Bobby Turner and the first Thunderbird 650 to arrive in North America, at
the Rosamund Dry Lake, Mojave Desert, 1950. The bike was built at JoMo by
Cal Maketa and Don Ayriss and set many speed records with Turner and Blackie
Bullock riding, including 135.84mph (217kmh) at Rosamund in 1950 and
129.24mph (206kmh) on nitro at Daytona Beach in 1951 Its 132.26mph (211kmh)
run at Bonneville the same year was the fastest gasoline AMA Class C record
for any engine size, and it stood for seven years. The T-bird featured dual
Amals, Robbins pistons, Triumph Grand Prix cams, and JoMo oversize inlet
Cycle World magazine tech editor Gordon Jennings modified this T120C TT
Special in late 1963 for a record attempt at Bonneville. Using a Sonic
Fairing, JoMo racing tank and seat, and minimal tuning, oversize inlet
valves, JoMo #15 cams and tappets, 20in rear racing tire, Jennings set a new
record of 135.74mph (217kmh) on gasoline. David Gaylin collection.
August/September 1962. After a starting push, Bill Johnson speeds off
towards three new records in the T120-powered Joe Dudek streamliner. Two
records were on nitro-AMA Class S-A at 230.26 mph and the FIM world's record
at 224.57mph. Another was on gasoline-205.76mph. The bike's shell was
influenced by the X-15 rocket plane.
In 1966, Leppan and crew raised the world motorcycle speed record to
245.66mph (393kmh). The red/silver paint scheme was reversed from 1965. Note
the novel landing gear. Cycle magazine dubbed the aircraft tail a "Buck
Rogers" addition, but it really worked at speed. Bob Leppan collection.
Two-motor motorcycles aren't new, but when they run like Boris Murray's 9.03
e.t./170.13mph (272kmh) Triumph, then it's news. Twice 45-inch twins on 90%
pull 1 gear. Photo Tim Marshall.
Disbennett not only competes on a bike most would consider an antique, he
won the 800cc class in the 2004 AMA Hillclimb Championship presented by Pace
American with it, as well.