when strapped in. It takes a little time to visualize in your mind and be able to go from one to the other in the blink of an eye. Next are the switches: they are the master electrical switch, the ignition switch, the fuel shut off switch, the air shifter switch and the rear chain cooler switch. There are two electrical buttons and they are for the low and high speed parachute deployment system. There are two pull knobs, which activate the two ten pound fire bottles, one for the engine compartment and one for the riders cockpit. There are four levers, two of which are for the low and high speed parachutes. It is required in the rule book, if the primary parachute deployment system is electrically operated you must have a mechanical back up. The third lever is for the two way CO2 valve that activates the skids movement, both up and down, the forward position of the lever allows CO2 to exit the CO2 bottle at 250 lbs to the upper portion of the two way skid air cylinders, pushing the skids down. The opposite takes place when the lever is moved aft, forcing the skids to the up position. Lever number four is not a requirement, but is a feature that most salt racers employ, and that is a shut off valve to the Halon 13 nozzle for the cockpit fire extinguishing system. Halon won't kill you to breath, but too much will make it very difficult to breath.
Hartmut commented to me after I told him that the scrutineers would drill him on his familiarity with the liner's whistles and bells. "Damn, There is a lot more to this than I ever imagined. You're going to have to give me awhile to absorb all of this stuff. Now what did you say that's for?" I said, "For crying out loud, there are only eighteen things to remember, Hartmut. How much time do you need?" He replied with a hand gesture. I can't believe that this gesture is universal in meaning. In Germany it must mean some sort of signal, such as, "I understand what you're saying, and I agree," or possibly it is a gesture like we use thumbs up, only he wasn't using his thumbs. Anyway, Don and Hartmut were left with the whistles and bells and in about 30 minutes they were both able to identify and locate all systems actuating devices blindfolded. Don couldn't find one of the wrist restraints that would be required at tech, so this was a problem. The "Deist" company, the manufacturer of safety equipment for race cars, had their truck near the tech area to aid racers such as ourselves, who need their help to get through tech. $40.00 dollars later we had three wrist restraints under our tent. Guess what? Don found the other restraint, Now there were four. However, my weigh in was now two twenty dollar bills lighter.
There was still a lot of organizing that had to be done. Now that the riders had gone through their preliminary schooling and passed with flying colors. Next was to familiarize the new crew as to loading the liner on the salt trailer. Steve Doherty was put in charge of this. We had been communicating by e-mail as to the height and size of ball required for his Blazer tow package. He would be the person that would retrieve the liner after each run and return it to the pits. Three pit crew members were assigned to assist Steve with this important phase of running a streamliner. Not only does he pick up the liner at the end of a run, he is also responsible to aid in the event of a crash. His tow vehicle has to have a c.b. which is in communication with the tower. As the salt is so vast and the liner is so small, seeing the darn thing is a bit of a chore. The tower directs the liner's assist vehicle i.e. Steve, as well as the S.C.T.A. safety crew to the crash scene. Steve was fully prepared, providing the c.b. required and training his three helpers. All I can say is that they all did a great job throughout the entire meet, going through the drill at least 20 times. Thanks Steve, and crew.
I had 30 or so T-shirts made with pit crew above the front pocket, which were passed out to all the pit crew members. Just a touch to make us look more professional for we were about to enter the Twilight Zone, where anything can happen, i.e. tech. The pit crew were instructed that all who would be going to the line for a run had to have a pink wrist band, which told the line officials that they had signed a waiver in the case of an accident. The signer of the waiver couldn't in anyway hold the S.C.T.A. accountable in a court of law.
We pitted at about the four mile marker of the long course. The tech area was set up at about the two mile marker. With money in the pocket for entry fees and B.N.I. Membership dues for the riders and a few Black Lightning T-shirts for officials. How can I say this? Let's see. They are flexible in interpreting the rules. That's it. The liners log book was put into the truck and all was ready. The order was given to "round ''em up and head ''em out' Steve did his thing and we were soon in the tech line. There were thirty or so ahead of us, so the wait began, moving up one bike at a time, after the scrutineers either passed the contestant or gave the contestant a list of items that require attention before they would give him a "go". first, I sent Don and Hartmut to get their B.N.I. membership and have them get their rider waiver signed. Riders receive a yellow wrist band, I wish they would change the color of the yellow wrist band, because 40 years ago we used to meet at Sonny Angels Motorcycle Shop for rides in the twisties of the California mountains. I was really out of my league. Don Vesco, Sonny, Digger, Rebel, to only name a few were so much faster than I was, it was a bit embarrassing. It wasn't the machine they were beating, as I always took my Vincent. It was the man. One of the fast guys tagged me with the handle "yellow wrist". I can't remember who. Oh, well, going around a corner fast wasn't my cup of tea. Later in my life a quarter mile straight line was more to my liking. Here someone tagged me with "Mad Max, the Kansas Bad Man" Somehow this one met my approval and the yellow wrist was forgotten. Sure do wish they would change those yellow wrist bands for the riders!
On with tech. I was aware that sometimes contestants that have preregistered for the event and who can not make the event for whatever reason, sell there entry at cost. The pre entry fee for the 2004 event was $325.00. Those of us that didn't meet the deadline for the pre entry fee figure, were facing a $425.00 late fee charge. Pre entry fees are not refundable by B.N.I./S.C.T.A. However, they are allowed to be sold. The lady at the registration booth who collects Bonneville racers T-shirts and has been collecting them for several years (someone told me she has around 6,000 at present) is the lady that is in the know as to who wants to sell their pre entry. So she got a Black Lightning T-shirt and I got a name.
We finally got the liner under the tech tent. The log book was given to the head official. This book was up to date with all pertinent data as to what was changed since the last running of the liner. It was several pages in length as to the changes and by the rules they must check each change. as their format was in a logical sequence and my log book was not, it was soon found out that this was not working that well. They determined that the liner would be treated as a brand new streamliner. The only problem with that was that they could not use the 785 log book. A new log book and number had to be assigned to Black Lightning. So a trip to another registration booth for new machines had to be made. For a $10.00 bill I walked away with a new log book and a sticker that is permanently placed on the machine. The reason for the B.N.I./L.S.R. sticker is this: Once upon a time there was a Bonneville racer a bit lacking in scruples. He had built two cars identical in all respects except for the size of the engines. One was big and one was small. Not detectable in their external appearance. The big incher made the record run in the little inchers class, setting a record in that class. The big incher, after the record run, was swapped for the little incher and taken to impound for the checking of the engine displacement size. Need I say more as to the reason for the B.N.I./L.S.R. sticker?
Now that I had a new sticker that matched the log book, the inspection of the liner began in ernest. In approximately two hours the inspection of the liner with it's two riders was over. Both Don and Hartmut passed the familiarity test and their ability to exit the liner below the time requirement. Don's fire suit snagged on the Halon 13 shut off lever, one of the scrutineers wanted the lever turned so it was more out of the road. When Hartmut made his exit, which was more like someone being shot out of a cannon, he took the skid CO2 lever with him. I must have made some remark to Hartmut that it was o.k. that I had heard that he brakes his Vincent all the time and in lieu of that I brought a spare lever assembly. Anyway he gave me a thumbs up the German way, not using his thumb again. We were truly starting to get along well, I thought. The next discrepancy found was that I forgot to drill drain holes in the new belly pan that I had built. I knew of the rule book requirement for the holes, it was just an oversight on my part. The next thing that came under scrutiny was the very nicely done helmet retaining bucket. One of the scrutineers thought I used too soft a foam. One other pointed out that the material used to cover the foam did not have a sticker stating that it was fire proof. I pointed out in my old log book that the four previous times the liner was brought to the salt for tech, tech officials always made a comment about the padding. There was always something that they didn't like. One stated the foam was too hard, one stated that the foam should be held in place with duck tape, which I pointed out goes off like gasoline when a match is put to it. Anyway I got the car scrutineer over to the side and pointed out how ludicrous all of this was and stated that "rules are only made to aid common sense" I handed him a Black Lightning T-shirt. He signed off the helmet bucket portion of the check list with another comment that I was to do something about this before the next meet. Go figure.
The next thing was the parachutes. In the entire history of the parachute deployment system, and I'm talking about liner number one to liner number six, all of which had the same system and never failed. When asked to deploy the chutes "surprise, surprise." The high speed chute left the cannon only about two feet. Should have been about 15 feet. The low speed didn't even get all the way out the barrel. What had happened was that when I gave the job to load the shotgun shells with hot glue, I didn't make myself clear enough. When the glue is being placed in the shell casings you have to go slow, giving the glue dwell time to enter the cavity really hot-- so it bonds itself properly to the casings sides. If the glue is too cold the wad does not provide the back pressure to get the powder to burn. The only thing that went off when the trigger was pulled was the shotgun shells cap, not the powder.
We had our scrutineers discrepancy list, so it was back to the pits. Mike loaded up some good shotgun shells and the chutes were repacked. The Halon 13 lever was turned out of the road. The CO2 lever was replaced with a spare, and four holes were drilled in the belly pan. That taken care of, I drove back to the tech tent to get a scrutineer to sign off the remaining items. It was closed down by this time, as it was about 7 p.m. The scrutineers were all having a beer and were not excited at all about going to my pit and checking off the remaining discrepancies. I knew that if I didn't get them signed off that day I would have to get back in line the next day. It's amazing what a couple of Black Lightning T-shirts can do. A couple of the tech people volunteered after putting their newlyy acquired Black Lightning T-shirts into their pick ups. Then they witnessed the chute deployment. They came out about 15 feet this time. They signed off on all the items, so I was set for the next day. All I had to do was to show the T-shirt lady my paper work and she would in turn give me my packet, which included a sticker that is placed on the nose of the liner. That Makes you a legal contender and participant of the meet.
We were all pretty tired so we secured the pit area for the evening and headed off the salt to our digs. When we reached the asphalt exit road, we were stopped by the very two people that had signed off the last discrepencies on the liner. They were now clad in Black Lightning T-shirts. The spokesman of the group approached the driver's side of my pickup, beer in hand and said that we were to turn over any alcoholic beverages that we had for safety reasons. Sounds logical to me.
That evening I invited the crew for dinner at the Rainbow. Hartmut had made a mantel piece from aluminum and presented it to me. It was much like a small trophy, but of jewelry quality. It was highly polished and nicely done. He had hand shaped a piece of aluminum in the shape of Black Lightning about 6 in length. The pedestal was a 7.3 specialloid piston, highly polished with a coin slot in it's crown. There was a threaded and knurled cap for the bottom of the piston, which became the base. It was engraved "To Mad Max from the Ace Hartmut Weidelich" When he presented it he said "Open it up.", which I did. There was a 200 Euro note in the piston's cavity. He had made a statement on jtan that he would not be coming empty handed. Truly a man of his word. I pointed out that there was no air scoop on the model of Black Lightning that he had made and I felt that it would have had a better effect and would have been more appropriate to have used a 13.5 piston than the 7.3. He gave me another one of his unique thumbs up gestures. What a guy.
We all arrived the next morning at 0600 at the pit area. The plan of the day (an old Navy way of doing things, where the plan of the day is read at morning quarters) was to do tow ups. I never thought about this, but the Navy operated pretty much on a day to day basis, much like you have to do when running your machine on the flats.
I gathered up all my paper work, headed for the T-shirt lady's booth, showed her that Black Lightning had jumped through all the hoops required by the BNI/SCTA. She gave me my packet. So four Black Lightning T-shirts, $445.00 and 13 hours of hard work later, we got our sticker. Back at the pits Hartmut was given the honors of putting the sticker on the nose of Black Lightning.
The first thing I wanted to do was check out the liner and see if it still would run, and let the crew who had never heard it before hear the thunderous bark of two blown Vincents. This taken care of, Hartmut commented, "You're crazY! You can hear the horsepower!"
This was the first day of the meet. There was to be a riders meeting at 11:00 a.m. Both Hartmut and Don had to attend the meeting, and the first runs were to commence at 0100 p.m. I made the decision that we would not go to the line for a run until the riders were thoroughly capable of getting the liner up on it's wheels and the liner was ready. So dead stick tow ups, and further checks of the liner were in order. There were a couple of things that I forgot to mention--the motorcycle scrutineers wanted to witness our tow up procedures prior to any runs, and when Don presented his "B" license to the scrutineers it was deemed invalid due to it's age after four years of inactivity. For any rider this license is invalid and he must start all over. Hence our first run would be limited.
Don was only permitted to go 150 mph instead of the 200 mph we had hoped to do.
There was a designated area that was two miles wide and five miles long where testing could be done, such as tow ups and low speed power run ups. I wanted to do a couple of tow ups with Don without any scrutineers around to make sure there were no malfunctions of the skids, tow release, or the rider's ability to get her up on her wheels. The designated area had not been graded, however, the salt was in excellent condition. The liner was loaded and taken to the designated area. I put out the word that we were first going to do a photo op while the liner was still shiney, and that anyone wanting to take pictures was welcome. The photo op session went on for about 45 minutes, then it was time to put don in the cockpit for his first tow up. John Macdougall and I picked out a mountain peak on the horizon that would serve as our reference point for our tow up course--if you don't do this you will find yourself going around in circles. We drove the five miles to ensure that there were no debris on our course. There wasn't. We turned around and followed our tracks back to the liner. Put Don into the cockpit. Hooked up the tow line to the glider release on the liner and the tow bar on the pick up. The pickup tow bar is a bar that can telescope about three feet from the side of the pickup. The reason for this is that in the event the liner should ever accelerate out of control for whatever reason it would give the rider a better chance to miss the tow vehicle. Keep in mind there is very little steering on a streamliner. Second is when the pick up accelerates it kicks up salt from it's rear wheels and gets on the liner's wind screen. Third is so the rider can better see the hand signal given to the rider when he has reached his speed and it is time to release. We towed Don up to 60 mph. The signal was given. Don hit the tow release (it worked) and he was on his way. He was on his right skid and when he tried to get it up on it's wheels he didn't catch it in time and went to the left skid with a bang. The jarring effect caused the canopy release to malfunction and the canopy popped up. Eventually he coasted to a stop. You see now why I didn't want any scrutineers around.
So it was back to the pits to figure out what to do about the canopy. Also Don reported that it was difficult to see due to the polished bits in the cockpit, which caused a glaring reflection on the Lexan wind screen. The fix was to use flat black paint and black duct tape to cover up the shiney bits, to eliminate the canopy gas shocks, and fiddle with the latch on the canopy a bit. With this all taken care of we went back to the testing area.
Don was towed up five times and we were finally getting our act together. Each time Don would get the liner up on it's wheels earlier and go further without the skids touching. He was learning how to ride a streamliner.
Now it was Hartmut's turn. He had been communicating with Don, getting as much information as possible in what to expect. Hartmut was towed up to 70 mph, hit the tow release and immediately got the liner up on it's wheels. I might point out that you just have to be there to appreciate how far the liner coasts at a 70 mph drop off point; about two and a half miles--hard to believe but true. When Hartmut got out of the liner he was all smiles and hollered, "This is fun!"
We ran the drill again with Hartmut, and I'll tell you he is a natural when it comes to riding a streamliner. Both Don and Hartmut will be the pilots for 2005, without a doubt. I do believe Black Lightning will keep her paint job intact with this talented duo.
Both Don and Hartmut reported to me that the only thing that they noticed was that the liner was easier to steer to the right then the left. I knew it wasn't a weight balance factor causing the problem. It had to be rear end steering caused by the back wheel not being in proper alignment. Sure enough, when I mentioned to the crew what the problem was John MacDougall told me that he thought the rear wheel may have moved when he tightened the rear axle. Hartmut checked the fixed alignment reference points and found the rear wheel .050 out of align. John and Hartmut aligned the rear wheel and tightened her down and keyed everything back up with safety wire. A few other things that went on the first day were: a continued sale of T-shirts, Barry Howell, "Mr. Easy" volunteered to go back to Salt Lake City and pick up Terry Prince, Steve Doherty bought three 5 gallon cans of alcohol. It was around 7 p.m. Another 13 hours of work or play (whichever you prefer) had transpired, so it was back to the digs for a rest, a bite to eat and a cold beer.
Day two of the meet began at 0600. The liner was given a going over, tightening all the nuts and bolts. Hartmut got a marking pen somewhere, so as the bolts were checked they received a mark, so none would be overlooked. There are 10 to 15 times as many fasteners on the liner as on a normal Vincent, so this is time consuming. I gave Hartmut and Marc, his friend, the chores of the CO2 system. Ron Peers was tires and wheels, John MacDougall was chains, spark plugs and valve lash, Mike Shea parachutes and had a helper, can't remember who. Then there were crew members who continually cleaned the salt off the bike and kept gas in the generator, charged the batteries for the starter and the on board battery, and so on. Lots of stuff to do. So the crew was kept pretty busy. Hartmut found three leaks in the CO2 system which were fixed. But the most disturbing thing was that John found another bent push rod. If you recall two push rods had been replaced earlier. I had forgotten the spare push rods were 1/16 of an inch longer than the bent ones they replaced. The bent push rod problem had to be solved, as we only had two spares left. Sure you can straighten a bent push rod if not bent too badly, I've done it many times, but it's not my preferred method in dealing with it. I had brought a rotary file. We had a vise. We had a generator and an electric drill, so a makeshift machine shop was set up. John MacDougall and Mike Shea began giving the rocker caps more clearance. Each rocker was put in it's most extreme opening position.. The degree wheels were marked. For those who don't know, both engines have permanently attached stainless steel degree wheels. The rocker caps were done one at a time; the engines were rolled backwards until the valve was closed, then the cap was installed without a gasket. The engines were then rolled forward to the marked degree wheel position; then the cap was screwed home until it hit the rocker adjusting screw. A measurement was taken of the air gap between the gasket surface of the rocker cap and the head. This measurement had to be a minimum of .040 smaller than the thickness of the gasket. This was done on all eight rocker caps, taking about four hours. This taken care of, it was off to the tech tent to try to capture an official to observe a tow up. An hour later I returned with the famous "Dale". I won't get into this one, but if there's anyone out there who knows Dale you know what I'm talking about. We loaded everything up and went back to the tow up area. Don had to put on his fire suit for the tow up (that's Dale) so a runner was sent back to the pits to get the suit. We strapped Don in and towed him up to speed. He released. He got it up on it's wheels the best ever and rode the liner for a full 2 1/2 miles without touching the skids to the salt. Don reported later that the wheel alignment and the fact that he was wearing his fire suit made a world of difference. He said, "With the suit on you're tighter in the cockpit. You feel like you're part of the bike and it's a piece of cake to keep it up on it's wheels. Everybody was happy except Dale. He wanted to do it again for what reason I will never know. We did it again, same results. Dale was happy and if Dale was happy I was on cloud nine. He's one of the hardest officials on the salt in my opinion.
The liner was taken back to the pits. The day was gone. It was around 7 o'clock by the time we tidied up the pit. So again back to the digs after another 13 hours. Boy! Isn't this fun? And we were all getting a tan. It just doesn't get any better than this. To quote Brian Chapman, "A bad day at the race track is better than a good day at the office." I might add, by far!
You thought I was going to leave something out of the story, didn't you, Hartmut? Ha! Ha! Fooled you. Not a chance.
Hartmut's second tow up ended like this. He hit the skid lever on his exit from the cockpit again. He didn't break the lever off this time, but he did manage to move it to the up position. The liner fell over on it's right side! We put Black Lightning back on her wheels by putting the skid lever to the down position. With the help of the skid under pressure it's easy to roll her back up on her wheels. No damage was done.
I commented, "Now that you have mastered exiting my liner in the crashed position I guess you are fully qualified to make a run. Don't you think?" He gave me his German version of the thumbs up gesture again. We were really communicating well, I thought.
Day three of the meet started at 0600. I wanted to fire it up one more time to check the ignition. We were having a bit of difficulty with the front engine point set up. The design was faulty in that the bearings that supported the shaft were to close together, causing the point cam to wobble a bit. The ol' saying, "The wiggle wire to the wobble shaft is working perfectly," somehow fit what was going on. One of the two sets of points had to be opened up to a .040 gap to bring the cylinder into time. It was number two cylinder. Anyway John and Hartmut got it as good as it could be got, so to speak. The engines were fired and by the cylinder head temperature gauges, they were all firing about the same. That being checked, it was finally time to take the liner to the line for it's first run of the meet.
Everybody did their thing and we were soon in line. There are short lines, long lines, and then there are really long lines. I'll let you guess which one we were in. Four and one half hours later we were next to make a run when the wind picked up and we were given the option to wait until the wind was below five miles per hour or wait until morning and we could make the first run of the day. The wind usually doesn't come up until mid morning so there were my options. I chose to wait and see if the wind would die down a bit. After about another hour wait, the wind was down to about seven miles per hour I talked to the Line Judge to see if I could make a run, telling him that we were limited to a 150 mph run and the run would be made with the skids down. He said under those conditions he would allow the run. So Don suited up, got in the cockpit, buckled up and I hooked up the tow truck and started the generator.(We use two 800 amp hour 12v large boat batteries, plus the booster start on a large battery charger) The 24 Volt Diesel truck starter has never failed to start the beast. The transmission is placed in low gear prior to start up. The drill would be to signal Don when to push the clutch in and I would start the engines; John and I would walk slowly to the tow truck, giving the engines a little warm up time, get into the truck and tow Don away. That was the plan and on paper it worked perfectly. The drill had never been practiced in real time.
The Line Judge got word from the tower that the track was clear and Black Lightning owned the course. He pointed to me to fire her up. The signal was given to Don to push the clutch pedal down. I got the signal that Don had the clutch disengaged and guess what? I hit the starter and the starter would not turn the engines over. I tried it again. Same thing. The Line Judge gave me the signal we were done, and brought the next car to the line. Nothing to do but take the liner back to the pit and see what went wrong. Back at the pit we pulled the plugs, blew the engines down. I thought there was a hydraulic lock (a load of fuel in the cylinders). There was fuel, but not that much. Don told me that it was probably his fault. He said he didn't think he pushed the clutch in far enough. "What a revolting development this is" as Amos used to tell Andy on the radio show back in the 40's.
We checked Don's theory out and found that that was what had happened. He didn't push the clutch in far enough. This was not Don's fault. This was my fault as Crew Chief. Things like this are supposed to be ironed out prior to going to the line through practice drills, for which I am responsible.
Day three was over. It was around 7 o'clock and another 13 hour day on the salt had been logged. Back to the ranch with all thinking, "We'll do better tomorrow."
I forgot to mention that the liner was put back into line on day three. This was about 3:30 in the afternoon. We had started to work our way up in line and then mother nature took charge of the meet. A rain cloud was coming in fast, as they always do at Bonneville. There was wind. So much wind that around 5:00 p.m. the officials shut down the track for the day. We left the liner in line and headed back to our pits.
Day four we were on the road going to the salt by 0600. The officials were checking out the damage caused by the wind and rain the night before. The damage was light. A few marker cones were in the next county, but nothing serious. They opened the track to the contestants around 0730. Back in the pits we checked things out. Everything was O.K., so it was back to the line. We hooked up the liner to Steve's Blazer and commenced the wait for the track to dry out. It was windy so this only took about an hour and a half. The line began to move, and three hours later we were finally back to the starting line.
The EZ Hook liner was about five spots in front of us during the long wait. While working your way up to the front there isn't much to do but look at other salt racer's machines. Some very impressive and some not so impressive. The EZ Hook machine is one of the very impressive ones. Anyway I spoke to Sam and said I had gotten the word that he was not going to make this meet and that he would instead try for the record at the Bub Meet. He said that had been the original plan, but he didn't want to take the chance of a rainout of the Bub Meet. He asked where I was and said that he had heard that I had built a new streamliner for 2004, and that he'd like to see it. We jumped into the pickup and drove about 1/4 mile back to where Black Lightning was waiting her turn. Sam commented that she looked real good and that he thought his EZ Hook was small, but Black Lightning was even smaller. I took this as a compliment as Sam knows as well as I do that, "small goes fast".
Sam was in front of us like I said. He made his run 334 and change. Then came over the loud speaker, "The fastest recorded speed a motorcycle's run in history has been made today!" I must say I was glad to have been there to witness the flawless and fastest run ever. Congratulations Sam!
It was now our turn, so everything was made ready for the run. I was doing the signaling to the rider this time and Hartmut was the starter man. The signal was given and Hartmut fired the liner. It really sounded good. The tow up was made; the liner was dropped off at 60 mph. We peeled off to the right of the track and Black Lightning accelerated in a rush past us and in the blink of an eye was nothing but a small dot heading for the horizon between two black lines. We had the C.B. on the tower channel, and in a matter of seconds the word came over the C.B. that 785 aborted at the two mile marker. We were ordered to pick up our vehicle and get it off the track as soon as possible.
Steve was at the five mile. Remember he's the one with the salt trailer. So it was up to John and I in the tow truck to get Don off the course. By the time we got there the SCTA safety crew were already there. Those guys are fast. They were checking to see if Don needed their assistance. When a vehicle aborts nobody knows why. It could be a fire or anything. So we hooked him up and towed him the five miles back to the pits on the return road. The return road is between the area where the pits are and the long course. There are turn in roads about every 1/4 mile into the pit area from the return road. They're pretty narrow. The cars have no problem making the turn but a motorcycle streamliner that takes a country mile to make a turn does. So here we were again, about to go through a drill that we'd never gone through and that was to signal the rider to use his brake to slow down the liner, while keeping the tow line tight while the tow vehicle slowed down. Anyway, trying to signal Don to put on the brake didn't work. I slowed down. The liner, which has very little rolling resistance, kept on going, running over the tow line with it's front wheel parting the tow line. This was a narrow escape from a disaster in the making. Somebody up there must have been thinking, "These guys are having enough trouble. I'll give them a break on this one."
Don got out of the liner and this time Don hit the skid lever by mistake and the liner was once again put on her side. No damage. Hartmut felt better I think. Steve loaded the liner up, made the turn and the 200 yard trip to the pit.
Now there was a debriefing with Don to try to figure out what went wrong. He reported that the liner was really accelerating in low gear, pulling like a train. It had lots of torque and then it just stopped pulling and went down to a fast idle. He said he let up on the throttle and the transmission popped out of low , so he aborted.
So the checking out of the liner began. I first thought that it had to be in the fuel. The nozzles, fuel filters, fuel lines were all checked, nothing wrong. Then the fuel pump itself was checked. Nothing wrong. Put everything back together and checked the ignition. Nothing wrong. There was nothing to do but fire it up and see if I could figure out what was going on. It fired right up, taking a throttle at times better than the previous. This was a bit perplexing, as I 'd never experienced this phenomena in all my years of tuning motorcycles. After going from the richest pill I dared put in her fuel system, to the leanest pill I dared to put in her, there was little change. You could blip the throttle and it wasn't right, but not bad. The next time you blipped the throttle it was terrible. Let it idle a bit and it was back to not good but not bad. after about six pill "jet" changes and six start ups I was really starting to doubt my ability to figure this one out. So it was back to checking the ignition. Hartmut on the points. John turning the engines over. Mike Shea, while fiddling around happened to look down the injector with the butterfly open. He said, "The blower is turning, but jerky, then stops when John turns the engine over." The problem had been found. Either the blower drive shaft keys, (there are three of them) had sheared, or the shaft had sheared, or the four 1/4 28 blower shaft flange screws had sheared. Whatever was sheared was grabbing and causing the blower to turn over sporaticly with the fixed ratio between the blower and the crankshaft. It all started to make sense. What was happening, the fuel air ratio was impossible to get a handle on. The blower giving air at times, but never a constant with the engine rpms as it should be. Nothing to do but take her apart and hope for the best. We found that it was the blower flange drive bolts that had sheared. The salt dyno hadn't put us on the trailer yet. This could be fixed.
The fix was to get the sheared off bolts out of the blower gear, replace the bolts and drill four additional holes for pins, for additional strength. We worked on the fix until they kicked us off the salt around 8 o'clock that night. John had taken on the chore of drilling the holes in the flange and the gear, and Don finally got the sheared off bolts out. We were all pretty tired after another day on the salt. This one being 14 hours in duration.
Day five proved to be the worst yet. A big storm hit the salt. Lots of rain and winds of 70 mph were going on while the crew slept. We arrived as usual at 0600. No one was allowed on the salt except the SCTA work force. The c.b. was being monitored to see how bad things were. The course was reported very wet and a lot of damage in the pits. Tents blown away and so on. We had not taken down our tents as usual, as we were just too darn tired to do so the night before, so we expected the worst. After a two hour biting our nails wait, they opened the gates. Lots of water to the left of the road going to the pit area. The impound area was under water. We all thought that this wasn't good for the EZ Hook machine, who was scheduled to back up his 334 record speed.
We got to our pit and started to inspect the damage. Both tent awnings were gone; the salt trailer awning was gone; the tents frame work was twisted, bent and broken and lying on the ground; one of the tent pipes had hit the nose of the liner, putting a big gouge in the paint work, and the big shocker was that the fiberglass tail of the streamliner was gone. "Woe is me," I thought. "We have a major problem here in river city." I sent a couple of scouts out to look for the tail section in the direction of the big wind, and started getting the tent poles sorted out.
John, looking at the situation, figured that there was going to be a run on anything that resembled an awning or tarp, and figured he better get into Wendover as soon as he could to get tarps or whatever. So off John went to Wendover.
No sooner had John left than one of the pit crew found our main tent awning stuffed under the highway trailer. The wind didn't do that. Someone had to have put it there. Kinda like Goldilocks and the three bears, "Someone has been eating my porridge". Someone had been in our pit during the storm and tried to help. Another crew member that was straightening up the tools and wiping things down found a note in the tool box. It was from the night security force that is tasked with keeping looters off the salt. The note told us where everything was. They had put the liner's tail section in one of those high rollers 18 wheelers. You'll never hear me bitch about those guys again. So for those of you who think there are no good people left in the world, think again. There are still a few.
Terry Prince was straightening some of the bent poles and sorting that mess out. Five of the poles were beyond repair. When John got back with the tarps, John and I made a bee line back into town to get some more electrical conduit pipe at the only hardware store in Wendover. Got five sticks of conduit. Back to the pits. We had the pit up and running in about four hours. It was now noon.
So it was back to fixing the blower drive. The job was finished about 3 p.m. I fired it up a couple of times, dialing in the fuel curve. Now she was responding like a good girl. I decided not to take the liner to the line. After the no fire the first time we took it to the line; and the second time was the aborted run. Both taking 7 and 1/2 hours of waiting in line, I wanted to at least make a full pass before the meet was over.
We loaded everything up and headed for the tow up area. It was luckily pretty dry salt. This time we would fire up the liner and Don was told to give it a couple of throttle ups. He did and each time he hit the throttle it left a black mark on the salt for about 100 feet. He hit the throttle twice and managed to get the liner stopped by using the brake. Again on the second throttle up, the transmission popped out of gear. We could live with this as it wasn't coming out of gear under power. Not perfect, but livable. Back to the pits. By this time it was too late to get back in line. It was over for the day. so back to Wendover for the night life of the big city. For me that meant food, shower and bed. One thing I forgot. The EZ Hook made the back up run to make her the fastest in the world. We gave Sam a bottle of bubbly and our congratulations.
Day six we were all in the pit area by 0630. Dave Matson was starting to pit next to us. I think he'd made a 217 mph. run a couple of days before. He said it was running rich. He also said he had an oil leak somewhere but was working on it.
Anyway we fueled Black Lightning up; Steve and crew loaded her up and headed for the line. I instructed Don to take the liner up to 3500 rpm. in low, second and third gear. I told him this would be around 150 to 160 mph. due to Don's expired "B" license. I wanted to check all three gears under load. I wanted to make the most out of the run so I told him to gas it after the out the back door clock, which is just after the five mile timing clock. I told him to take her up to 5000 rpm so I could get a better idea as to my fuel curve at high rpm. At least the scrutineers wouldn't have a time in excess of 150 mph to raise a fuss about.
The line was finally getting a bit shorter. Many contestants had either broken their toys or had left the salt waiting for the 2005 rule book to be printed, where their pride and joy would be recognized with a number beside their joy's name, which tells the world he or she is the fastest in their class.
So after a two hour wait in line and about another one hour wait for the wind to cooperate, we were given ownership of the course once again. We went through the same drill as before, and I might add that practice makes perfect. The crew were really getting it down pat, and looked very professional. Steve had left about 20 minutes prior and was at the five mile marker. The reason for this is so that he can best position himself in the case of an emergency to cut down response time. When the liner is seen coming into his view he takes the return road at 35 mph. speed limit and follows the liner to the end of the course, helping Don with water, Don gets out of the firesuit as soon as he can. With 100 degree + temperatures and the wind screen acting like a magnifying glass on the rider, it increases the ambient temperature inside the cockpit to around 120 degrees. He's bundled up in a 1 1/2 inch thick fire suit--well, I think you get the picture. HOT HOT HOT! It takes about 25 minutes to load the liner onto the salt trailer and make the five mile trek back to the pit after a run.
The run was made. The liner showed really good handling characteristics, straighter than a string, right down the middle of the course. John and I headed toward our pit. We had the c.b. on and heard the tower report 153 mph. at the 2 1/4 mile, 138 mph. at the 3 mile. No report at the 4 and 5 mile. I thought Don had aborted again. No report from the tower of an abort, so there was nothing to do but wait back at the pit for Don's report. Sonny said that he liner looked really good at the three--very stable. That's where our pit was, at the three.
MacDougall's wife Caroline, commented that it was all worth it to see the liner make it to the other end. Terry Prince said it was only running about 3000 rpm. at the three. He didn't realize that we were limited to a 150 mph run by the scrutineers.
It seemed like forever before we spotted Steve with the liner in tow, approaching the pit. Now came the debrief with Don to give us a blow by blow account of the run. This is what he said as best I can remember. "The liner has lots of torque. It's easy to ride. I took it up like you said. It went right up to 3500 in low, I shifted to second. It shifts good, I took it up to 3500 in second. It accelerates real easy. It's got lots of grunt. Shifted to third and tried to keep it at 3500. It's kind of hard to do because the throttle is real sensitive. The slightest touch and the "R's" go up. I did the best I could to keep it around 3500. After the five I punched it like you said you wanted me to do. The clutch didn't hold and I knew it was slipping. I let up on it to try and save the clutch. It popped out of high when I let up on it. I thought the clutch might hold in second. I back shifted to second and really nailed it full throttle. The throttle stuck and the thing went up to 4500 rpm before I could get the ignition shut off. The clutch wasn't slipping, or if it was I couldn't feel. It really pulls hard Macky." (He calls me Macky and I call him Donny by the way.) He put his arm around me and said, "I think we have a winner this time." He went on to say, "Before I could get it shut off it sounded like it lost a cylinder, and when I pulled the high speed chute I could feel it pulling the liner from side to side. The low speed seemed to work O.K."
One of the crew, I can't remember who, handed me the timing slip. It read 153, 138, 142,151, 000. No speed out the back door was given. We quickly calculated the speed at 4500 rpm in second gear. When Donny goosed it after the timed run, he got it up to around 205 mph, before he had to shut it off due to the stuck throttle.
So the tail was removed and with the information in hand from Donny, we commenced to check out the liner's power plant. I didn't know at this time that Black Lightning had been hurt as badly as she was. I fully intended to make another run that day, possibly two, if we hurried. The tire crew was cleaning salt from the tires and checking tire pressure. I had Mike change out the high speed chute with the new one that we had in our spares. Just a quick comment on parachutes. I don't know if you have ever been around kite competition. When stationed in Japan years and years ago, while in the U.S. Navy, this sport was quite popular with the Japanese. They had several categories to compete in, I can't remember all, but one I do remember was the dancing kite class. Well, our high speed chute could have competed quite effectively. Let me tell you our chute, as reported by the five mile timer was a dancer whipping from side to side, then up and down. When Donny pulled the chute at a little over 200 mph. he felt it, at 350 mph it would have probably put him on his side.
The next thing to check was the sticking throttle. There was no way the throttle could stick. It is cable operated and has no less than five springs to return the butterfly to it's idle position. What had happened here was that the 1/4 20 allen screw, which attaches the throttle arm on the butterfly to the female slot which is machined into the piece of aluminum on the end of the pull cable. had been left out. When I was playing with the pills, trying to iron out the blower problem, Mike had removed the screw, so I could better operate the hat's butterfly. It was never replaced. So when Donny gave it more throttle than it ever had been given before at the end of the run, the throttle butterfly arm found it's way out of the female slot and lodged itself in the wide open position. Lots of things happened and lots of things were found out by the throttle's wide open position with the liner being under load.
It was noticed by Hartmut that the blower gauge was reading 35 pounds boost. The gauge has a tell-tail feature, which is a one way valve placed between the gauge and the blower manifold. It has a pressure relief button which when pushed, returns the gauge back to zero. Hartmut also noticed that the gauge was leaking down about one pound every five or so minutes. so he logically deduced that taking into account it takes about 25 minutes to get the liner back to the pits and it had been about 15 minutes before we took the reading on the gauge, that our blower pressure is about 43 pounds under load at full throttle. No wonder Donny felt a kick in the ass when the throttle stuck open. My calculations were all wrong when I made the decision to turn the blower 2 to 1. I figured the blower pressure would be around 25 pounds. The 4000 foot altitude at Bonneville corrected at times to as much as 7000 feet. The fuel nozzles were grossly under sized for that kind of pressure. If Donny had kept his foot in it for any length of time there would have been a serious melt down. The next thing that was found when the plugs were pulled, aluminum was found on number one cylinder plug. It didn't hole the piston, but she got hot enough to stick the exhaust valve in her guide and bend it. The next thing that was discovered was that the blower lobes were getting into each other. The reason for this is the extreme blower pressure. The Wiend 144 blower is not made for those kind of pressures. The pressure caused the lobes to flex upward from the pressure side and get into each other. So with all the aforementioned problems it was time to take Black Lightning back to the barn. It all sounds pretty hectic and disastrous, but it's not. It's just a matter of going back to the drawing board on the clutch and the blower ratio. Getting the blower overhauled by professionals with some racing clearances. Taking a good look at the transmission and finding out why it wants to pop out of gear when you let up on it. Fix the sticking guide problem and build a gear drive between the two engines. Put the whole package on a dyno and thoroughly test. This is by far less work than building a new streamliner. Liner number six is a keeper and a good 'un!
Quite a bit has happened in the last 25 days with the LSR attempt. Much good and some not so good. All offensive measures and equipment were readied for the attack on the 322.149 mph record. I was not alone in this quest. Three other streamliners were being prepared with the same end in mind. Three of the four machines, one of which is Black Lightning, are new. Two of the LSR machines have been tested both in private salt time and rented runways. Only one of the four arrived on the salt, a new machine with no testing other than start ups in the garage and run ups through the gears with no load. Also that machine depended on novices in the cockpit. All of this proved to be an insurmountable task to overcome for Black Lightning and the people who gave their best both financially and in talent to make it happen during Speed Week 2004.
During Speed Week, Sam Wheeler, with his green, beautifully prepared (designed by Cal Tech) streamliner, which was built some 10 years ago and has not missed one year of testing and running during this time, captured the LSR record for motorcycles at a speed in excess of 332 mph, upping the previous record by 10 miles per hour. Sam made it look easy. However, if you were to ask him, I do not believe that he would say it had been easy. Over the years engine failures, minor crashes, fires, this didn't work, that didn't work and so on would fortify his certain answer, "It ain't easy guys."
Sam was about six vehicles in front of us. The lines were terribly long, as I heard there were over 450 entrants. The waiting time ranged anywhere from 5 hours to 3 hours in line. This is a tremendous handicap for all participants, but especially a handicap for those such as myself running an untested all new streamliner. Sam's first run was 330 mph and change. The bike performed beautifully and was doing everything that Sam asked of her. All of the Black Lightning crew felt the record was about to fall. Steve Doherty, a crew member of Black Lightning, in anticipation of Sam setting the record, brought a bottle of chilled champagne.
Sam went to impound after the 330 mph run. He readied his machine for the back up run. If I recall the back up run was made around 11 o'clock and produced a speed of 334 mph. Now that's putting it all together and flat cooking!
We were about to make a run and while proceeding to the starting line Black Lightning's crew stopped for a moment at impound where Sam's bike was being checked for engine size. After the check was made and the record was official, Sam was leaving the officials booth, carrying the chilled bottle of bubbly. He asked us, "Where did the champagne come from?". Don Angel said, "From the Lambky's Liner team". We all congratulated Sam. He was quite touched and appreciative of the fact that his competitors recognized his feat and were giving him his due.
After Speed Week I made a thorough and honest assessment of Black Lightning. The most important conclusion was that the design is overall very sound and has a potentially superior advantage over any other streamliner in existence.
1. Aerodynamics. The frontal area of the four streamliners who have the where-with-all to be the fastest on the planet, the smallest of which is Black Lightning with a frontal area of only 2.9 square feet. Next would be the EZ Hook with a frontal area of 3.2 square feet. Third would be the Denis Manning Special with a 3.7; last would be the New Twin Engine Hayabusa, which is huge at around a 4.3 square foot frontal area. Of course frontal area isn't the last word on the overall aerodynamics of a given vehicle, but it is certainly the most important. All of the four machines in my opinion are similar in their design to cheat the air moving over their sleek exteriors except for the EZ Hook, which I feel has a slight advantage over the other three in this area of aerodynamics.
2. Horsepower. Black Lightning is over 500 at present; EZ Hook is 240;. Denis Manning is 425 and the Hayabusa machine with box stock engines, turbochargers attached are around 500. Undoubtedly, if it were a horsepower race the Hayabusa would certainly win.
Two of the LSR contenders are capable of producing the horsepower and torque to exceed the traction coefficient to drag--and they are Black Lightning and the Hayabusa machine.
I've decided not to attack the LSR again until the following items are corrected. First the HYVO chains employed in coupling the engines together and in coupling the rear engine to the clutch will be replaced, utilizing gears throughout. During Speed Week it was found out that the HYVO chains were not up to the task and required constant maintenance and adjustment. It is a must to remedy this if Black Lightning is ever going to succeed in her quest to be the "World's Fastest". Next would be the clutch. The 400 hp A.R.T. clutch is not strong enough to hold the awesome torque being developed. So it's back to the drawing board on this one. I'm presently considering two clutches. One is the Crower Glide Clutch, which is a car clutch with adjustable finger weights so that you can adjust it's lock up at any R.P.M. desired. The other one would be the clutches used in an Indi car or a Formula 1. car. In any event the clutch problem will be addressed and made bullet proof.
The blower will be replaced with a new one. It will be sent to the Blower Shop in California to get all the good stuff done to it, i.e., anodizing, racing clearances and so on. The blower lubes got into each other causing the end of Speed Week for Black Lightning.
The transmission worked o.k. to a degree. When the bike is under load the transmission stays in gear, however, it pops out of gear when you let up on the throttle in low and third. It doesn't do it in second, so this will have to be addressed also.
I intend to thoroughly test the engine package including transmission on a dyno prior to taking her to the salt again. All of the problems encountered could have and would have been corrected before going to Bonneville if dyno testing had been done. As I was "up to the wire" there just wasn't time to do the necessary testing.
It was my decision to give it a go in 2004 and no body elses, so I take full responsibility for not taking home the bacon. Thorough testing is a must and I assure you it will be done for next year.
The Black Lightning Project is alive and well and Black Lightning thanks all who are helping to make it happen.
One equation to a successful attack on the record in 2005 is solved--that is the talent required to ride such an inherently different motorcycle--a streamliner. First the rider must have the desire and the confidence that if someone else can do it he can. He has to have the willingness to listen to those who have "been there and done that" and take their advice, and his physical stature must be such that he can fit in the liner fully suited in his fire suit, gloves, boots, and helmet. When viewing the rider in his battle armor, standing beside the 2.9 square foot frontal area of the missile in which he intends to enter, his first assessment is, "You have to be kidding!". No way Jose is he ever going to get his dough boy silhouette into that machine. Then the magic begins. The canopy is opened. That's a little better. The handle bar assembly is raised, providing a visual inspection of the area below the two obstacles. "You know, that thing is bigger than I thought". Next the rider steps into the void, sitting first, then pulling himself as far forward as possible, bending his neck and squeezing his neck vertebras until a bit of discomfort is felt. His helmet, which has been tube locked against the front portion of the roll bar cage finally gives way to the determined rider to do what it takes to enter the machine. Once this maneuver is practiced two or three times, entering and exiting becomes a piece of cake. What at first appears to be an impossible feat becomes routine. Over the years many of the mechanical aspects at first thought to be impossible have shrunk to miniscule solvable irritants. So hang in there everybody like Yogi would say, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
So what is the premise in which I'm stating the rider problem has been solved? As you are aware the 2004 attempt was undertaken with a major handicap in the area of rider qualification. The 2002 attempt was not subjected to this handicap as the riders I put into the seat for Dan Smith's effort with liner number 5 were both allowed to go as fast as the liner would take them. Both Don Vesco and Dave Campos had a class "A" license. This was not the case in 2004. The primary rider, Don Angel, had a class "C" license, or so we thought. This would have allowed him to make a just below 200 MPH pass over the salt for his first ride. This license was earned in 1998, which made it six years old. This fact was the first obstacle to overcome when we arrived on the salt. The scrutineers referred to a rule in the rule book which states that a license that is over four years old is null and void. The driver or rider in our case, must start all over. We were limited to a 150 MPH pass on our first run.
I designated Hartmut as the back up rider for the 2004 attempt. This decision came from a gut feeling that he would be the man for the job. I hit the nail on the head on this one. I couldn't have chosen anyone more capable or enthusiastic. Hartmut took to it like a duck to water.
Black Lightning has a remarkably low drag coefficient. This has been proven beyond any doubt both in wind tunnel tests and in actual running conditions. The streamliner recieved considerable damage to the body after the horrific crash in 1998 at a speed of over 150 MPH during tow up.
I completely repaired all the damage to the fiberglass body in 2001 for the Vibrac group, driving the 1200 miles to and from Larry Feece's shop in California. I replaced the windscreen, and painted the repaired body with three coats of black polyurethane paint.
A very good thing and much appreciated, that came about after Vibrac returned control of the streamliner back to me, was the wind tunnel test initiated by Dan Smith. The report read as follows:
"During the course of this project the Coefficient of Drag (CD) for the Vincent streamliner was measured using the boundary layer wind tunnel, and an Air Table with near frictionless bearings and strain gauges connected to a digital acquisition system. The value of CD is independent of wind velocity and thus independent of Reynolds Number, predictions of viscous drag force at 325 MPH and testing conditions at Bonneville can be made. Using Compressible Theory, the expected horsepower required to overcome aerodynamic drag force at test conditions and speed of 325 MPH is between 222.9 and 275 HP. If the drag coefficient were reduced to 0.15 through improvements to the streamliner design, the power required to overcome viscous drag at the drive wheel could be reduced by 48.3 HP, reducing the overall power requirement to between 180.2 and 219.1.
In order to reduce the overall power required to overcome drag, several recommendations were made about the design of the streamliner. Firstly, gaps in the exterior of the body should be smoothed out, especially around the windshield.
Secondly, the trailing edge should be extended slightly so that it terminates at a shaper edge. With these improvements, the drag coefficient can be reduced and thus the theoretical maximum speed increased for a given engine horsepower."
After reading the report, it was apparent to me that improvements had to be made. Hence the redesign of the body shell is in progress for the 2004 attempt. The changes are: a new configuration of the canopy area, changing it from a dolphin style to a stilletto design. A fin will be added to the tail, which will improve stability at high speeds.
Consideration as to the fin size is important, as too big a fin will increase the sail area, which could possibly be a hindrence rather than an advantage.
Fuel System I
I feel compelled to defend my reasoning to build a new streamliner for the 2004 attack on the Land Speed Record. I guess I'll start my defense with the redesign and manufacture of the new fuel system as it has just recently been completed, and is fresh in mind.
Why was a new system necessary? And what do I mean when I talk about designing a fuel system? It might appear simple enough to design and build. After all, the only thing required is to deliver a fuel/air mixture to the cylinders, light the mixture with a spark plug which pushes the piston down, and makes the crank go around. However, it's a bit more complicated than that. I'll try to explain.
What are the components which make up the fuel delivery system on Black Lightning? They are the fuel tank, fuel filter, fuel lines, fuel pump, barrel valve, inline fuel cans, metering blocks, injector bodies, adapter manifolds, roots blower, plenum, blower duct work, fuel nozzles, duct work hose, pop off valve and air scoop.
To best explain the fuel system I designed for attempt 2004, let me first say that it is necessary to divide the air from the fuel for a start. The objective of the design chosen is to get the optimum amount of air into the cylinders, the more air, the more fuel you can burn, hence more HP. Come on guys, be nice, you know what we're talking about here. I'm talking about the "O" element.
With my limited know how and inability to figure out how to inject a solid rocket fuel into my cylinders, my next best choice for the air source was the atmosphere. Probably would have been a bad choice if I had to run the liner on the streets of L.A. or London. So, starting with my choice of an air source, it seems my quest to build a perfect fuel system is automatically impossible.
I'll be running in the Vintage push rod class, this class does not allow electronics to adjust the air/fuel mixture at about a million times a second. So here I am stuck with the atmosphere, which is not a constant. Everything else is pretty well constant in my fuel system. Well almost. The atmosphere plays games with the tuner, giving him everything, then hardly nothing.
So, building a perfect fuel system is out the window, and the system will have to be worked on forever, mechanically changing jets that meter the fuel in proportion to the atmosphere's mood at the moment. A port of entry was needed to get the air into the engines, so I designed an air scoop. In designing it I considered the physics of the aerodynamics to which the air scoop would be subjected. The scoop is located a little aft of mid-ship on the top of the liner's body. What I had to consider in developing the size and shape of the scoop was to not make it too big, which would increase drag, thereby slowing the liner down; and to not make it too small which would take air away from the engines, restricting their optimum efficiency, and slowing the liner down. So the aerodynamics of boundary layer, displacement thickness and drag were all considered in developing the scoops design. From the scoop the air now has a pressure build up due to the drag at the scoops inlet, providing a pressure at the injector inlet or hat. The injector inlet, or butterfly, should be of equal size or larger than the supercharger intake port. This was not the case with my old system so a new injector was procured, it's appropriately named "The Flying Toilet". It has a 4 inch diameter butterfly. It's area is now the same as the area of the blower intake. This eliminated the undesirable restriction in the air flow which the old system had. A much better injector to supercharger adapter was designed and built, making the transition from a 4 inch round butterfly hole to a 2 and 3/5 inch by 4 and 1/8 oblong hole in the supercharger intake quite nicely. The supercharger, or blower, whichever you prefer, will be overhauled.
When a roots type blower is built for racing, i.e., blower pressures exceeding 5 pounds, the lobes are lowered in the blower housings to a zero clearance, lobe to housing on the trailing edge. The lobe to housing on the leading edge is set to around 3 thousandths clearance. As the blower pressure increases to say, 25 pounds, the lobes flex upward, giving the clearances desired, 1 1/2 thousands, both leading and trailing edges. The blower gets hot due to the compressed air, which ideally expands the mass of the lobes themselves to achieve a zero clearance, lobe to housing. The amount of fuel that is put through the blower hat is tuned to cool the blower lobes and housing to it's optimum performance clearance.
The air, so far in my design, should be at the blower intake port, having somewhat of a velocity at high speeds. The air then is captured by the rotating lobes, and travels to the outside of the blower lobes to the discharge side of the blower. The air has very little turbulence at this point, just velocity. There are three physical things that affect the air circuit as it enters the blower and exits the blower.
Fuel System II
I wish to reiterate my reasoning for building a new fuel system for the 2004 attempt on the Motorcycle Land Sped Record. There was always a problem inherent in the manifold design, which I tried to improve to some positive effect by baffling and placing tubes inside of tubes to direct atomized fuel to the cylinders that always ran lean. My new design works better than expected. In fact it works great. The blower is a roots type, having lobes or paddles, which are turning inside a housing. The size of the blower is measured by it's swept volume for one revolution. The size of the blower used on the liner is 144 cubic inches. The blower has been tested by the factory to determine at what R.P.M. the blower or air pump cavitates. This is it's maximum capacity to pump air. The factory has determined that their product cavitates at 17,000 R.P.M.
There are two opposing forces taking place at the blower intake: one, at sea level there is an approximate atmospheric pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch. This, coupled with the velocity of the air created by the air scoop is one of the forces. The opposing force is created by the lobes, rotors, or paddles, which act somewhat like a fan moving air in the opposite direction. When this force of air overcomes the opposite force cavitation occurs. I'm turning the engines approximately 6,500 R.P.M. and driving the supercharger 2 to 1, which makes the blower R.P.M. 13,000; well below the cavitation point. All of this was taken into consideration when I designed the new fuel system. The second physical thing that affects the air circuit is when the air enters the blower, the lobes capture the air, divide the air flow and move the two air columns through the supercharger and discharge the two columns of air.
When the two columns of air, which only have velocity characteristics, meet, turbulence is created. This is good. The third thing that takes place and affects the air circuit is the fact that the lobes discharge air, one then the other on the discharge side of the blower, which creates a harmonic in the air circuit. There is another harmonic factor which occurs when the intake valves open and close.
What are the characteristics of the air after it leaves the blower? The air has pressure, velocity, turbulence and harmonics. There are really no problems. So far we have lots of air that has good characteristics to suspend and keep in suspension fuel particles.
Due to the layout of the coupled Vincent engines, a manifold from the blower plenum (the cavity on the discharge side of the blower) had to be designed. The four outlets on the plenum had to be connected to the four inlet spigots on the cylinder heads. The mechanical aspect of the job at hand was simple enough; it only required welding up some mandrel bends of 1 5/8 inch tubing to connect the outlets and inlets. The problem is their unequal lengths, the longest being 3 and 1/2 feet and the shortest being 8 inches. The amount of air to each cylinder will not be affected but the characteristics will. When the characteristics change, i.e., velocity, turbulence and harmonics, the ability to suspend fuel particles is affected. Four other things that will affect the suspension of fuel particles are boundary layer, displacement thickness, the law of gravity, and the shape of the manifold tubing. So in my new fuel system design I eliminated all the things that I had no power over. So the following was eliminated from my thought process in designing the manifolds; they are boundary layer, displacement thickness, the law of gravity and turbulence. I could however, do something about velocity and manifold shapes.
First I'll speak to velocity. I once did an experiment to help me figure out what was going on with a drag bike I built years ago. It was a two cylinder Chrysler with a blower and injectors, lots of nitro and so on. Quite a beast. I was having a problem understanding what was going on with the manifold I had built for the Chrysler. I procured some 1/4 inch 4 by 8 sheet of clear plastic. With a saber saw and some glue, boxes and tubes were shaped into various configurations for my test. A Hoover, a siphon, and some colored water completed my list of lab tools required for the experiment. In short, I found out a great deal by the experiment, watching the atomized colored water do it's thing when it went around a corner, traveled different distances in various lengths of tubes, turbulence changing to velocity, gravity affecting the water particles, effects of air stream baffling; how a bend in a manifold can be so shaped to enhance fuel atomization instead of being a detriment, and so on.
I took all of this into consideration when I designed the new manifold system that will be used in the 2004 attempt. The old manifold, which I designed around an impossible situation was deemed "no good" and was totally discarded. The two main things wrong with it were it's volume, much too big for good velocity characteristics; and it's shape, it fought good design at every turn.
Fuel System III
The simplest of the components which make up the fuel system on Black Lightning is the fuel tank. Nevertheless, in designing and building the fuel tank, I had to take into account several things, they were: material, size, location, "G" force, strength, baffling, venting, shape and coatings.
I chose aluminum for the material, as it's light and easy to work with. The fuels used, nitro methane and alcohol, however, tend to accelerate the process in which all metals dug out of the earth, smeltered and proportioned by man, to produce various metals for a purpose, seem to have a relentless mission to return to the earth from which they came. Both ferrous and nonferrous metals act the same. One to a much lesser degree.
The elements in the atmosphere coupled with the contact of corrosive fuels to my 5 gallon capacity shape, presented a problem. This was corrected by anodyzing the aluminum fuel tank, giving it a protective shield from the elements.
The modifications to the fuel tank for 2004 are a new filler cap, with the tank venting system vastly improved. The old vent was located in such a way as to diminish it's purpose. Tubes were used to connect the plastic vent hose, reducing it's size. The exit of the vent hose had been at the worst place possible, in the rear wheel well area near the rear tire, where it was subject to salt clogging. The vent tube had been placed in the air stream in such a manner as to act as a siphon, causing an absence of atmospheric pressure at the inlet of the vent tube. All no-nos for a proper fuel tank vent system. I redesigned and corrected all of this.
The new vent is now larger and has been relocated to the front of the tank, taking advantage of the "G" force of the fuel going to the rear of the tank during hard acceleration, allowing the atmosphere to place as much load as possible over the fuel surface by not restricting the vents purpose by filling it full of fuel.
Add a little gravity to the fuel mass, and it should leave the cavity's orifice quite nicely. When in a static state, where no "G" force is a factor, and no pressurizing of the tank is in effect, the tank empties it's full five gallons through a much larger main fuel line, going from the old # 8 A and N fitting to a now # 12 airquip fitting, in 25 seconds. This is twice as efficient as before.
Four more improvements have been thought out and should help the tank's design. The fuel system can best be explained as a Hilborn type; however, being exact in it's mechanical operation but of another manufacturer. The unit of choice for the 2004 attempt will be one manufactured by "Ron's Racing". The system was tailored by Ron for my purpose.
Why did I even mention the fuel injector? With the tank improvements, the system has a positive displacement fuel pump. Meaning that what goes in on the suck side of the pump goes out the other. The fuel goes to two places as it leaves the pump. One of the obvious places is the engine, or in the case of Black Lightning, engines. The other place is the fuel tank.
The fuel pump has far more capacity, or volume of fuel per minute than the engine can consume, so at high speeds the fuel is entering the tank through two return lines, the high speed can, and the main return line. When the fuel goes from the two return lines, it aerates the fuel. Air bubbles in the fuel. This is not good.
I modified the return line baffling system to totally eliminate this problem, and relocated the fuel outlet orifice to provide maximum drainage of the tank. Increased it's size, and located it so as to take full advantage of the "G" force during acceleration.
As the fuel tank and engines are in the same cocoon, and the engines are developing heat, the temperature of the fuel is affected. This is not good. The fuel expands somewhat when heated therefore changing the entire fuel curve by leaning the mixture. For instance, assuming your engine had a main jet that would allow one gallon of fuel to the engine in one minute, and it ran great, then you heated the one gallon of fuel and it increased in volume to two gallons. The original one gallon of fuel is the same as the two gallon after expansion. To get the maximum B.T.U. from the gallon of fuel it takes a precise air/fuel mixture. The air fuel mixture and the efficiency of the burn go hand in hand. Let's say your engine, through a fixed jet, ran great. You had your air fuel ratio precise. So now you fire it up with the expanded fuel. Being the jet can only pass a certain volume, we only pass one gallon of the expanded fuel. We have a gallon of fuel leftover, and for an efficient burn, it should have gone to the engines. You just leaned her out, and probably big holes replaced the tops of the piston's crowns.
A heat shield quilt will shroud the fuel tank to keep the fuel cool. It's a lot cheaper than pistons.
The fuel tank air vent, which I mentioned earlier, is now connected to the blower scoop in such a manner as to semi-pressurize the fuel tank at high speeds. That's when you need a little help to get enough fuel to her so she doesn't do anything that would ruin the day.
Dan Smith made two improvements to the fuel tank that will be utilized in the 2004 attempt. The tank mounting ears were modified to accept rubbers, thereby rubber mounting the tank, which is good, and the Kevlar reinforcement to the underside of the tank, which provides somewhat of a scatter shield in the event of the rear tire disintegrating. All well done, with high quality workmanship apparent.
When the fuel leaves the tank, it immediately passes through a fuel shut-off valve, which is employed as a unit with a replaceable fuel filter cartridge. The shut-off valve at the tank is a requirement by the rules. A number 12 fuel line, with straight connections, transfers the fuel from the filter to the suction side of the number 1 1/2 Ron's fuel pump. The previous fuel pump was a Hilbourn 00. The larger fuel pump was needed to ensure adequate fuel supply to the now 3000cc power plant. The fuel pump is driven and located on the rear engine where the mag used to be. John MacDougall machined an aluminum drive spool to turn the pump. It works great.
The pump now turns half speed. The main purpose for the design change is that the blower ratio can now be changed, and the fuel pump remains constant to the engine speed. From the discharge side of the positive displacement pump, a number 6 braided line goes to the inlet side of the barrel valve. Also there is a "T" in this line which provides a way to lean the fuel/air mixture at high RPM's. This is done by placing a can in the teed off line to the tank. The can contains a spring loaded relief valve that is presently set at 75 pounds pressure. It also contains a pill, or return jet, as it were, which is a .040 size. The barrel valve is set at 15% leak-down. Employed in the barrel valve assembly, which is a nicely made compact unit, is the main pill, a .085 size. The unit also contains a fuel shut off valve, which is electrically operated from the cock-pit, and a distribution block, located on the discharge side of the barrel valve. There are eight outlets on the distribution block. Hoses are connected to the distribution block, and go to the eight nozzles used in the system. Four nozzles are employed and evenly distributed below the injector hat; the fuel from these nozzles are the ones that cool the blower and blower duct work. They are .023 size. The other four hoses from the distribution block go to the port nozzles in the cylinder heads. They are .036 in size.
As you can see in this fuel system design, a lot of fuel pressure is obtained with small nozzles, which produce high velocity fuel for excellent atomization. Some people prefer lower fuel pressure and employ larger fuel nozzles. I've always gone with the higher fuel pressure and smaller nozzles, with all my blown fuel injected engines.
The last time Boris Murray stopped by the house, he told me about his two rides in streamliners built by Denis Manning, one being a double engine Triumph powered machine, I believe it was the same machine, but the second was backed by the Norton Works. It had two Norton Commando engines.
He said the cockpit was larger than the cockpit in the Vincent streamliner, and that at speeds above 200 MPH, he could move his knees, which were in 90 degree bend, from side to side and steer the liner by this action.
My ears perked up when I heard this. It was apparent that balance is critical in the handling of streamliners. In the past, the balance of all my streamliners has been like such: Get the front wheel as straight as you can. Try to find the balance point as best you can visually, then add weights to either side, to achieve a somewhat close balance.
Balancing the 2004 streamliner will be accomplished in a precise manner. As very high speeds are anticipated and I want to give every advantage to the rider to aid him in riding Black Lightning.
Now that the fiberglass work has been completed, the balancing of the streamliner is possible. The reason I had to wait for the body to be completed is that the body is made of a hand laid up method. It's impossible to achieve consistency in the thickness of the fiberglass. For sure one side of the body is heavier than the other. I took many things into consideration while addressing the balance of the streamliner.
The two parachute tethers are of different lengths, one is mounted on one side, the other is mounted on the other side. A small and probably insignificant amount of weight, nevertheless the parachutes will be in place when the balance of the streamliner is determined. The fuel, which is in various sizes of lines, goes from one side of the streamliner to the other. Minute this weight differential when the fuel lines are full, but there would still be a weight difference. So all fuel lines and fuel tank will be full when the balance factor is determined, and there are other things to consider.
The balancing of the streamliner will be undertaken in this manner: A bar will be manufactured, approximately 6' in length and will be attached just aft of the cockpit, where there is a threaded hole in the frame used normally for a lifting eye; this hole is on the center line of the motorcycle. The 6' bar will extend out on either side of the streamliner an equal distance from the lifting eye hole. From the lifting eye hole, a hole approximately 3' from the lifting eye hole will be drilled. This hole will be a precise measurement, as well as the hole drilled in the other extended portion of the bar on the other side. Two pipes with pins the size of the hole will be manufactured, approximately 2' long with jacking screws placed in the opposite end of the pins. The pipes will become legs extending downward to a pair of bathroom scales. A plumb bob will be hung from the ceiling for vertical assessment of the front wheel. Pressure will be applied to the scales by the jacking screws, achieving a vertical position of the front wheel. The scales will be read to ascertain which side needs weight. When building the new frame I made provisions for weights to be added as low as possible to help the center of gravity. This provision for mounting weights is underneath the rider's seat. When I achieve a one pound weight differential between the scales, that will be just about as good as you can get it.
I removed the water cooling jackets on the cylinder muffs to simplify and reduce parts, and most of all to eliminate the water tank that was located in the cockpit under the calves of the pilot's legs, making the seating area much more comfortable and roomier for them.
The scoops are located, both port and starboard, approximately 6" aft of the rear roll bar cage, which is 6" from the rear of the rider's helmet. The size of the scoop openings are 3/4" X 4 1/2". From the scoop opening, they teardrop aft approximately 10", and blend into the body quite nicely. The front of the scoop is of the boundary layer design. If my calculations are right, this will be more than adequate to cool the alcohol motors. The air exits through the rear wheel well and the now much smaller opening in the tail. The area of all openings are probably as much as 20 times the scoop openings, therefore there will be no appreciable addition in drag, and no pressure build up inside the liner shell.
For the 2004 attempt, I added a small fin approximately 5" tall. Going aft forward, the top of the fin is straight for approximately 14" then tapers downward towards the body in an additional 2' run. In an effort to improve the center of gravity of the liner, I bored the body, which by the way is quite heavy; totaling around 190 pounds. Two layers of fiberglass matt compromise it's makeup. The reason for the robust thickness, is strength in the event of a crash. The thinner ones totally disintegrate. At least with mine, you would be picking up fairly large pieces. Weight isn't a problem with a streamliner. I think Dave Campos told me that the Easy Rider weighed around 2400 pounds??? The Lambky Liner weighs in around 1900 pounds. Back to what I was saying, the body was lowered in relation to the frame 1". This required a redesign on the top portion of the body near the tail. I now have a four degree angle upwards to the rear of the tail. This upwards section is approximately 6' in length. I did this to create an ever so slight down force on the rear wheel. Standing from the side it's barely noticeable, nevertheless it's there. The air going over it at 350 MPH will also recognize the change in direction. Standing at the rear of the liner, it's quite different and a much nicer shape than liner number five. What you see is two 4" openings. The upper 4" opening provides a hole for the exit of the high speed parachute. The bottom 4" hole is for the low speed parachute. The diameter of the high speed parachute, which is a ribbon design and made of Kevlar, is 3 1/2' in diameter. The low speed chute, which is of the same design, is just under 5' in diameter. Between the two 4" openings, there's a 1-1/2" slit for the parachute tether. The chutes were designed by Stroud Safety in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, specifically for the Vincent streamliner.
I designed and built this system around one of John MacDougall's ideas.
First, there was a need for safety reasons to design a breather system that would prevent a major catastrophe that would occur if a standard or a modified version of all normal methods of breathing the Vincent crankcase--standard series B and C's, the "D" method, and the after market elephant trunk. There are other ways, but none were satisfactory for Black Lightning's needs.
With two 1500cc blown Vincents, fuel consumption is horrendous. The engines consume around four gallons of alcohol in approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds. In the event that a cylinder runs lean enough to burn a hole in the piston, and the liner is still running on three cylinders, the fuel that enters the crank case through the hole in the piston is a lot. The scavenging side of the oil pump cannot return all of the fluids, i.e., oil and fuel to the oil tank. What happens is the oil tank fills up and overflows out the oil tank breather, and the breather, if it's open to the atmosphere, whether it be timed by a rotating port, or a valve, or untimed, will dump fuel and oil to the atmosphere through the breather orifice like a fire hose. I've been there and done that.
So in the design there had to be a catch can. And for a 2 to 1 safety factor, a minimum of two gallons U.S. would be required. Due to the limited space in the liner, this was impossible. A one liter size catch can was the largest that could be fitted.
John had the idea to utilize the primary chain case, and the blower drive chain cases, to satisfy the volume requirements, so I designed the system as such. The engines breathe as follows. Air travels through the now 1-1/2" inside diameter double Timpkin Bearings into the primary drive, which contains two HYVO chains 1" wide. The air then travels through the outboard carrier bearing of the rear crankshaft, which is of a roller bearing type 1-1/2" inside diameter, 1" wide. The air enters the blower drive housing and exits through a #10 AirQuip fitting to the 1 liter catch can. There is a Kawasaki reed valve that I fitted between the AirQuip hose and the side of the catch can. This was taken out of 250cc Kawasaki two stroke. The two engine oil tanks were designed to be sealed--"O" ringed oil caps with safety locking pins. Oil tanks are vented with #6 AirQuip fittings to the top of the 1 liter catch can.
The new design works very well. Plenty of safety margin and no leaks caused by excessive crank case pressure.