Penton: The John Penton Story is an upcoming film due to be screened at the NYC Motorcycle Film Festival (September 24th to the 27th in Brooklyn), the story of John Penton is a remarkable one but up until now it’s only really been known to motorcycle geeks and well informed KTM owners.

The full story of John Penton and his staggering ability to both ride and develop world-beating motorcycles is fascinating, realistically he’s a man who should be far more famous as one of America’s most successful sportsman/businessmen – he created a multi-million dollar motorcycle marque, a multi-million dollar apparel company and he travelled around the United States winning races and breaking records.

Click to visit the official Penton Movie website.

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6 Ways to Prepare Your ATV for Desert Season



It’s that time of year again. The crisp smells of autumn, the trees shedding their summer green for hues of gold and crimson; and for those of us who love to shred sand, it’s time to pull that dusty ATV out from its spot in the garage, or perhaps (dare I say it) from its place under the tarp in the side yard (eek); and get ready for the greatest season of them all for those of us who make our home in the southwest… desert season.

But before you head out to your favorite riding destination, there are several basic tasks you will want to complete to ensure you don’t spend your first trip back to the sand lamenting how your machine isn’t running as smoothly as you remembered; or even worse, stuck at camp playing mechanic, trying to fix a broken quad during your limited amount of play time.

Here are a few tips for simple maintenance and preparation to ensure your ATV is running as fast and strong as it was when you hopped off of it.

1) Check Your Fuel:

An ATV’s fuel system is one of the 3 key components you need to make your internal combustion engine work. The other two are air and fire, or spark.

If the fuel is old or gets water in it you could have a poor running engine, or worse, a no running engine.

It may all seem very easy; you go to the gas station and get some gas in a can, take it home and top off the quad. Right?

Basically yes, that’s it. But there really is a lot more to it than just fillin’ her up, especially if your ATV has been sitting for any length of time.

Here are some do it yourself fuel maintenance tips for your ATV that will help you keep it in top shape for riding season, or work if that’s what you do with your quad.

2) Kick the Tires:

Your tires are your only connection to the ground. They not only allow your ATV to roll, they can also allow it to slide, which is important when riding offroad.

Tire pressure needs to be adjusted to match the conditions you will be riding in. The drier the sand, the lower you will want to set your tire pressure. Anyone who’s spent any significant amount of time in the dunes will tell you that sand conditions shift and change every day.

What may have been the right pressure settings for your tires in March may not be right after a long dry summer in October. Best to check the weather forecast (and maybe how much rain the area you will be riding in received over the summer) and make your determinations accordingly.

Read more about ATV tire tips for sand before you head out to the dunes.

3) Clean Your Air Filter:

Your quad won’t run without a good supply of clean air. When you ride in the sand dunes it’s even more important because sand gets into everything.

In addition to being a potential hazard the accumulation of dirt and grime within your intake system robs you of horsepower that would be better spent on making the wheels spin really, really fast.

Taking a few minutes to remove and clean your air filter and air box at the beginning of a new season will go a long way to allowing your quad’s motor to reach its’ maximum potential.

Find out more about ATV air filter maintenance. You and your quad will be better for it.

4) Chain Reaction:

Your drive chain is what take power from the transmission and sends it to the rear wheel. It is just like the chain on a bicycle except it is a little thicker and stronger.

It also takes a lot more stress and is usually subjected to a lot more abuse. That’s why it’s important to maintain your drive chain more than you would on your bicycle. If your chain fails while your out in the middle of the desert or miles into a wooded trail it could be a long trip back.

I’ve put together some tips for ATV drive chain maintenance that might help you get a few extra seasons out of your chain.

5) Don’t Forget the Spark:

To check your spark plug (s) and oil levels before any and every trip. You won’t necessarily need to replace these at the start of every season. It all depends how much use your ride has endured since last replacement. If you’ve gone more than a full season, chances are your ATV could do with a few fresh quarts of oil and a new spark plug or two.

6) Don’t Trust, Do Test:

The only way to KNOW for certain your ATV is ready to go is to fire that sucker up and take a few test laps. Even if there were no issues the last time you rode, it’s a good idea to fire up your machine and take a quick little test ride to ensure everything’s working properly.

If your quad has a mechanical issue which needs to be dealt with, I PROMISE you it’s better to figure it out at home in your (relatively) clean garage surrounded by your tools than fixing it out on the trail when all your buddies are revved up and waiting to go ride. Fire it up at home and have that piece of mind that when she rolls off the trailer, your baby will be ready to go.

So there you have it, these few simple TLC chores before the season begins will have you ready to hit the trail with a ride ready to purr and growl. Often times a few hours of preemptive maintenance will save you a disappointing opening salvo to the desert season. It’s almost September now, so ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

Now..Be careful out there!!!


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From Sydney to London – Answers.

Stories of Bike is a film series by director Cam Elkins, it’s quickly garnered a huge amount of respect and airtime around the world and if you’re a motorcyclist, you owe it to yourself to watch each of the films at least once.

This film is the story of Jonathan, a guy who decided to buy a motorcycle that was the same make and model as the one his grandfather used to own – and then ride it from Sydney to London to raise awareness about male depression and suicide.

Although it may sound like madness to attempt to ride a 45 year old Royal Enfield Bullet 350 over half way around the world, it’s actually not a bad decision – the Royal Enfield is hugely popular in South East Asia and India, which means spare parts and mechanics who know how to work on the Bullet will be easy to come by.

If you like a good adventure story I suggest you make yourself a coffee and hit play on the video above, you’ll be glad you did. If you’d like to contribute to the cause, you can click here to visit the fund-raising page and if you’d like to visit Jonathan’s blog to monitor his progress and you can click here.




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Motorcycle Diaries & The Spirit of Adventure

“Every generation needs a story; every generation needs a story about what it is to be transformed by geography, what it is to be transformed by encounters with cultures and people that are alien from yourself.” – Jose Rivera

It’s the perfect time to get on a motorcycle, with a friend or lover, or to cruise into the sunset with your brother riding next to you, to just get hit the road, to put on your backpack and just go get lost in the world. simpson swe 30 6108958683_e498b91d6d_z In January of 1952, two friends set out on such an adventure across the entire continent of South America on a Norton 500 motorcycle (pictured above). Their main purpose was initially fun and adventure, but the journey would unknowingly alter the fabric of south american society and many parts of the world. A semester before Ernesto “Fuser” Guevara, aka “Che”, as he was later entitled by his Cuban comrades, was due to finish his medical degree in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he and his older friend Alberto Granado, a biochemist, left the country in order to traverse South America.  With a short-term goal of exploring the country and setting out to complete some volunteer work in a leper colony in San Pablo, Peru, the two had the insatiable desire to ride. They wanted to see as much of Latin American as they could break away from the confounds of their Argentinian schooling, economical systems, and societal customs. They wanted adventure and could taste the breeze on the tips of their tongues. Alberto Granado’s dilapidated 1939 Norton 500 motorcycle christened La Poderosa, i.e. “The Mighty One,” would do just the job, but in this case, this bike was some what of a bet. They knew it would most-likely break down and have issues along the way, possibly stopping their journey altogether at some point. It is the unexpected of every journey, the things out of control, that make it sometimes dangerous but exciting all the same. In any case you risk it and you go anyways.

cheErnesto “Che” Guevara


Ernesto & Alberto

Granado once wrote: “First we wanted to know the world, after we wanted to change it.” This is something that moves many travelers. The desire to know the world that pushes further and further beyond your initial horizons into the sunsets and starry nights with only a single headlight and the moon illuminating the way. This is a good way to live.

“There is one Che. Maybe he was able to change the world, or a piece of the world. But this is not the point. The world is changing even while traveling, because knowing, learning, sharing, you change the way of being and living, to bring it closer to a way that goes beyond the territory. Traveling is to understand that the boundaries of States are only a political factor that over time has become cultural. The topography and hydrographic boundaries are not so often the same as  the political ones.” – Dario Sorgato.

Ernesto and Alberto planned to travel more than 14,000 kilometers or about 8,699 miles in just four and a half months. Their route and adventure plans were nothing short of ambitious, something all motorcycle riders and travelers alike can appreciate. They traveled through a large part of Western South America. In total, the journey took Guevara through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, and to Miami, before returning home to Buenos Aires. By the end of Guevara’s trip, he came to view Latin America not as a collection of separate nations and people, but as a single and unified entity which he believed would require a continent-wide plan of liberation and freedom.

The Journey (and an incomplete travel summary)

the journey 251514-970x600-1

(1) Sante Fe Province , (2) Buenos Aires, Argentina

Guevara and the 29-year-old Granado soon set off from Buenos Aires, Argentina, astride the 1939 Norton 500 cc motorcycle  with the idea of eventually spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Peru on the banks of the Amazon River.

 (3) Miramar, Buenos Aires Province

Their first stop: Miramar, Argentina, a small resort where Guevara’s girlfriend, Chichina, was spending the summer with her upper-class family. Two days stretched into eight, and upon leaving, Chichina gave Guevara a gold bracelet. (Which I believe he had to pawn to get by on his journey later on!)


(4) San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro Province, Argentina


(5) Osomo, Chile , Thursday, February 14th, 1952

The two men crossed into Chile on February 14. At one point they introduced themselves as internationally renowned leprosy experts to a local newspaper, which wrote a glowing story about them. The travelers later used the press clipping as a way to score meals and other favors with locals along the way.

subcontinental map5

(6) Valdivia, Los Rios Region, Chile


(7) Temuco, Araucania Region, Chile


(8) Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile


(9) Valparaiso Region, Chile


(10) Antofagasta Region, Chile



(11) Chuquicamata Region, Chile

One of the most important places they were to arrive in, in both body and heart, was to be Chile. Here they encountered penniless and persecuted people  that helped ignite their adventurous spirit even higher, but it also marked a deep transformation in the soul of Ernesto and awakened his humanitarianism which solidified his revolutionary spark.

They visited the Chuquicamata copper mine, the world’s largest open-pit mine and the primary source of Chile’s wealth. While getting a tour of the mine he asked how many men died in its creation. At the time it was run by U.S. mining monopolies of Anaconda and Kennecott and thus was viewed by many as a symbol of ‘imperialist gringo domination. A meeting with a homeless communist couple in search of mining work made a particularly strong impression on Guevara, who wrote: “By the light of the single candle … the contracted features of the worker gave off a mysterious and tragic air … the couple, frozen stiff in the desert night, hugging one another, were a live representation of the proletariat of any part of the world.”


(12) Tacna, Peru, Saturday, March 1st, 1952

In March 1952 they both arrived at the Peruvian Tacna. They hitchhiked on trucks filled with local Aymara Indians as they headed up into the Andes toward Lake Titicaca. Due to Poderosa’s Breakdown, they are forced to travel at a much slower pace.


(13) Torata, Peru

In the hard scrabble town of Torata Ernesto wrote “A beaten race that watches us pass through the streets of their town. Their stares are tame, almost fearful, and almost completely indifferent to the outside world. Some give the impression that they live because it is a habit they can’t shake.”


(14) Juliaca, Peru


(15) Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco made an impression on the young doctors as they spent time studying the architecture and wandering the cities museums and libraries. In Cuzco a local doctor provided them a Land Rover to take them to the Valley of the Incas.


(16) Machu Picchu, Peru

From the Valley they procured tickets on the train to Machu Picchu. It was along this ride that Ernesto began to show his disdain for the ‘Yankee’ tourist who he thought were the cause of much of the misery he was seeing in the local populations. Here he “somberly refocused” to how the indigenous civilizations of Latin America were capable of building such beauty could be destroyed of the eventual polluted and over-populated urban decay such as the near by city of Lima. The Che of depicted of the film The Motorcycle Diaries at this point in their journey, which the real Alberto helped film, is spoken to by his traveling companion, to which he shares a dream he had to peacefully revolutionize and transform modern South American, to which Guevara quickly retorts (and most certainly realizes by now): “A revolution without guns? It will never work.”



(17) Albancay, Peru

After leaving Cuzco, the two men stayed at the hospital in Abancay were they gave some lectures in return for room and board. During their stay Ernesto had a very serious asthma attack that required adrenaline shots.

(18) Huancarama, Peru

They traveled on to Huancarama a small town near the Huambo leprosarium. It was here that they learned about the founder Dr. Hugo Pesce, director of Peru’s leper treatment program and prominent communist. They stayed for a couple days but due to Ernesto’s aggravated asthma they decided to move on in search of proper treatment.


(19) Andahuaylas District, Peru

Ernesto spent two days at the hospital recovering from his asthma attacks. Once he had recovered they jumped a truck bound for Lima. It would be ten days before they reached the capital.

(20) Lima, Peru, Thursday, May 1st, 1951

On May 1st they arrived in Lima, Peru and during this time Guevara met doctor Hugo Pesce, a Peruvian scientist, director of the national leprosy program, and an important local Marxist. They discuss several nights until the early morning and years later Che identified these conversations as being very important for his evolution in attitude towards life and society. In May, Guevara and Granado leave for the leper colony of San Pablo in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, arriving there in June.


(21) Pucallpa, Peru

From Lima they took a week long bus ride to reach Pucallpa and the Rio Ucayali where they boarded the boat La Cenepa for the seven day journey to Iquitos.


(22) Iquitos, Peru, Sunday, June 1st, 1952

The pair arrived in Iquitos on June 1st. For six days Ernesto battled recurrent bouts of asthma. After recovering they set out on a two day river journey to San Pablo on the river boat El Cisne.




(23) San Pablo de Loreto, Sunday, June 8th, 1951

Ernesto and Alberto spent the next two weeks helping at the facility. During his stay Guevara complains about the miserable way the people and sick of that region have to live. Guevara also swam once from the side of the Amazon River where the doctors stayed, to the other side of the river where the leper patients lived, a considerable distance of two and a half miles. He describes how there were no clothes, almost no food, and no medication. June 14, 1952, Guevara turned twenty-four, and the entire leper colony put on a celebration that he described in a letter to his mother Celia:

“On the 14th, they gave me a party with lots of pisco, a kind of gin which makes you beautifully tipsy. The medical director toasted us, and I, inspired by the booze, replied with a very Panamerican speech, which earned great applause from the eminent, and eminently drunk, audience. The scene was one of the most interesting of our trip. An accordion player with no fingers on his right hand used little sticks tied to his wrist, the singer was blind and almost all the others were hideously deformed, due to the nervous form of the disease which is very common in this area. With the light from lamps and lanterns reflected in the river, it was like a scene from a horror film.” Guevara paraphrased his recollection of the ‘very Panamerican speech’ as follows: “Although we’re too insignificant to be spokesmen for such a noble cause, we believe, and this journey has only served to confirm this belief, that the division of America into unstable and illusory nations is a complete fiction. We are one single mestizo race with remarkable ethnographical similarities, from Mexico down to the Magellan Straits. And so, in an attempt to break free from all narrow-minded provincialism, propose a toast to Peru and to a United America.”



(24) Leticia, Amazonas, Columbia

After giving consultations and treating patients for a few weeks, Guevara and Granado leave aboard the Mambo-Tango raft (a gift from the staff) for Leticia, Colombia via the Amazon River. They entertained the idea of traveling all the way to Manaus but after floating past the town of Leticia and losing their fishing gear they made landfall and convinced some locals to row them back up river in exchange for the raft.

(25) Bogota, Columbia, Wednesday, July 2nd, 1952

On July 2, Ernesto and Alberto caught a Catalina flying boat to the capital. While visiting Bogotá, Colombia, he wrote a letter to his mother on July 6, 1952. In the letter he describes the conditions under the right-wing government of Conservative Laureano Gómez as the following: “There is more repression of individual freedom here than in any country we’ve been to, the police patrol the streets carrying rifles and demand your papers every few minutes.” He also goes on to describe the atmosphere as ‘tense’ and ‘suffocating’ even hypothesizing that a revolution may be brewing..


(26) Caracas, Venezuela

Later that month the two men set out for the long bus ride to Caracas, Venezuela and from there Ernesto and Alberto decided to part ways. Ernesto would catch a ride on a cargo planed owned by his uncle that would pass through Miami and then head back to Buenos Aires and Alberto would stay on in Caracas and work at the leprosarium. On July 26th the friends parted ways.


(27) Miami, Florida

However, prior to his return, he travels by cargo-plane to Miami, where the airplane’s technical problems delay him one month. To survive, he works as a waiter and washes dishes in a Miami bar.


(28) Buenos Aires, Capital Federal

Ernesto arrived back in Buenos Aires at the end of August after spending a month in Miami. He returned to medical school by October.

Total Distance: 11,722 Miles (18,865 km)

The spirit of adventure. Ernesto and Alberto traveled for many months. Their journey changed their bodies and minds along the way. They saw and experienceed the cultural and societal structures bend and break and harden into iron gates along the landscapes. They moved through the nations of Latin America with vigor and ambition and learned much of the South American continent. In the end, this journey sparked the Cuban Revolution which also spread into Bolivia. Che would later be assassinated as he attempted to further unite the people of South America.  His aspirations and revolutionary goals would not be forgotten. Importantly, his motorcycle journey is a small insight into where the adventurous spirit that is innate within all of us can help lead and weave into other’s lives, sparking changes in the world that echo throughout history. Where might a motorcycle take you and what dreams may become of your journey?

By Daniel Muschiana , Social Media Director – Parts Pit Stop  Resources: Senor Dario Sorgato and his Travel Blog, For more information about motorcycles, atvs, utvs, personal watercraft parts, accessories, or maintenance tips please see our sponsor at: . #partspitstop #che #motoadventures #chile #argentina #bolivia #venezuela #adventure #norton #motorcycles #revolution #guevera #aftermarketparts #oemaccessories #aftermarketaccessories

The Slat Flat Races

The Early Years

Bonneville is named after Benjamin Bonneville, who was an Army Officer that explored the Western United States back in the 1800s. The salt flats were first discovered to be driveable when a man by the name of Bill Rishel and two of his business partners drove a Pierce-Arrow across the salt in 1907.

Soon after this test drive, word began to spread that Bonneville was driveable and the first land speed record was set there in 1914 by American race car driver, Teddy Tetzlaff who was well known for his Indy 500 racing fame. Tetzlaff would set this first record in a custom built 200hp car known as the Blitzen-Benz. To set this record, Tetzlaff was able to get the Benz up to 141.73 mph on the flats.

However, despite Tetzlaff setting this land speed record, promoters had a tough time getting more drivers to attempt setting records at Bonneville. This proved to be a problem till the mid 1930s when a local Utah man by the name of Ab Jenkins began setting long distance and endurance records at the salt flats.

Jenkins got his start on the flats back in 1925 when a highway was being built. A friend who worked on the highway asked him to race against a Union Pacific Railroad train across the flats and Jenkins won the race and beat the train by nearly five minutes.

After this race, Jenkins became inspired to set land speed records of his own on out on the flats. He also felt it would be a great place for other racers to come out and set records. However, he had a problem convincing racers to come out since most of them preferred more established race venues. Jenkins kept setting his own endurance and land speed records at Bonneville and in 1932 he was able to attract the attention of the car manufacturer Pierce-Arrow.

Pierce-Arrow was testing a new 12-cylinder car at the time and they contacted Jenkins to see if he could help them improve the performance since, at the time, it was slower than the v8. Jenkins did some tuning to the engine and he then came up with an idea to test the performance of the new 12-cylinder. He would drive the car as fast as he could at Bonneville for 24-hours straight to show how powerful and durable the engine is and prove to the racing world that Bonneville was indeed the place for land speed records.

With the help of his friends, Jenkins ran the car on a 10-mile course that was set up at Bonneville. He would only stop every two hours for fuel and during the 24 hour period he never once left the driver’s seat. His average speed during the endurance test was an amazing record of 112.916 mph.

He would then make another endurance run using the Pierce-Arrow in 1933. During this run he was able set a new record by getting up to an average speed of 125 mph. Also at this run, three of Britain’s top racers John Cobb, Sir Malcolm Campbell, and Sir George Eyston happen to be in attendance and became interested in setting some of their own records.

The British Invasion of Bonneville

John Cobb was already a well-known land speed record holder back in Great Britain and after witnessing Ab Jenkins, Cobb decided to give the salt a try. He asked Jenkins if he could use his car to perform the 24 hour endurance run at the flats. After driving for 24 hours Cobb would end up beating Jenkins’ record with an average speed of 134.85 mph! This record Cobb went on to say, “would open the door for many more records to be broken at Bonneville.”

1935 would prove to be one of the best years in Bonneville’s early history. John Cobb would open up the year with a new record but Ab Jenkins would crush his record in his new Duesenberg hot rod, nicknamed the “Mormon Meteor.” On August 31st of 1935, Jenkins would use the Meteor to set a new 24 hour endurance record of 135. 47 mph. However, that record was quickly forgotten because just days later on September 3rd, Sir Malcolm Campbell of Britain became the first man to break the 300 mph barrier on land by setting a record speed of 301.129 mph.

Sir Malcolm Campbell was already a well-known land speed record holder back in Britain and had already set several records at Daytona Beach. A record in 1933 at 272.46 mph and again in March of 1935 at 276.82 mph. The records were set in what many consider to be the first Bonneville Streamliner which was a car known as the Campbell-Railton Blue Bird.

The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird was built in 1933 and it was the fourth car of Campbell’s to carry the “Blue Bird” name. The car was built from the last Blue Bird and it had a 13-foot 8-inch wheelbase and its body was designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. The Blue Bird was powered by Rolls-Royce “R” Schneider Trophy aircraft engine that produced over 2,500 hp at 3200 rpm – which was as a lot of power for the 1930s!

Campbell’s run at Bonneville was his 9th and final land speed record, after his 300 mph achievement he was hailed a National Hero in Britain and then retired from land speed to focus on setting other records on the water.


Just two years later a new land speed record would be set at Bonneville. Another Brit, Captain George Eyston who also had previous fame as a land speed record holder would push the envelope a little further using a custom car of his own known as the Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt was powered by two Rolls-Royce “R” Schneider Trophy aircraft engines which were equipped with centrifugal superchargers. The mighty 24-cylinder beast produced around 4,600 hp.

On November 19, 1937, Eyston was able to achieve a record speed of 312 mph, but this wasn’t fast enough for Eyston and he know that John Cobb was on his heels and would try to break the record, so Eyston spent the next year improving the aerodynamics of the car and the performance of the engine.


In 1938 Eyston returned to the salt flats with his improved Thunderbolt and set a new record of 345.49 mph, but this record still wasn’t sufficient to keep Cobb off his tail. On September 15th, 1938 John Cobb would return to Bonneville and break the 350 mph barrier in his new hot rod nicknamed the Railton Special.

The Railton-Special was a newly designed vehicle that was powered by two supercharged Napier Lion V11D (WD) aircraft engines that produced 2,500 hp and for the first time, this one was 4-wheel drive. John Cobb reached an astonishing new speed of 350.20 mph but it was one of the shortest records yet, because on September 16th Eyston would set a new record with Thunderbolt of 353.30 mph. So the battle was on, and more and more people began to take part in breaking records of their own.

On August 23rd, 1939 Cobb would return with the Railton-Special where he would set an amazing record of 369.27 mph. Sadly however, this would be the last record of the 30s because the very next day, Nazi Germany declared war on Great Britain and WWII for the British had begun.

After the war John Cobb would return to Bonneville in 1947 with a Rebuilt Railton-Special and he had a new goal of reaching 400 mph! On September 16th, Cobb would make a run of 385.6 and another of 403.1 giving him an average of 394.196 mph between the two runs.

The American Hot Rod at Bonneville

By 1949 a new era in Bonneville had begun, an era not just of streamliners trying to break the 400 mph mark, but the era of home-built hot rods and rock ‘n’ roll began to take shape. In 1949 the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) decided to expend its land speed events from the dry lakes of So-Cal to Bonneville. Instead of just big budget streamliners, Bonneville was now full of returning GIs and their ’32 Ford Coupes, and Highboy Roadsters.

The Belly Tank Lakester was one of the earliest post war Bonneville developments. The idea came from a Southern-California hot rodder named Bill Burke who wanted to build a streamliner for land speed racing similar to that of John Cobb, Sir Malcom Campbell, and Captain George Eyston. But he didn’t have the budget for that caliber of project.

Burke remembered when he served in WWII in the Pacific, while in Guadalcanal he saw the P-51 Mustang belly tanks being unload. He was impressed with how aerodynamic the tanks were and he purchased a surplus tank for $35 after the war to use for his streamliner. He built his hot rod out of it using old Model T and Model A parts to run in the dry lakes of Southern California.

Seeing Burke’s hot rod, inspired Alex Xydias the owner and founder of the famous So-Cal Speed Shop to by a P-51 Mustang drop tank and build a Lakester of his own. His Lakester had a bubble canopy and the vents around the engine looked similar to those of an aircraft. The So-Cal Lakester was powered by a 156 ci V8 engine and in 1951 at Bonneville, Xydias reached a speed of 145.40 mph.

That night Alex and his So-Cal Speed Shop team swapped out the 156 ci V8 for a 259 Mercury flathead and they were able to get the car up to 181.08 mph the very next morning, which set a new record for their class! Things really started to heat up, and guys were swapping motors right out on the salt to try and top one another.

The Bonneville Coupe was another unique development to happen in post war salt flats racing. Originally coupes were not supposed to run at Bonneville, because the SCTA didn’t consider them hot rods back then. They only considered Roadsters, Lakesters and Streamliners for the hot rods classes which soon changed thanks to yet more hot rod ingenuity.

It made Bob and Dick Pierson want to set out to prove to the SCTA that Coupes were true hot rods. Dick originally bought a 1934 Ford coupe to be his daily driver, but the brothers agreed that they would turn this car into their Bonneville racer. The Brothers went to their good friend Bobby Meeks who worked for Edelbrock to help them hot rod their coupe for the salt.

One of the first things they did was give the roof an excessive chop, then they streamlined the body by 9 inches and channeled the car by 3 inches. They first tested the car in the dry lakes of So Cal were they set a few record runs. The car then went out to Bonneville in 1950 where it pulled off an amazing run of 150 mph which was faster than any Roadster at Bonneville that year including the Edelbrock Special.


Roadsters also flooded the salt and became very common at Bonneville after the war and were eventually given their own class. One of the earliest roadsters to have success at Bonneville was Vic Edelbrock’s 1932 Ford roadster nicknamed the Edelbrock Special (pictured here).

Vic and his team built the roadster in late 1949 to be ready for the 1950 Bonneville season; the Special was powered by a 259 Ford Flathead engine which was hooked up to a three speed transmission. Bill Lakes drove the roadster at his first Bonneville appearance in 1950 and was able to set a new record of 146.36 MPH. This was an amazing accomplishment for a roadster and it also let other hobby and home-built hot rodders know that they can build fast cars on a budget.

Dean Moon also played an important part in the early days of post war Bonneville. Not so much as a record setter but as someone who developed parts that would help others set records. Dean Moon started out by making parts for his own Hot Rod in the late 40s while he was still in school. After coming back from the Korean War as an Air Force photographer, Dean Moon used his money to open up a hot rod shop in the back of his Father’s Cafe to sell his new parts.

His first best-selling part was the “foot shaped” gas pedal which sold like crazy in the first month it was out. He used the profits to develop a part that would help improve top speed performance in land speed racing in places like El Mirage and Bonneville. After weeks of testing and experimenting, the part he came up with was a hand-spun aluminum hubcap known as the Moon Disc. The Moon Disc was designed to help improve a cars top speed while on the flats through aerodynamics and they are widely used even today on every type of car from Roadsters to Streamliners.

The Right Stuff – Battle of the Jet Cars

The early 60s brought on a new era for setting records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. American Streamliners were now regularly getting over 300 miles per hour but none were coming close to John Cobb’s 394 mph record that was set back in 1947.

An American Hot Rodder by the name of Mickey Thompson made it his goal that he was going to be the first to break the 400 mph barrier. He was already famous for building the first dragster in the early 50s and for setting a record of 294 mph with his twin-Hemi Engine dragster in 1958.

To try and reach 400 mph he built a custom streamliner that was nicknamed Challenger. The Challenger was powered by four Pontiac 415 V8 engines that are hooked up to four ’37 Cadillac transmissions. Mickey took the Challenger to Bonneville in October of 1959 and was able to reach a speed of 363.48 mph. However, this was not the 400 miles per hour record that Thompson had hoped for.

Thompson would spend the next year improving the cars aerodynamics and engine performance. A 6-71 GMC supercharger was added to each individual Pontiac V8 motor, and other minor adjustments were made which gave each engine 750 hp. Mickey Thompson and his crew then took the Challenger out to the Bonneville Salt Flats on September 9th, 1960 and made an amazing one way record of 406.60 mph which made him the fastest man on Earth!


By 1962 Jet cars had begun to become a more common appearance at Bonneville with a few different jet cars trying to achieve speeds that were thought impossible to reach. Those who brought jet cars to compete were; drag racer Art Arfons, known for his Allison V12 powered Dragsters and his brother Walt Arfons, another man by the name of Dr. Nathan Ostich, and a drag racer by the name of Craig Breedlove.

During this era record setting at Bonneville changed from being a weekend hobby into a full scale competition with high dollar cars, a high level of competitiveness and it finally became a serious business.

Art Arfons ran a series of cars that were powered by General Electric J79 turbo-Jet engines that continued running the name Green Monster which is what he nicknamed his dragsters.

His brother Walt Arfons would run a car nicknamed Wingfoot Express, which was powered by a Westinghouse J49 triple jet powered engine. Craig Breedlove would run a three wheeled car that was nicknamed the Spirit of America which was powered by a J47 engine out of an F-86 Sabre fighter plane.


The record setting in this era became similar to that of the test pilots; Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield, Gordo Cooper and Gus Grissom of “The Right Stuff” and NASA fame. Every time one of the Arfons or Breedlove would set a record, the other guys would go back and rebuild their cars or build a new car just to beat that last set record, even if it was only by a couple miles per hour.

The competition officially started in August of 1963 when Craig Breedlove beat Mickey Thompson’s 406 mph record with a new record of 407.45. The record would stand until October of 1964 when Walt Arfons and his driver Tom Green would set a record of 413.20 mph in Wingfoot Express. This record would be short lived because like any good brother Art was competitive and had to crush his older brother’s record.

Just three days after Walt set his 413 mph record, Art took his budget-built Green Monster to a record breaking speed of 434.02 mph. Art just didn’t beat his brother’s record, he crushed it!

Like most records of this time, Art’s record would only last eight short days because Craig Breedlove was back at Bonneville with a rebuilt Spirit of America to push the envelope even further. Thanks to his rebuilt J47 engine and improved streamlining on his car, Breedlove was able to achieve a new record speed of 468.72 mph.


However Art’s record would only last just eight short days because Craig Breedlove was back at Bonneville with a rebuilt Spirit of America to push the envelope a little further.

However, Breedlove knew his Spirit of America was capable of going even faster, so back to the garage he went. They made a few minor engine adjustments and were able to run and crush all previous records by breaking the 500 mph mark with a record setting run of 526.28! He achieved a speed of 539 on his return run before his parachutes tore off and he lost control crashing through a telephone pole before crashing into a brine lake that was at the end of the course. He would escape completely unharmed but his Spirit of America was completely destroyed.

Art Arfons would then break this record with his rebuilt Green Monster at the end of the month by setting a new record of 536.71 MPH which was the final record set for 1964.


Breedlove would return to Bonneville in 1965 with a brand new car nicknamed Spirit of America Sonic 1 that used the faster J79 engine with a 4-wheel design. During his first run of the season Breedlove would temporally lose control of his car and almost end up in the same lake as last year, but he was able to recover his car in time. He found out at high speeds that his front end was lifting off the ground and causing the control problems, so they added fins to the front of the car to add more down force to help keep it stable at higher speeds.

On November 2nd of 1965 Breedlove would set a new record of 555.483 mph. Art Arfons and his rebuilt Green Monster would then break this record when he managed to achieve a speed of 576.553 mph. He was still able to break the record despite having to regain control of his car after one of his rear tires blew out and one of his parachutes ripped away. However just eight days later, Breedlove would then shatter Art’s record by breaking the 600 mph barrier and setting a record of 600.601!

Art Arfons would return in 1966 with a newly rebuilt Green Monster to try and break Breedlove’s record. However, during his first attempt at setting a new record one of the front wheel bearings broke and his car went out of control while he was at the speed of around 610 mph. Sadly, the car was totaled but Art survived with only a few minor scratches and some salt burns to the eyes. Arfons would soon retire from Land Speed Racing and begin a career in tractor pulling.

Craig Breedlove’s record would stand for five more years until 1970 when a man by the name of Gary Gabelich would shatter his record. Gary Gabelich used a car which was powered by not a jet engine but a rocket engine that used hydrogen peroxide oxidizer combined with liquefied natural gas.

The Final Record

On October 28, 1970 Gary Gabelich would do the impossible, not only would he break the 600 MPH barrier and shatter Breedlove’s record he would set the fastest record in Bonneville history!

During his record breaking run Gabelich pushed the Blue Flame to an average speed of 630.478! His record was not broken until 13 years later by Richard Noble but that was done in Nevada so Gabelich’s record still stands as the fastest record in Bonneville.

It really amazes us how much ingenuity and hard work that gets put into the cars that have run at Bonneville throughout the years. Bonneville is a really unique and special place that has so much history and so many stories that it’s hard to fit them all into one piece. We sincerely hope that Bonneville will remain the ultimate proving ground for generations of hot rods to come and we support all of the “Save the Salt” efforts to ensure that those who have the desire to create one of a kind machines and the courage to drive their machines as hard and as fast as possible will have the opportunity to become the fastest man (or woman) in the world!



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Dynamometers Explained

Everyone Talks Horsepower, But how do you actually measure it?

The term “horsepower” is often discussed at a dealer. “How much horsepower does this model have?” “How can I get more horsepower from my bike?” “These two engine are the same size. How come one has more horsepower than the other?” This article will provide a brief history of horsepower as well as the tools used to measure it.

Defining horsepower has always come down to who you ask and what machine (dynamometer) was used to measure it. To complicate things further, there are many definitions of horsepower, including gross, brake, shaft, effective, indicated, relative, SAE Gross, DIN, JIS, ECE, ISO, shaft, watts, kilowatts, advertised and rear wheel. To understand the term – and be able to explain it to your customers – horsepower needs to be put into historical perspective.

How much power an engine produces has been a subject of controversy since the advent of the steam engine in the late 1700s. The dollars and cents of measuring engine power is easy to understand. For example, if an engine made by one company makes 100 horsepower and another manufacturer makes an engine that produces 104 horsepower, and both engines sell for the same price, which is more desirable?

This logic applies not only to engines, but also anything that can be added to an engine to increase horsepower, like exhaust systems. Many aftermarket exhaust manufactureres advertise that their systems will increase the power outlet of an engine. If two similar systems claim different power increases, one will have an advantage in the marketplace. This is also true of motorcycle manufacturers. Honda, Harley-Davidson, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Ducati, BMW, Triump, KTM and other manufacturers are all trying to sell products, and if horsepower is a factor in the equation, more can only be better.

Read the latest review of any motorcycle and more than likely rear wheel or crankshaft horsepower will be listed as a means of comparison between similar bikes in a particular class. Horsepower is measured using a device called a dynamometer, and while these machines don’t produce power like an internal combustion engine, they have something else in common. When it comes to advertising horsepower numbers, more is always better.

Every company that manufacturers dynamometers has a practical reason to steer potential customers away from their competition by pointing out why the other guy’s dyno produces inflated or inaccurate horsepower numbers. Messing around with the numbers that calculate horsepower has been going on for a while. In 1712, Thomas Newcomen designed the first commercially successful steam engine, but it was not very efficient and had limited uses, mostly pumping water out of deep mines.

A scottish mechanical engineer, James Watt, came up with a vastly improved version of the steam engine in 1764 that used 75 percent less coal than the Newcomen engines. Watt’s business plan was to collect royalties from his customers based on the savings in coal, which worked for customers that had existing steam engines and could track their use of coal. But mine operators that still used horses to get their work done need a different way to calculate what they would pay for this cutting-edge technology – the steam engine.


Watt’s plan to entice mine owners to purchase one of his steam engines was based on how many horses the owners could replace. But a question had to be answered: how much work can a single horse accomplish in a given amount of time?

Watt reasoned that if a horse could hoist a bucket of coal weighting 366 lbs. up a mine shaft at the rate of one foot per second, in one minute the horse could raise the bucket 60 feet. With this information, Watt calculated that the horse could raise 21,960 lb.s one foot in one minutes (366 x 60 = 21,960 foot-pounds per minute). Other engineers at the time placed the amount of work a horse could do at 22,916 or 27,500 ft. lbs.

Watt experimented further, and in 1782 found that a brewery horse (a large breed) was able to produce 32,400 ft. lbs. of work per minute. Watt rounded that number up to 33,000 and that became the standard still in use today.

Few horses of even the largest breeds can pull that much weight for any length of time, and there was speculation that Watt had exaggerated the number to his advantage for the purpose of overvaluing his steam engine’s capabilities. Another view is that Watt was just applying good marketing techniques by comparing horses (a familiar form of power and effort at the time) to new technology – the steam engine. With the proliferation of the steam engine, and Watt’s formula for horsepower, a way to measure power output was needed.


(Above: William Froude was born in England in 1810, and in 1877 he invented the hydraulic dynamometer, or water brake. Pictured is a large version of an early water brake circa 1890- a model FA7, Froude Hofmann. The torque arm is easily visible to the right and looks to be almost 15 feet in length. The company was established in 1881 in is still in business, providing design and manufacturing of high technology and specialized test equipment. They produce power measurement products for engines used on ships, automobiles, aircraft even motorcycles.)

The Dynamometer

The first dynamometer was invented in 1821 by Gaspard de Prony. The de Prony brake, as it was called, was used to measure the performance of engines and other types of machines. Dynamometers have been widely used since the late 1800s to measure the torque of steam engines. The water brake type of dynamometer, sometimes mistakenly called a hydraulic dynamometer, is the oldest type of design and is still used today. These power absorption units can accommodate anything from a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine that makes two horsepower to marine diesel engines that can produce hundreds of thousands of horsepower. These early dynamometers basically consist of two half couplings – a rotor and stator.

For measuring horsepower from powersports engines, there are two basic types of dynamometers: engine and chassis. Engine dynamometers are used to measure power directly at the engine’s crankshaft or flywheel. The engine is tested without its transmission or drivetrain connected – in other words, it’s not installed in a motorcycle but rather on a test stand. For the majority of riders, removing their engine for this type of testing is too costly and impractical. The chassis dynamometer measure power at the motorcycle’s rear wheel and the bike simply has to be ridden on to the chassis dyno and strapped down.


( The Dynojet 200i from Dynojet Performance is an inertia type chassis dynamometer that provides a quick way for motorcycle dealers and independent repair shops to verify repairs and diagnose a variety of performance problems. It comes with an atmospheric module that provides a correction factor to ensure consistency between dyno runs made under varying conditions.)

Inertia Dynamometer

The most common design of dynamometer for powersports use is the inertia type. It doesn’t actually measure torque, but instead calculates it by measuring acceleration. The rear wheel of a motorcycle (or ATV) accelerates a 900-lb. steel drum. Force at the surface of the drum is measured indirectly by measuring its acceleration from one revolution to the next. Force is calculated using Newton’s 2nd law (mass times acceleration). Because the mass, or weight, of the drum is known, force (horsepower) can be calculated.

A typical dyno run begins with the engine running just over idle, in fourth or fifth gear, with the rear tire turning the drum. When the throttle is opened, the engine accelerates the dynamometer’s drum as engine speed increases to redline. Computer software used with inertia dynos can accurately measure acceleration of the drum over small increments of time and calculate a value for torque. Using torque and engine RPM, rear wheel horsepower can be calculated.


(This Dynojet 250i load control (eddy current) dynamometer can hold engine speed steady at any throttle opening. The dyno can measure up to 750 horsepower at speeds of 200 mpg. It can also be configured to run sweep tests like an inertia dynamometer. This type of dynamometer is available in a portable design (pictured above) or for in-ground installations.


(This Dynojet eddy current load absorption unit is ideal for testing motorcycle engines because of its quick response and loading capabilities. The electromagnetic coils can be seen next to the heat absorption rotor. The rotor looks like a disc brake for a car and has large cooling fins and passages to dissipate heat created by a loaded engine.)

Eddy Current Dynamometer

The eddy current brake type dynamometer uses electricity to place a load on an engine by creating a magnetic field. The engine under test is connected to the dyno’s input shaft that spins a metallic rotor creating a magnetic field. When current is increased to the dyno’s internal electromagnetic coils, the rotor shaft becomes harder to rotate and thus loads the engine. Torque load is measured using a strain gauge similar to those used on a water brake dynamometer. The rotor gets hot as the dyno resists the engine’s power and must be cooled. Eddy current dynamometers that are used for testing motorcycle engines are usually air-cooled, employing what looks like an oversized automotive brake rotor with large cooling fins. Eddy current dynoas are accurate and offer the flexibility to perform steady-state load testing or acceleration sweep testing like the inertia dynamometer.

Credit: Tracy Martin via Dealernews

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Loretta Lynn National & A Lot of Heart

IMG_394099762189260Sometimes you find a rider that won’t quit even in the face of physical challenges and big crashes, here is a short story from the perspective of a father in one of those situations, enjoy the read and photos.

IMG_394021686171426“Couldn’t be more proud of this kid. Just 4 weeks ago he fractured his collar bone preparing for the Mid East regional at Red Bud. He was heart broken thinking his dream of Lorettas this year was all but gone. He knew if he did everything the Dr said he would have this chance at Sunset Ridge to make this last chance in the North Central. He drank his milk, ate his vitamins, ate healthy.  Dr released him to ride just days before the regional. With 3 weeks off the bike and no practice he knew he had to give it everything he had. These kids have been riding the whole time. Practicing.  Moto schools. Training. But he had something more than them. Heart! Man does this kid have heart..”


“Moto 1 he took a 2nd. Moto 2 he took a 4th. Which sets him up good going into moto 3. They only take the top 6 out of a 40 rider gate. Moto 3 he comes out of the gate in 5th.  Coming around the turn on lap 1 just before the finish line he falls and gets ran over. By the time he gets up I think it’s over. He’s hurt. But no. He’s came too far. He gets back on his bike. Gets it started. And gets it going.


By now he’s in 25th on lap 1. He Flys by me like he’s on a mission. I hear the sound of his bike reving so high like he’s going to blow it up he’s riding it so hard. By lap 2 he’s now in 15th. Again riding so close to the edge I can tell he wants this very bad. By lap 3 he’s now up to 12th. And on the final lap he finishes in 8th. Aginst the fastest kids from Texas, Florida,  Washington, Colorado,  Illinois.  Etc… his lap times were 3 seconds faster than the leader.

By the time I got to the trailer I could see in his face the look of disparity on weather or not he qualified.  He walked straight to the results booth to wait for the post.  Within 5 minutes which felt like forever he was overjoyed with the results.  He’s been on cloud 9 since!”


Sent in from the father, Blaine Switzer, of the little rider with heart – Cayden Switzer.

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