Next up for our Salt & Speed racer profile, we have a letter to share from a veteran racer, Tom Anderson, who will be at BUB Speed Trials this August. Here's what "Santa" had to say.
"Hi, I’m Tom “Santa Claus” Anderson. I will get to the bikes, but a little history first. We started racing on the salt in 1995. When Erik Buell and Harley got together and built the S-2 Thunderbolt we came up with the name of Buell Brothers Race Team. We set a record the first year in the Production Push Rod 1350 Class at Speed Week. Our Race Team started with guys that I was in the service with, we were Vietnam Vets and a lot of friends. We loved Harleys and going fast. Our race team now has people from all over the world.
A few years later, my sisters gave me so much crap about having so much fun and not building a bike for women to race at Bonneville. So the Buell Sisters were born.
In 2003, Denis “Bub” Manning met us at Speed Week and helped us go faster. He told us that he was going to put a land speed racing event at Bonneville for motorcycles only. He asked us to come; he was going to call it “Bub Speed Trials”. We said “Yes”, so did other people and teams. As they say, the rest is history.
The Brothers’ bike is now is a 1350 modified partial stream line Buell. With S&S cases, flywheels, and two G series S&S carbs with a set of Schumacher Heads. The bike has evolved over the years, it has set numerous records and gone over 176 mph. We tear the bike down every year, we go through everything: front end, bearings, frame and engine; then paint everything and put it back together and Dyno the bike. Then it is off to Bonneville to see if we can go faster! Joe Taylor has been the pilot for many years. This year Joe is building a 1939 Knucklehead, so he is also busy.
The Sisters’ bike is the same 1995 S-2 Thunderbolt we started racing with in 1995. It is in the 1350 Production Push Rod Class. The engine we use is a stock 1203 Buell engine from Harley. We have had a few different women ride the bike through the years but Erin Hunter is the pilot now. The thing I enjoy about women riding the bike is that they listen to what you tell them to do, then do it and go faster. The Production Class has to be like you bought the bike new. She has set many records through the years on the bike. She holds the record now at 147 mph and we want to go faster at the Bub Speed Trials.
The third bike is new this year; we are going to call it Big Brother. It is a Buell frame with a Buell RR Body work. Things didn’t work out on our new engine so we are going to run a 1203 Buell engine to make sure it goes straight down the track. Plus, we will see if the fairing I built will work and handle. I am putting all that I have learned over the past 18 years to hopefully get to 200 mph on gas and naturally aspirated. All of our bikes are yellow, our first bike was yellow and we still are the same.
If going to Bonneville is on your bucket list, you better do it. You will never forget it. Plus you can always stop by the Buell Brothers and Sisters pits and get an Old Style beer and some Cheese! After racing, we get together at our pits, play guitar, sing some Rock & Roll songs and have a few Old Styles.
Buell Brothers and Buell Sisters Race Team
What's With The Red Hat?
We've gotten a number of emails asking what the red hat is all about. Odd that nobody has commented about it on the blog. Be that as it may, here's the deal.
The red hat that Jay and Wink were striving for is not the one your mother in law wears with her purple pants suit to her Red Hat Society meetings. The only people who get to wear this hat belong to the prestigious 200 MPH Club. The 200 MPH Club is a very exclusive organization open only to people who have set a record of over 200 MPH in any of a number of land speed racing sanctions. Check out their website
for more details.
S&S has a resident 200 MPH Club member here in Viola. Dan Kinsey has been with S&S since 1970 and has set a couple of 200 mph+ records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Dan piloted the S&S/BUB streamliner Tenacious to a 276.510 mph SAF2000 record in 1985, and drove the S&S partially streamlined bike Tramp III to a 226.148 mph APS-APF2000 record in 1991. (video
) He's been there, done that, and he has the hat to prove it.
Dan Kinsey and TRAMP III
Not So Fast!
So all Wink and Jay need to do is to beat their current records and go over 200 mph to get in the club, right?
No, it's not that simple. They intend to run in two classes APS-PG 3000 and APS-PF 3000. Jay currently holds SCTA records in those classes. Both records are less than 200 mph. However, the 200 MPH club has set a minimum speed of 215 MPH in the APS-PG 3000 class and recognizes a record of 231.597 set by Dave Campos in 1974 for the APS-PF 3000 class. That means that Jay and/or Wink have to set a record of over 215 mph in the APS-PG 3000 class or break Dave Campos record in the APS-PF 3000 class. That's a tall order, but they think with the additional horsepower and slippery bodywork that it can be done!
How can Jay Allen hold an SCTA record in APS-PF 3000 if Dave Campos holds a higher one? The answer is that it's complicated; involving several different racing sanctions and 200 MPH Club rules. When the smoke clears, it's tough to fight city hall, and if you want to join the club, you have to play by their rules!
What do all the numbers and letters in the class names mean?
The number is the maximum displacement in cubic centimeters. The first A stands for Altered or special construction. The PS stands for Partially Streamlined. The PG stands for Pushrod Gasoline, and the PF stands of Pushrod Fuel. So APS-PF3000 means that the bike is altered, partially streamlined, with a pushrod engine of less than 3000cc displacement, and running on fuel (nitromethane). So why are these guys going after a fuel record on a bike that's powered by gasoline? Well, there's no rule that says that you have to run nitro, it just says that you can. So if you can beat a fuel record on gas, more power to you. It's been done before.
Meanwhile back at Wink's shop in Orange, CA . . . Wink is modifying the new bodywork to fit Jay's FXR. The problem is that this fairing was built for a different type of motorcycle. When you stick it on a Harley-Davidson® big twin the cutout for the riders left foot is right over the big hump in the Harley® primary case. The solution is to move the cutout back about eight inches so the rider's foot can slide in behind the primary and out of the air stream. That's a time consuming bit of fiberglass work, but it has to be done.
The aerodynamics of the bodywork is critical to the success of this project. In fact it's just as important as the additional horsepower. Keep in mind that the salt at Bonneville does not offer exceptional traction, so it's not that hard to make the tire slip and spin. Also, at speeds of over 200 mph wind resistance becomes a major factor. At some point wind resistance will overcome the traction available, and the tire will start to slip. The easier the bike can slide through the air the higher the speed at which that will occur. That's what it's going to take to get that red hat!
Haste Makes Waste... And Who Wanted To Get Wasted?
A couple of days ago Wink contacted us here at S&S to tell us that they weren't going to make it to the World Finals at Bonneville, and now it looks like the meet may not happen due to rain. The reason Wink and Jay decided to give it a miss was that there was just too much to get done and not enough time to do it right. In addition to the fiberglass bodywork, one of the key problems was that the engine hadn't been given the Wink Eller treatment, and he needed to go through it to make sure everything was perfect. According to Wink "You have to be prepared, and everything has to be done right when you go to Bonneville." He went on to explain that just going 200 mph is dangerous enough, and that rushing to get ready and possibly making mistakes or cutting corners increases the danger unnecessarily. "Besides, if you work 24/7 to get ready the week before the race, you show up at the salt all worn out. That's no good! And I hate workin' on my bike out on the salt!"
These guys are no quitters, so what's the plan? The plan is that they will skip the World Finals at Bonneville, but will instead focus on a November race at El Mirage in southern California. That will give them more time to prepare the bike and get everything dialed in before the race. We intend to update this blog to follow Wink and Jay's progress, so check back to the S&S Performance Times Blog often to see what happens.
Last week at the BUB International Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville salt flats, there was much to see.
Customers of S&S hit the salt and came away from it with new land speed records! First up was Jay Allen of the Broken Spoke Race Team. You may know him as the bandana wielding owner of the original Broken Spoke Saloon in Sturgis. Jay came to BUBs with his FXR, powered by an S&S® V124 engine built by Jeff Lange of Different Strokes. The heads were B2 heads ported by Rob Schopf of Rob Schopf Performance. Jay broke not 1, not 2, but 3 land speed records within the two weeks of BUBs. (actual numbers coming shortly when released).
Next up is veteran land speed racer, Wink Eller. Wink broke the old record of 167.335 mph in the A-PF 3000 class with a run of 169.558 mph. He also worked with Jay Allen of Broken Spoke Racing to help him set his three records. Some time during the meet Wink sustained a pretty bad cut on his leg, and proceeded to stitch it up by himself so he could race the next day. There's a video of the stitchery on YouTube, but be warned, it may be hard to watch if you have a weak stomach! Wink took Jay's bike for a run and qualified at over 192 mph, but due to bad weather did not have the opportunity to back it up. He vows he will be back in October for the world finals.
Last but not least is Chris Rivas. The quest to find the 2011 World's Fastest Bagger is officially completed, and the award goes once again to Chris Rivas of Chris Rivas V-Twin in Fresno CA. Chris, riding the newly upgraded “Aero Glide” designed by Carl Brouhard Designs, completed the timed mile with an average speed of 195.036 mph to turn in the fastest measured mile ever on a Bagger. Thanks to a special appearance by S&S Cycle's Executive Chairman & CEO George B. Smith, after a 20 year hiatus, some very smart tuning decisions were made in order to accomplish what some thought to be impossible. Even though exit speeds are not a part of the official times, it is now clear that a 200 mph lap on a Bagger is very attainable. Not only is the body design unique, The Aero Glide motorcycle also has several very unique features such as a naturally aspirated 240 HP S&S Powered 167 cubic inch Twin Cam that button starts, thanks to the S&S Easy Start Camshafts designed by the engineers at S&S Cycle.
*More from George below
2011 Return and Recollections
By: George B. Smith
Driving across Utah, headed for Wendover and the Bonneville Salt Flats, with my wife Connie, a wave of emotions and thoughts flooded through my mind.
Twenty years ago, at the 1991 BNI Meet, I had been here with Dan Kinsey, Floyd Baker, Uncle Sid (Smith), and the rest of the S&S team with Tramp III running nitro in the APS 2000cc fuel class. We set a 226MPH record but were not satisfied. Dan and the Tramp had been clocked at over 239MPH and we knew it could run faster but it drove through the clutch on our last attempt. We packed up and took the long drive back to Viola, Wisconsin and proceeded to make modifications so we could return to the late fall USFRA meet and go 250MPH or better. We reloaded the trailer and got as far as Wyoming when the snows came and the meet was called. The dejected crew returned to Wisconsin and unfortunately, Tramp III ended up in the S&S Museum never to return to the Salt.
I thought back to my first trip to the Salt with my Dad just after joining S&S. We were running three Harley street bikes testing S&S parts with Warner Riley doing the riding. It was my first opportunity work with Warner that began our motorcycle work relationship which has lasted all these years. I developed a passion and respect for “the great white dyno” as the ultimate test bed for horse power, longevity, and handling. Painfully, that was the only trip I enjoyed with my Dad because he unexpectedly passed away.
The heavy responsibility fell on those who remained at S&S Cycle after Dad’s passing. With me and Floyd Baker assuming the lion’s share of R&D and product designing, enter Denis Manning into my life. He called and asked if S&S wanted to collaborate on a Bonneville project. What better way for me to get my feet wet and learn about go-fast-parts then to work with Denis! The collaboration between Denis and S&S Cycle was not new. In 1970 Denis, Warner, and my Dad worked with Harley to set the motorcycle world land speed record at over 265MPH. After talking it over, I called back Denis and said yes under one condition—that Denis collaborate with S&S to design a conventional motorcycle Bonneville racer. He agreed. And work began on what we called Tramp III.
Thinking of all the time I had been away from the Salt brought pangs of guilt as I rationalized reasons to explain my absence. In 1992, Ma died and the family was dealing with her loss. The following year, I began to get involved in designing the first Harley drag bike to go 200MPH in the quarter mile. I quit S&S daily operations in order to work on this and other R&D projects. The thought of a blown nitro S&S powered V-twin “Harley” drag bike to be the first in the 6’s and over 200MPH became my passion. Andy Gotsis and Steve Rominski would develop the chassis working with Sandy Kosman and I and S&S would do the engine. Our relationship with the late Elmer Trett proved invaluable as Elmer coached us on the fuel system among other things. We missed being the first bike to run in the 6’s by a month or two but in May of 1995, at Richmond, Virginia, Andy Gotsis on the S&S blower bike was the first Harley to crack 200 in a quarter mile. The bike was a hit and coined “the loudest bike on the planet.” I still have people come up and ask about that bike.
The blower bike project was replaced by helping Dave Feazell run S&S engines to win the number one plate in the AHDRA Pro-stock class. We did that in 1997 and again in 1998. The AHDRA project gave way to interest in the NHRA Pro stock motorcycle class where there was growing effort to develop competitive V-twins to liven up the competition. But at that time S&S was gearing up to build complete engines for the growing custom bike chopper craze in the U.S., so I was not able to get the funding necessary to develop a special purpose NHRA pro stock motorcycle v-twin engine. When Harley entered the fray in 2001, the Board approved the project. Work began in earnest using what I and S&S had learned over the years including experimenting on projects with Dave’s invaluable help. The first production prototype was completed by August of 2003 and was enclosed in a chassis that George Bryce and I had developed with Sandy Kosman’s expertise doing the fabricating and body work. The engine was 60º V-twin, in line cylinders (forked rod), 4 cam pushrod, two valve head motor patterned after the Sportster engine. Always being Harley guys, it was logical from an S&S stand point to use Buell bodywork. The bike debuted at Columbus, Ohio NHRA national event in the spring of 2004, qualified number two, and received the NHRA Best Engineered Vehicle award. The S&S Buell enjoyed great success winning the first national event in Las Vegas 2004. Since then, over 30 S&S Buells have been produced, winning championships on three continents including the NHRA in 2007 and 2009. Today, about half the NHRA qualifying field is comprised of S&S powered Buells.
So what do me and S&S do for an encore? Back to the Salt! As Connie and I drove into the pits at the 2011 BUB all motorcycle world land speed trials I wondered who would be there besides Denis, Warner, and Chris Rivas—who I had been helping with his S&S powered world’s fastest bagger project. I must admit I was a little nervous but that feeling disappeared in a hurry when I talked to Denis, Warner, Chris, John Yeates, Jay Allen, Wink Eller, Sam Wills and many many others. I helped Chris set a new bagger record of 193.9— thrilling! Attending the awards banquet on Thursday night was a humbling experience as S&S’s contribution to Bonneville land speed racing was warmly recognized with John Yeates and his wife Dexter presenting me with a copy of a new book recognizing the 1970 Harley record achievement which was autographed for me by three of the crew in attendance in 1970— Dennis Manning, Warner Riley, and John Yeates. My return to Bonneville was a very intense and satisfying experience for me and I’m thankful to all for making me feel so welcome. I’ll be back next year!
Nowadays, most people know that S&S Cycle offers some of the best motorcycle engines for Harley-Davidson® motorcycles, but back in the day, old timers knew S&S for high performance carburetors such as the venerable Super B, the Super E, Super G, and even the now discontinued Two-Throat. So how did S&S Cycle make the transition from "The Carb Guys" to the "Engine Guys"
It's a long story because S&S has a long history, but here's a brief, condensed version.
S&S Cycle was founded in 1958, and the first product sold was a solid lifter conversion kit featuring light weight aluminum pushrods. It wasn't too long before S&S introduced stroker flywheels to make Harley® engines bigger. Then came larger carburetors for gas and nitro, capable of supplying the demands of larger displacement stroker engines. The nitro engines were bending stock connecting rods, so S&S came up with stronger connecting rods for both Sportster® and big twin models. Big bore cylinders and pistons, and the improved Super carburetor were introduced in the 1970's, and the as time went on, more and more parts were added to the line. Some were purely high performance parts, but many could even be used as stock motorcycle replacement parts. Predominantly however, S&S was known for carburetors, and the iconic S&S teardrop air cleaner cover made it easy to spot a bike with an S&S carburetor.
By the early 1990's, with the addition of crankcases and cylinder heads, S&S had enough parts to put together a fairly complete v-twin engine. These almost complete motorcycle engines were brought to market as "Long Block Engines", indicating that they were not quite all there. Some stock Harley-Davidson® or aftermarket parts were needed before they were ready to run.
During this time period, Harley-Davidson® motorcycles were becoming increasingly popular, and as a result, hard to get your hands on. It could take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to take delivery of a new Harley®. With that kind of supply and demand imbalance, it didn't take long for enterprising entrepreneurs to start building custom bikes to fill the void. There were a lot of available aftermarket parts for v-twins, so these new manufacturers didn't have much trouble coming up with parts to build these "clone" bikes as they were sometimes called, with one exception – the engine.
The timing was perfect for everybody. The new "Custom OE" manufactures needed engines, and S&S could supply them. So the v-twin motorcycle buying public had a choice between waiting a year and a half to two years for a new Harley-Davidson® motorcycle with an 80 cubic inch engine, or taking immediate delivery of a custom built bike with an 88 or 96 cubic inch S&S engine.
S&S became the motorcycle engine of choice for most of the new manufactures, and as a result S&S became known to more and more people as an engine manufacturer, as opposed to a company that makes go fast parts to hop up a Harley-Davidson® engine. It's important to note that S&S was, and still is both. S&S manufactures complete high performance engines, but high performance parts for Harley® engines is still a major part of the product line to this day.
To complete the story, S&S continued to come up with more styles and sizes of engines, and today S&S can supply a complete engine for just about any big twin model from 1936 to 2006 and a fair number of Sportster Buell models as well. It's quite a list:
(click the Harley® model to view the S&S replacement)
In addition, S&S produces special engines for custom applications such as alternator/generator KN, P, and SH series engines, as well as the new KN-Kone engine that was named "Engine Of The Year" for 2011 by V-Twin magazine. Let's not forget S&S Cycle's proprietary X-Wedge® engine, which has received a lot of attention in connection with the British Morgan three wheeler and the Italian CR&S motorcycles.
That's our story, and we're sticking to it!
One of the most popular features of the S&S website is the Flathead Power® forum. This surprises some people, but it doesn't surprise me. Flathead Power is S&S Cycle's brand for motorcycle vintage parts and since nobody throws a Harley® away, it makes sense that all those old bikes that are still out therewill eventually need to be fixed. S&S Cycle has been in business since 1958 and my father was making high performance parts on his own for years before that. As a result, we have a pretty good feel for "vintage". One thing we know for certain is that the guys who are into vintage motorcycles are "really" into them - bordering on fanatical. So it's no surprise to me that the forum is popular.
Those who have followed the vintage scene for a while will know that Flathead Power actually originated in Sweden. A gentleman named Anders Nygren was producing parts for flathead and knucklehead engines and gained quite a reputation for producing high quality performance and restoration parts. In the late 1990's Mr. Nygren formed a partnership in America so the parts could be manufactured in the USA. Unfortunately, that arrangement did not work out and in the end, the company went bankrupt. In July of 2007 S&S purchased the Flathead Power (FHP) brand name and intellectual property (trademarks, patents and designs) along with the remaining inventory of parts and tooling.
When S&S got all the material from FHP, it was not just a simple matter of resuming production. We needed to validate the quality of the parts, and in most cases improve the design and material. This is the same thing we do with all the parts S&S manufactures. S&S has always been driven by the need for quality, and the basis for quality is good design and sound engineering. That means we had to dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's" to ensure that we could consistently make excellent parts time after time. In our plant we have state of the art CNC machining centers, which can rapidly and efficiently machine parts, with one part virtually identical to the next. The investment in time and effort to make sure that everything was right before those machines started making chips was job one.
This very necessary up-front work resulted in over a year's delay before we could actually begin to supply parts to satisfy the demand for quality vintage products. We introduced the KN-Series engines shortly after our 50th anniversary celebration in 2008, and of course if we can sell a complete engine, we can sell all the parts needed to build it. We've come a long way, but it's not over yet. Our next FHP product release is likely to be cylinders for big twin side valve UL engines, or flatheads as they are commonly called.
There is a strong demand for vintage motorcycle parts, and part of the reason is that there just weren't that many flatheads manufactured back in the 1930's and 40's. At least the number is not large by today's standards. Another reason is that back in the day, they weren't held in the reverence that they are today. They were just old motorcycles. Since the 4-9/32"stroke of a 74" UL motor was longer than the 3-31/32" stroke of the 74" knuckle or pan, it was common to take flywheels from UL engines and use them to build "stroker" knuckle and pan engines. According to some conversations we had with a couple of old timers at the Cincinnati Dealer Expo, the UL crankcases were just smashed with a sledgehammer to get the flywheels out. The rest of the motor was just thrown away. I'm not sure that's really true, but it makes a great story. It does make me cringe to think of what those engines would be worth today!
The popularity of the Flathead Power forum just goes to show that "vintage" never gets old.
Until next week . . .
By Ken Smith
In 1958 my dad and Stan Stankos had just went into partnership calling the new business S&S Cycle Equipment.
They both had Harley dressers and wanted to use them to showcase some of the parts and new ideas they had been working on and planned to sell. Dad wasn’t interested in using a nice, expensive dresser since he planned to modify it and mold it to his needs. He wanted something light, and a stripped down big twin with chopped rear fender (“chopper” in the Midwest) was just the ticket. A local Harley dealer had bought some police bikes at an auction and was selling them. A non-descript 1953 ex-police bike was perfect, and cheap.
That summer was spent riding the stock ’53 and working at nights and weekends on the new business. There was no time to build the motorcycle he had in mind. Putting product ideas on paper and developing them was his main focus. He and Stanley had made big bore steel cylinders for the Knucklehead they raced at Bonneville in 1954 and they intended to make and sell them along with solid lifter aluminum pushrods, big valve, two carburetor heads and stroker flywheels. A series of accessories they had made and used before was also in the works.
That first year was a losing proposition, all work with little return. Stan’s auto upholstering business was suffering and he decided he wanted out. He needed the security of his business and didn’t have the time it would take to develop S&S.
By early 1959 my ma and dad made the decision to buy him out and make a go of it on their own. They couldn’t quit with some of the new products so close and ready for testing. It was time to start working on the ’53.
The engine was rebuilt using an S&S 4-1/2” stroker kit that included flywheels, cylinder base plates, longer pushrod cover keepers and base studs. Stock cylinders and modified stock pistons made a displacement of 84 cubic inches, 10 more than stock. The heads were modified stock castings with the intake ports welded up and redirected to the left side of the engine. Customers could pick the type of carb they would use and my dad would make the proper mounting bolt pattern. He chose late Linkert carbs for the ’53. In addition to dual carbs, he modified the heads for 2-1/16” intake valves by machining out the old valve seats and threading in new custom made aluminum bronze seats. He tried several aftermarket cams settling on an Isky HH20 with S&S solid lifter pushrods.
Next came the chassis. The rear fender was chopped behind the vertical fender bracket and an aftermarket taillight/license plate bracket assembly was added. The front fender was sectioned down the length and stylized by his brother-in-law, Sid Smith to accommodate an 18” narrower front wheel. The gas tanks and fenders were refinished in his favorite color, red, by his other brother-in-law, Merle Smith. The stock oil tank was modified so it could be filled from the right side and chromed (a service that S&S did on an exchange basis early on). Six inch rise buckhorn style handlebars from Flanders topped off the stock Hydra-Glide fork. With chrome primary chain covers, a few other do-dads and a solo seat, it was ready to roll.
The bike was to be the test bed for products while serving as his “rider”. Early on it was equipped with a prototype dual point, dual coil ignition system with no manual spark retarding mechanism. He had to be on his toes when starting the thing, because if he didn’t have the engine cycled right, it could kick back and launch him over the handlebars. The dual carburetors also presented some problems. To prime the engine with no choke, he would kick the engine over with the switch off and lean the bike to the right to let raw gas run into the cylinders. Needless to say, fires were a constant threat and he had to be ready. He could usually put them out by kicking the engine through with the switch off and sucking the flames back into the engine. Sounds exciting? It was more exciting to watch when it happened.
Over the next several years the ’53 red chopper graced the cover of early S&S literature and was ridden all over the South side of the Chicagoland area. During that time it was ridden annually to the Illinois State Fair to watch the Springfield Mile motorcycle races. For longer distances when riding two up where a little more comfort was required, a 1961 H-D FLH was purchased.
In December of 1963, my ma and dad bought the farm where S&S is located now. His dream of farming and moving from the city had finally begun to materialize. In five years when the last child graduated from high school, they planned to sell the house in Blue Island, quit his job and move the business to Wisconsin. They were committed to the move and their plan and some of the summertime activities took a back seat including riding the motorcycles.
By 1966 the farmhouse in Wisconsin had a new basement built under it and needed a modern heating system to make it livable. The job went to Ma’s brother, Sid, who was a journeyman heating and sheetmetal worker. During the summer he got a good used oil furnace from a job and installed it along with all the required ductwork over a weekend. Earlier that year Dad bought a new ’66 Harley dresser so he could study the new cylinder head design. Ironically, Sid had sold his ’56 chopper and was without a bike. Not needing the red ’53 anymore, Dad gave it to Sid for doing the furnace work. It couldn’t have gone to a better home.
In January of 1967 I quit college and started working at an apprenticeship in the printing industry in Chicago. That month a big blizzard hit the Midwest, and Chicago received about 27” of snow over a 24 hour period. The “Big Snow”, as it’s referred to now, paralyzed the city and surrounding area for almost a week. Nothing was moving. Cars were stranded where they got stuck and slowly the snowplows opened one lane areas for only blocks at first. We had a1961 Chevy ½ ton pickup that Dad drove to work. To make it mobile in the deep snow, he tried to find some tire chains. Sid found some near where he lived in Dolton, Illinois about 10-12 miles from Blue Island. Two days after the snow stopped falling I set out walking to Sid’s house to retrieve the chains. When I got there around 1pm, my feet were wet and my uncle said he’d take me home on the ‘53. Sid put a battery in it, a knobby tire on the rear and around about 4pm we were ready to go. With the solo seat Sid had to sit way up on the gas tank which was customary for the driver if you didn’t have a buddy seat in those days. I sat on the back with the box tire chains that weighed about 20 pounds. We took off plowing through the deep snow and drifts. Some of the main roads had been somewhat plowed to clear stalled cars so there were sections with parts of a single lane open. Each time it was the same thing. We‘d have to break through big drifts to get to the next road. We’d get off and Sid would stand alongside the bike and throttle it through the drift. Often, I’d have to put the chains down and push whenever he needed help. Once we were clear, I’d hop on and off we went. We had to go through many unplowed sections to get to a cleared area. I can still see him seated way up on that tank, elbows sticking out throttling the engine, and snow flying off to the sides like a speed boat as we went along. Sid was amazing! The strength it took to control that bike with me on the back drained him. When we got back to Elm St., it was dark and around 6 o’clock. My ma and dad talked him into staying over and waiting until the next day to return home. What a ride! (see picture – Sid is 6’4”, Ken is 6’1”)
Over the next 3 decades the ’53 went through some changes. The fenders and various other parts were used during the chopper craze of the ‘70s and the bike became a 92” full fendered motorcycle painted black. It became another motorcycle in Sid’s collection and took a backseat there as well to a number of other bikes he preferred to ride. Shortly after Sid retired from S&S in 1994 I asked him what he planned to do with it. Eventually he planned to sell it along with all of the other parts and motorcycles he’s accumulated. I said it would be fitting if it could return to S&S and made a deal for him to restore it. The rest, as they say, is history. It can be seen in the S&S museum outside Viola, Wisconsin and while it’s not identical to the way it was originally built, it’s still the same ’53 red chopper.
My father, George J. Smith founded S&S Cycle in 1958 with a friend of his named Stan Stankos. Smith and Stankos - that’s where the S&S originally came from. My dad had established a reputation for having the fastest Harley in the Chicago, Illinois area and there was demand for the innovations he had incorporated into his own bike and he and Stankos thought there might be a market for his ideas. Stankos was busy with his auto trim service, so a year later he sold his interest in S&S to my mom and dad. My mom Marjorie had been doing all the advertising and bookwork, and since her maiden name was also Smith, my dad continued with the S&S name, but now it stood for Smith and Smith.
S&S started out producing light-weight aluminum pushrod and solid lifter conversion kits for Harley® big twins. The pushrod kits solved a valve train performance problem in the knuckle and pan engines. With the stock valve train, the valves would float and/or the lifters collapse at high rpm, limiting the performance potential of those engines. Later, stroker flywheels, carburetors, Sidewinder® big bore cylinders and pistons, and a host of other parts were added to the product line. The point is that S&S built a reputation for making the best parts you could buy to hop up the performance of a stock Harley-Davidson® motorcycle.
By the early 1990’s, we had enough parts to put together a nearly complete engine. At that time there weren’t enough new bikes from Milwaukee to go around, and it could take a year and a half or so to get a new Harley. There were enough aftermarket replacement parts available to scratchbuild a complete rolling chassis. The only part that was hard to come by was the engine, and S&S was able to fill that gap, so it’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs began building custom bikes in the Harley style.
Through the 1990’s S&S became the premier supplier of engines for these new companies who were building v-twin motorcycles. We came to call them the “Custom OE” manufacturers, and they bought a lot of engines from us. At that time the economy was booming and a lot of Harley riders would replace their stock engine with one of our S&S high performance engines. S&S became known more as an engine company than as an aftermarket performance parts company. That’s how the market was until a few years ago
The past decade, Harley-Davidson increased production so that there is no shortage of bikes. Import bikes have made an art form of copying the Harley cruiser and bagger silhouette. At the same time, the U.S. economy has gone into recession aided by the credit collapse. The result is that a lot of the custom OE companies are struggling or have gone out of business, and a lot fewer Harley owners can afford to replace their entire stock motor with an S&S engine, because that requires a large cash outlay at one time. These riders still like going fast, but to do it they are modifying a stock Harley as their budget allows. That’s how the market is now.
In response to these market demands, S&S has come up with a number of economical, easy to install products to boost the performance of stock late model (twin cam) Harley-Davidson bikes. Our Easy Start compression release cams, teardrop air cleaners, tuned induction systems, 97" & 106" big bore kits, CNC porting service, and a new line of touring mufflers are all good examples of this type of product. These parts can be installed one at a time, and each addition will complement the performance of the go-fast parts you've already installed. We call this "back to basics" because making go-fast parts for American v-twins has always been the core of our business since the beginning in 1958.
That's the basics of our 4-Step performance program, but more about that next time.