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Bonneville Racer Profile #4: Flathead Power® Goes To The Salt!


john endrizziKnucklehead enthusiast, John Endrizzi tells us about the trials and tribulations, and hopefully a happy ending to a project to run a 61” knucklehead EL at Bonneville. In his own words…

"Land Speed Racing is an experience that can be compared to no other type of internal combustion engine performance testing. Preparation is the real key to success. As a boy, the names Craig Breedlove, Mickey Thompson, and Art Arfons were watchwords in my imagination. I devoured coverage of Speed Week in Hot Rod and other magazines. To me, the Salt was a very mystical place.

In 2009 I attended the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I met and became friends with the Buell® Bros Racing Team that year. Pilot Joe Taylor bettered the 1350APS-PG AMA record to 176.29 mph (over 23 mph increase on the previous record). Between runs that week, Joe and I made a great friendship. We found that among other things, we share a passion for Harley-Davidson® Knuckleheads. Soon we found ourselves planning to build a 1939 EL to run at BUB.

Being amateur historians, it was appropriate that we picked the Vintage Partially Streamlined class to run in. Joe Petrali ran a dual carb El at Daytona to a speed of 136.183 mph on March 13, 1937. Our goal is to better that speed. The current record in our class (1000 MPS-VG) is 109.079 mph held by a Vincent.

bonneville knuckleJoe had much of what we needed for a start on the build. Stock cases are a major requirement. Joe had cases, cylinders and heads along with a chassis. The road to making them raceable was a long twisted path! We found a willing engine builder and proceeded. Unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly shortly before BUB last year. During probate, it became apparent that most of the internal engine components had been misplaced. That set us back to the point where racing at BUB 2011 was impossible.

During the winter we acquired virtually all the needed engine parts from S&S®/Flathead Power®. Lee Wickstrom of Leeʼs Speed shop in Savage, Minnesota had helped us with special valve gear early on. After finding out that we had lost Tim Riste as our motor builder, Lee immediately volunteered to do the build. Lee, a long time drag racer, built a very cool alcohol burning 1950ʼs style drag bike called the Knuckledragger that flat screams. Knowing this, assurance that we had a winning combination was locked in. As this is written, we are in the final thrash of preparation for BUB. Late night wrenching and covert highway testing is still before us. With inspiration coming from Joe Petrali, George Smith and Bud Schmidt (all pioneers of Knucklehead racing) we look forward to adding the Buell Brothers name as record holders in this elite group."

Thank you John and good luck in Bonneville!


Thanks for the great story, and slide show of the build John. I'll look forward to see that classy looking build next week. Good luck on chasing that record.
Posted @ Friday, August 17, 2012 3:14 PM by Jimbo Fischer
What a wonderful story, I wish good luck and much success!! Ride hard, Ride free and ride very, very fast!! :) 
Posted @ Friday, August 17, 2012 8:57 PM by Tony Greco
John, hoping the salt flats are good to you and your team. The photo work is great. Shows the energy that it takes to create a HI Pro machine. 
Your friend , Bob
Posted @ Tuesday, August 21, 2012 7:56 PM by Rapids MC Guy
Well, as i write this the 2012 BUB speed Trials are history. The run logs have not been published. It was a whirl wind week ! Record short duration rain on Sunday shut racing down in the late afternoon. Monday was spent off the Salt. I was honored to visit the Wendover Air Force Base. The crew of the Enola Gay trained there for their mission against Hiroshima dropping the first Atomic Bomb. Monday night, Tom Anderson AKA Santa Claus put on the Tribute to The Legends at the Black White Bar in Wendover. Tom spent the better part of a year inviting seasoned Bonneville racing persons to share their experiences. The proceeds went to support a new museum dedicated to the Land Speed Racing heritage. Tuesday we made our first pass with our 1939 61 cubic inch Knucklehead. Strong cross winds caused Terry , our rider to chop the throttle in the middle of the measured mile. He excitedly related that when he got out of it, he was only at a half turn on the twist grip ! The terminal speed was 115.929 mph. It was good enough to break the 109 + mph record set by the Sid Bieberman Vincent last year. We were unable to secure the record with a back-up run due to the high winds. The next morning we hurt the motor and racing for us ended. The Joe Taylor Racing Team wishes to thank our sponsors at S&S. In particular Eric Wangen and Bruce Tessmer. Our Motor builder Lee Wickstrom of Lee's Speed shop out of Savage, Mn is a true Knucklehead hero ! With luck and a prayer, we hope to race The GOOSE aka EL Bonnie Knuck at the East Coast Timing Association Land Speed April meet in Wilimington Ohio in April 2013. We hope to see some of you there.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 04, 2012 8:17 PM by John K. Endrizzi
John: I missed the rest of your stories on Farcebook, apparently you resigned again :o(. I was enjoying them. Too bad about not being able to back up the record run. Good luck.  
Posted @ Friday, September 07, 2012 10:47 AM by Dave Melton
Yes Dave, 
FB is not my favorite hangout theses days. I had promised you and a number of my friends that I would send e-mails from the Salt. Unfortunately my e-mail program wasn't compatible with the Quality Inn's server. Our first run was aborted in the middle of the timed mile due to high winds. We did post a record beating 115.929 mph on that run however. A failed piston kept us from going any farther the next morning. We have the motor back at the builders shop and hav some changes in line for next year. Thanks to S&S, Ronnie Adamson & Lee Wickstorm for their generous sponsorship!
Posted @ Saturday, September 08, 2012 4:22 PM by John K. Endrizzi
Knucks have always been my passion and I've owned one since 1975. I have a 36el that was rebuilt by the now defunct House of HorsePower, owner Greg Richards and with all S&S internals and head work. At 93 cu.in (4 3/4" stroke)with a Lighting cam and "L" Series carb it has plenty of go. Petronni was my hero. Hope you go for it again, 136 m.p.h. is a realistic number.
Posted @ Tuesday, September 16, 2014 7:04 AM by Steve Nazzise
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