If you were on a quest to set a motorcycle land speed record today, what motor would you use? In 1970, someone thought the way to go was the powerplant from a Sportster. To be fair, that someone was Dick O’Brien, Harley-Davidson’s racing crew chief. Before you read on, take guess as to how fast they went.
The bike was designed by Denis Manning (also known for founding BUB Enterprises), who also went on to build the streamliner that Chris Carr would set a 350+ mph record with in 2006. But let’s stay in 1970. Harley brought Manning in to build the chassis, Warner Riley to build the engine, and Cal Rayborn to ride (even though Cal had never been on the salt flats before). It’s a fascinating story and you should check out the AMA Hall of Fame page on Manning for more details like this one:
Manning agreed to a performance-based deal. “O’Brien offered me $10,000 if we got a new world record, and reimbursement for my hotel bill if we didn’t,” Manning said. “I took the deal.”
Oh, and the final speed after two runs? 265.492 mph.
If the history of Harley-Davidson appeals to you, there are similar videos in this playlist that are worth a watch.
This bike-uriousity brought to you by Larry G!