Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bill Tuman & The Indian Wrecking Crew - Renegade Indians Running Wild

(Article and photos protected under US copywright laws. No unautorized use or reproduction is permited.)

by Tom Rose

1946: America was on a fast track as the nation switched from war time military production to a booming peacetime economy. Sports were a major diversion for the hard working population. Millions flocked to the arenas and gathered around the television and radio for baseball, football, boxing and motor sports. At the Indianapolis 500 drivers like Bill Vukovich and Johnnie Parsons were national heroes. Bill Tuman was right there with the top sports figures of the day. As the owner, sponsor, mechanic, tuner and rider of the 44.72 cubic inch V-twin Indian Sport Scout Bill Tuman raced with and usually beat the legends of the sport.
Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill, Ernie Beckman
"The Indian Wrecking Crew" 

Post WWII motorcycle racing in America played out on the many mile and half mile oval tracks around the country and road races at Daytona and Laconia.  All this leading to one race on a one mile dirt track in the heartland location of Springfield, IL to determine the National Champion. It was the golden age of motorcycle racing. Harley-Davidson vs. Indian. The US manufactures vs. Great
Britain, Italian & German. Camaraderie and sportsmanship in the pits and all out, take no prisoners racing on the track. Great men and great machines. There in the middle of it all, on center stage of the racetracks of America was Bill Tuman and his buddies, Bobby Hill & Ernie Beckman, the Indian Wrecking Crew carrying the flag of a dieing company and doing it their way. This is their story. 



Milwaukee, Wisconsin –September 8, 1953 - 9 AM Tuesday Morning: The directors of the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company were seated around the large mahogany table in the boardroom on the 5th floor of the Juneau Avenue headquarters. They sipped coffee and puffed Cuban cigars. They were in a general jovial mood as they discussed the recent demise of their chief rival, The Indian Motorcycle Company (Hendree Manufacturing).
#51 Tuman leads the pack at Des Moines on his way to his
1st AMA National victory. Paul Goldsmith #3 HD follows
closely but was unable to catch the Rockford Rocket.
The mood changed quickly when William H. Davidson walked into the room and slammed a copy of the Milwaukee Sentinel sports section on the table. The headlines read “Bill Tuman rides an Indian to Victory at the Springfield Nationals”.  Harley’s chief rival, Indian, had been struggling for several years. Indian had finally collapsed in bankruptcy. In spite of this a few hard core Indian racers sponsored by die hard Indian dealers were beating the socks off the Harley-Davidsons on the race track.  The Indian racers had become known as the Indian Wrecking Crew of Ernie Beckman, Bobby Hill and Bill Tuman. The ultimate humiliation that set off Bill Davidson at the board meeting was Bill Truman’s victory the previous Labor Day week-end at the prestigious national championship Springfield Mile. Harley was celebrating its 50th anniversary. They had introduced the K model in 1952, a faster better handling motorcycle patterned after the race bikes of Europe and Great Britain. All this and they still had to contend with Indian winning races and championships!

In 1945 Bill Tuman had taken a job at the Navy Supply Depot in Oakland, CA. With WWII coming to an end that job was eliminated. Bill found himself far from his Rockford, IL home and needing work. There was a motorcycle shop across the street with a “motorcycle mechanic wanted” sign in the window. Bill was not a motorcycle mechanic but he had always been able to fix almost anything. He walked in the door and applied for the job. He was hired on the spot by the Hap Jones Indian shop. A short time later he built a race bike for Hap that won an important 100 mile race. Thus began a lifetime of 2 wheel excitement and excellence.

Even with his success in California, Bill longed for his Illinois home. Back in Rockford he picked up an Army surplus Indian. He worked through the winter in his unheated garage rebuilding it as a race bike.

He placed 2nd in his first race at Mendota, IL in 1946. He partnered with Joe Bishman who had been a pre war race champion. Bill found he could run with the top riders and was winning local races. He said to himself, “This is something that I can do!” His racing career was launched. He was so successful from the very beginning that he went from amateur status to the top expert classification the first year (completely skipping the usually required novice division). As he won races and attracted attention he gained sponsors and support. Erwin "Smitty" Smith, the Indian dealer in Rock Island, IL sponsored him and he received some support from other Indian dealers and the factory. It was nothing like the support of today’s factory race teams, just a few spare parts, a place to work on the bike, and a little expense money.



Bill was an excellent mechanic and race bike tuner. He made a few modifications to the Indian. He lowered the front axle and narrowed the front end. He discovered that the Big Base Indian engines were not balanced for the rigors of competitive racing. He added counterbalance weights to the fly wheel for greater reliability at high rpm race speeds. He had a side business building race engines for other riders. The Hess Machine Works in Rockford, IL allowed him to use their shop to manufacture parts. The Bill Tuman Indian engines were in great demand and remain so today.
Bill achieved phenomenal success in 1947, his second year as a racer, starting 46 races he had 41 firsts, 2 seconds and 3 thirds. Bill had bills to pay and a family to support. He limited his expenses by racing as close to home as possible. He found he could make more money this way than by traveling the country to the biggest national races. In 1948 and 1949 Bill continued to set a blazing pace, sometimes racing 7 times a week primarily in the Mid West, at local tracks, county and state fairs. He compiled 192 victories, 72 seconds 21 thirds. Despite his incredible string of victories he still had not won a “National”. However, that was soon to change.

On September 17th, 1950 Bill won the first of his five Nationals at Des Moines, Iowa. It was a hard fought victory competing against the nations’ best on the challenging ½ mile dirt track.  Paul Goldsmith on a Harley-Davidson jumped to an early lead followed by Paul Albrecht also on a Harley and Bill close on his rear wheel. The riders traded places throughout the ten ½ mile laps with the intensity mounting with each lap. Bill finally took the lead with Albrecht coming on strong. But, Tuman held on for the win. He rode the only Indian in the race to victory!
   
A month later he again outran Albrecht and the Harley Davidson to capture his second National win at Reading, PA.
 
Indian factory representative Vic Collard congratulates
Bill on another victory.
Bills’ fame and popularity continued to grow. The fans and race clubs around the country voted Bill the coveted AMA Most Popular Rider award for 1950. He was a fierce competitor but at the same time always a gentleman and sportsman. An example came in 1948 at the 15 Mile National at Milwaukee. He was fighting wheel to wheel with Jimmy Chann on a Harley-Davidson. Chann went into a little wobble and almost fell. Tuman slowed and went wide into the loose dirt, dropping him back to 5th. A Harley-Davidson official was quoted on the incident “I was that sick I nearly cried. I had to get out of there as quick as possible. He had it in the bag and gave the race to another man just to be on the safe side and not cause an accident.”

The popular riders were men like Dick Klamfoth, Joe Leonard, Paul Goldsmith, Bobby Hill and Bill Tuman. They all had their following. The competition was keen among the riders and the manufactures. There were the American Harley-Davidson and Indians, the British BSAs, Triumphs, Nortons, Velocettes and Matchless, all fighting for supremacy. Thousands attended motorcycle races at local tracks, county and state fairs. The “Nationals” at tracks like Dodge City, Milwaukee, Daytona, and Des Moines drew even bigger crowds.
Lined up for the 1953 Springfield Mile, #1 Booby Hill (Indian)
 on the pole, #3 Joe Leonard (HD), Bill (#51)started in the far
outside position.
The major motorcycle race at the time was Springfield. The top riders of the day met in September each year for The Springfield Mile, a series of elimination heat races which narrowed the top 50 or 60 riders to a final top 10. The elite 10 then raced for the prestigious National Championship trophy in a 25 mile shoot out on the famed 1 mile dirt track. The winner earned the right to carry the number 1 on his race bike the following season.

With all his success the big prize of the National Championship had eluded Bill. In fact Springfield almost seemed to be his hard luck track. Back in 1951 in the qualifying heat he needed a 5th place to make the final. He was running near the front when he was bumped in the final turn, he got hard on the throttle but was unable to make up the lost ground and finished 6th.  Based on the heat race finish Bill was not eligible for the final. However, he was the designated alternate. If a qualifying rider could not make the start Bill could start as an alternate. When they lined up for the National only 9 riders came out so Bill was called out as the alternate. Harley rider Jimmy Chann made a big deal of it, protesting with the officials. “Tuman failed to qualify so he should not race.”  He made a big stink so finally the officials said they would put it to a rider vote. There were 7 HD riders and 2 Indians-the vote was 7-2 Tuman should not race. Bill was mad and stormed off telling Chann that he was the worst sportsman that he ever knew. Jimmy smiled and said, “It’s easier to beat you with a vote than on the track.”


Now, in 1953 Bill was back at Springfield. He was running in the qualifying heat and it happened again, he was hit in the turn bending the number plate into the tire. On the last lap he was in last place, but given his experience in 1951 he was determined to make the field---as he opened the throttle there was no opening—he said to himself “I’m going anyway!” He busted through pushing past Klamfoth on the right and someone else on the left for a 5th place, qualifying for the National
Championship final. The 25 mile final was another hard fought battle on the famous 1 mile dirt oval. Imagine the excitement with the nations top riders lined up for an all out 25 laps for the biggest prize in motorcycle racing. The competitors included Bobby Hill on the inside poll, Paul Goldsmith, Joe Leonard, Everett Brashear, Ernie Beckman, Al Gunter. These top riders traded positions as the
tension and intensity mounted with every lap. After all he had been through just to qualify Bill was not to be denied in this championship final. As Gunter went wide on the BSA in the final lap Tuman powered past Leonard and Goldsmith for the checkered flag. It was a great victory for Bill, but, he always said that the qualifying heats at Springfield provided more excitement than the main final.

The author hears some great racing stories visiting with
Bobby Hill & Bill Tuman at Daytona in March 2008
Throughout his career the Indian was his main ride, however he also raced Nortons, BSA, and Triumph.  Bill retired in 1955 after a race in Pennsylvania.  He pulled to the pits and walked over to BSA representative Walt Brown and asked him for a job.  The next Monday he was on the road as a BSA factory rep in the mid west. After 3 years he opened his own dealership and eventually became a highly successful Honda dealer.

So that’s the way it was. Life in the fast groove, full throttle, living the American
Dream in the 50s. 
(Article and photos protected under US copywright laws. No unautorized use or reproduction is permited. Thanks to Bill Tuman for sharing his racing experiences and photos. He is one of the great gentlemen of motor sports)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bonneville 2014 Motorcycle Speed Trials with the Kolb Machine Team (125 cc partial streamliner record holder)

The test of a mans character comes not from how he handles success. Not how he reacts to hitting a home run, scoring a touchdown or winning a race. But how he handles adversity….striking out, tackled for a loss or spinning out. Through some extremely frustrating and difficult racing conditions at Bonneville 2014 Scott Kolb remained the positive, confident, humble, friendly team captain…..rest assured we’ll hear more from Scott and his Kolb Machine team.  Kolb Machine Land Speed Racing


 

Land Speed Racing may be the ultimate challenge for man & machine. The endeavor to not just go fast but to go faster than anyone else.  

There are barriers and challenges that don’t exist in other forms of racing. Think about it, where else is aerodynamics, suspension, gearing, engine efficiency and power more important. All must be in perfect balance. A minor misalignment, a loose fitting or a miniscule fluid leak can be disastrous at 150 mph plus! The racer and his team put in countless hours on every detail of the race bike. Your competition, every engineer, scientist, racer and crazy daredevil in the world who thinks they are faster.
No place to practice: Then perhaps the greatest challenge of all, where and how to test your machine before race day?  The answer is you don’t! Testing requires a 10 mile stretch of perfectly flat surface with restricted public access. There are only a few such places in the world and one in the United States, Bonneville.  So you work all year in the garage and must bring your racer to the course without any live test run. Then, if something is not quite right on race day there is no 2nd chance, you can’t come back next week or next month. It will be another year before you get another chance.
 
Unseasonable heavy rain
2014 at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials was a test of the character, tenacity and resolve for Scott Kolb and his Kolb Machine Land Speed Racing Team. It began with unseasonable heavy rain, followed by high winds requiring course closure. Then came what everyone had been waiting for, a near perfect day………85 degrees, bright sun, light breeze and a smooth hard salt surface………only to have an engine cooling problem rear its ugly head. Not to dismay, the Kolb team reinvents a cooling system and is ready to go only to have the course closed due to poor racing conditions caused by an overnight shower. So now Scott & the gang take down the tent, pack the van and head back to Saugerties, NY. Their 155 mph record set in 2013 remains intact, but their hopes of raising the speed to 170+ unfulfilled.
video


  Off the Line at Mile 0!
 

Racing into The Future: Expect to hear much more from the Kolb Machine. At this point it is not certain if they will work to develop the current Kolb Machine to it's potential of 175+ mph, or focus efforts on the Full Streamliner with a goal of 200+ mph!
This is a model of the Full Streamliner
(projected speed 200+ mph)
 
Kerry shows off the streamliner model and talks about 200+ mph with a little 125 cc engine - more with less.

 
 
As the sun sets behind the distant mountains the machines are silenced, the tools are put away and it is time for a transformation on the salt. In stark contrast from the high pitched scream of finely tuned engines the salt flats become eerily quiet and the work bench is transformed into a bar…….. cocktail hour.  For me, this is when the ghosts appear. The ghosts of Bonneville’s past are on the salt. Sir Malcolm Campbell roaring across the salt in his Blue Bird at 301 mph in 1935. I can see Craig Breedlove piloting the jet propelled Spirit of America to 407 mph in 1963 and Art Arfons driving his Green Monster over the salt and into the record books at 434 mph in 1964.
 

Then there are the motorcyclists daring fate and chasing records on two wheels. Rollie Free who became a legend and folk hero by striping to his jockey shorts to break 150 mph on his stock Vincent Black Shadow in 1948. Johnny Allen in 1956 riding a streamlined Triumph 650cc twin known as the Texas Cigar to a 215 mph record speed. And In 1967 it was New Zealander Bert Munro who rode the World's Fastest Indian into the record books at 183.59 mph. Yes, close your eyes and they are there...the ghosts.

There were hundreds of entries for the 2014 Motorcycle Speed Trials. Each has a story......their inspiration, dreams and goals. Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to bring their machine to Bonneville to go fast....faster than anyone else.

One great story is that of Auburn, Alabama's Dan Parker. A racer and motorcycle/car builder Dan lost his sight in a 2012 drag racing accident. He did not loose his competitive spirit and his zest for life. He designed a motorcycle to compete in the 85 cc 2 stroke class. He guides his land speed racer with a GPS system that gives him audio signals to keep him on course. Dan recorded an official top speed of 64.8 mph, claiming record speed for his class. 

"I'm not a blind man trying to race. I'm a racer who went blind." ~Dan Parker

 

Some sights from Bonneville - August 2014 and more photos at this link: https://plus.google.com/photos/101766653797447005675/albums/6054301379625150865



World’s fastest female on a motorcycle, Eva Hakansson piloted her ELECTRIC Streamliner over the salt at a AMA record top speed of 241.901 mph.
  
View from the riders seat












 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Landon High School - Jacksonville, FL - 1927 to 1965


click link for Vintage Landon & Jacksonville Photos:
https://picasaweb.google.com/101766653797447005675/LandonWebAlbumHistorical
link to 50 YEAR Reunion Photos:


Landon High School (Duval County Public School #31) was opened in 1927 on the Southside of Jacksonville. As South Jacksonville grew Landon High School grew, prospered and developed to become a leader in academic & athletic achievement. Students won academic honors, sports teams won championships and graduates went on to change the world. I was fortunate to have called South Jacksonville my home in the 50s. I treasure the memories and life long friends from Landon. 

Rose Brothers, all Landon grads,
John 65, Bill 46 & Tom 54



 

This web page is dedicated to that time & place. I’ll post some stories and lots of photos. I hope you’ll send me your stories and photos so we can add them to the site. Thanks and GO PS 31!

 

 

 

The Landon Hall of Fame




     
Billy Turney ('54) exemplified the spirit
of Landon. Every body's best friend.
The Hall was established to recognize the famous and the infamous of Landon. Listing in the Hall is at the sole discretion of the web master. Nominations are encouraged and welcomed.
Sgt. John Strickland ('52) represented the Lions in the Black Forest of Germany
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A monarchy! Our King & Queen.

Jacksonville, our town. A river runs through it.  

A settlement of 300,000 on the banks of the St. Johns. Nice suburbs, nice downtown, filthy rat infested waterfront. Our town.

Treaty Oak
 

Hemming Park
Haydon Burns, our Mayor
Charley Johns, our Governor
Our Theater
Lions at the Fountain
 
LINK TO 50 YEAR REUNION PHOTOS:
 

 The LANDON CLASS OF 1954 celebrated a “SIXTY YEARS AND COUNTING” week end

 

April 25th, 26th & 27th 2014.

The Friday & Sunday events were held at the former home of gunpowder magnate Alfred I. du Pont and his younger wife Jessie Ball. The home, known as Epping Forest, is now a private club. Saturday's party took place at the historic home of Landon '54 grad Joe Ripley and his wife & Diantha. Marabanong was built in 1876 by the noted British astronomer Thomas Basnett.  It is listed on the National Historic Register and is situated on the St. Johns River at Empire Point.  

 

 

 Scenes from the 60th Reunion of Landon 1954 (a slide show)
photos courtesy of Diana Rose
 
 
 

 
 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The BSA SWEEP, Daytona 1954 (as published in Road Racing World Jan 2004)

 BSA, as one of the world's great motorcycles for almost 70 years (1903-1972) had many moments in the spotlight.

Winning the Maudes Trophy for endurance at the International 6 Day Trials in 1952, Dick Mann’s Daytona victory on the Rocket III in 1971 and the dominating performance of the 500 cc Gold Star singles at The Isle of Man in the 60s’ were big ones.
However, without a doubt the finest day for BSA was at Daytona Beach, Florida in March 1954 in the prestigious Daytona 200 Mile Motorcycle Classic.  What better way to relive that day on the old beach/road course than to talk with the man who brought the BSA 500 Star Twin home 1st of an elite field of 111. Bobby Hill. In his own words. 50 years later.
The Road to Daytona: “I started racing motorcycles in 1941 and won 7 races the first year, racing Harley-Davidsons.
Then the war broke out and I spent 4 years in Marine Corps. When I got out of the Marines a friend had a race prepared Indian waiting for me. Within 2 weeks I was racing again and winning.The Indian Dealers in Ohio sponsored me.They taught me how to work on the bikes. They set me up with a bench at Shoppies Indian Sales in Columbus, Ohio,right next to their top mechanic, Slim Jepson. Working right along side of Slim, he could help me and teach me while he was working on the street bikes. That’s how I learned to work on motorcycles.
Hill did most of the mechanics and preperation himself.
Then in 1951 a fellow named Dick Gross came by to see me. I was in a little bit of a slump and he said he could help me. He had a 4-cam system and a way of setting up the bikes, limiting the oil flow, that he put in my Indian. It was especially good on the mile tracks. I started winning again with Dick’s system. We were hard to beat; the bike was always prepared for the race. I had very few mechanical failures. I did almost all the work and preparation myself.”
Dick Gross installed a winning
system on Bobby's Indian
In 1952 and 1953, using Dick Gross’s system, riding the Indian, Bobby Hill had unprecedented racing success. In ’52 Bobby won 5 of the 7 Nationals held that year. In ’53 he won 44 races, finished 2nd 10 times and 3rd 6 times.
  
“Being sponsored was much different then than it is now. Basically, they provided a motorcycle and some parts. Your pay was what you won racing. You got to keep what you won. You traveled around the country to the races, paying your own expenses.  Bill Tuman and I paired up a lot; we had a station wagon and hauled the bikes on a trailer. We went all over the country, Texas, California, and Florida. Everyone was real nice to us. The Indian dealers took good care of us.”


“My main bike was Indian. I raced Indians more than anything. Indian was the importer and U.S. distributor for Nortons in the early 50s and some of us would ride Nortons at certain tracks and at Daytona. Dick Klamfoth had 3 wins at Daytona on Nortons in 49, 51 and 52.   Then in 52 Indian stopped importing the Nortons so this gave BSA the opportunity to sign me, Klamforth and some of the top riders to ride BSA at Daytona.  Roland Pike of BSA came over from England to the United States in 1952 and set up the deal for us to ride the BSAs.”














BSA execs make final inspection at the Birmingham, England factory before shipping the bikes to Daytona 

March 1954, Daytona Beach, FL: The bright Florida sunshine is even brighter, reflecting off the crystal white sand and blue Atlantic Ocean of Daytona Beach. It’s early Sunday afternoon and instead of bathing beauties and family picnics this area just 9 miles south of Main St. is crowded with 111 of the worlds best two wheeled racing machines and the top riders.  The sound of highly tuned internal combustion engines almost drowns out the pounding surf. A strong 20-mile per hour wind blows out of the North.  Racing fans fill bleachers at the North and South turns and line the beach and sand dunes along the asphalt paved backstretch, which is an extension of US Highway A1A.  What a contrast was presented, the normally quiet and tranquil Florida beach, the scene of a world-class motorcycle event.  The smell of the salt air mixed with the distinct aroma of racing fuel. The cry of the seagulls and the sound of wind and surf mix with the roar of the racing engines.  The excitement level was sky high in anticipation for participants and fans alike. 
They were all there with their best machinery and riders. Harley Davidson, Indian, Triumph, and Norton. But BSA came with a plan, a team and a purpose. Five motorcycles carefully prepared by the factory at 47 Armory Rd. in Birmingham, England, UK. Two 500cc BSA twins, Shooting Stars, and three 500 cc singles, Gold Stars.  The former gun factory (Birmingham Small Arms) from England really wanted this one. They signed the top riders including the former national champ, Bobby Hill and 3-time Daytona winner (49, 51 and 52 on a Norton 500 single), Dick Klamfoth.

Tommy McDermitt & BSA factory team tune Tommy's Gold Star on the
Jungle Road.
Bobby Hill: “BSA had the bikes shipped to Daytona. Englishman Roland Pike was in charge of whole deal.  They brought their own tuner from England, Cyril Halliburn.  All we had to do was show up with riding gear and helmet. They brought the bikes and we rode them.  We kept all our winnings. Paid our own expenses. We had very little practice. There was no place to practice. The beach was not available except for the race. There was a road out of town called the Jungle Road. We’d go out there and do some straight away runs and a little tuning. But, this was a public road and we could only do so much.  So, when we started the race it was our first time on the track. A lot of guys fell off or went over the bank.
They always adjusted the start of the race with the tides. They started at high tide, so as the race progressed you got a wider beach.  They lined us up 10 or 12 to a row and started in waves 10 seconds apart. Dick Klamfoth and I were both riding BSA Star Twins and we both were running up front."
Joe Leonard on a Harley-Davidson lead the pack of 111 roaring motorcycles at the start, closely followed by Ed Kretz on a Triumph, with Hill and Klamfoth in 3rd and 4th ,the leaders left a dense cloud of salt spray and sand suspended over the course. By lap 6 Hill and Klamfoth had the BSA twins running 1st and 2nd. The two veterans battled for position the rest of the day.
“The weather conditions at Daytona were about the same every year. Starting out heading North up the beach you had a 20 mile and hour head wind. Fighting that wind and riding on the sand was tough. The BSA had 4 speeds with 3rd and 4th very close. 3rd gave you about 5,800 rpm and 4th would go the about 6,400. After 2 miles up the beach you had a banked u-turn and headed south on the 2-lane asphalt for a 2 mile run to the south turn.  Toward the end the tide would be coming back in, so the track narrowed, but by then the races were spread out so it wasn’t too bad.
The difference for BSA in 1954 that resulted in their domination of the race was a couple of things. The short clip on handlebars resulted in a much more aerodynamic riding position. The Indians and Harleys had big, wide handlebars. The short bars got us out of the wind.  Also, the BSA had 4 gears (3 for the Harleys and Indians). Gear 3 & 4 were very close. The BSA people wanted us to rev as close to 6,400 as possible but coming North on the beach into that headwind if we were falling off a little we could downshift to 3rd and keep our speed, revving about 5,800. Anything over 6,400 would destroy the engine. We wanted to be churning rather than lugging. If the bike was “lugging” in 4th I’d downshift to 3rd. On the coquina sand, coming up the beach into that 20 MPH headwind we did about 105 MPH. The gearing and riding position gave us an advantage. We would do about 130 MPH heading south on the asphalt, aided by the tailwind.
I am very proud of that win. It was a hard race to win. You had to have a lot going for you. Good riding skill, endurance and good equipment. Then there were so many things that could happen. Your equipment could fail, you could blow your engine, and you could crash or fall off. It was a very hard race to win, the sand, coquina shell and the rough asphalt. There was a 2 to 3 inch drop off from the road to the shoulder; if you went off the road you could not get back on at any speed. Almost 49 laps of the 4.1-mile course.  Two miles north on the beach and then you had to sit up and brake sliding the rear wheel into the banked north turn. Daytona was the only race where we ran with brakes. Part of the breaking was just your body against the wind when you sat up on the bike. As the race wore on the ruts entering the north turn became so deep that they were very hazardous. You geared down to 1st gear and went thru the turn at about 45 MPH. Because of the sand and deep ruts it was important that you pulled thru the turn rather than try to sail thru the turn. Then you headed down the two-lane asphalt backstretch. The asphalt was rough and dangerous, particularly at the start, with over 100 riders fighting for position on that narrow road.
It was treacherous.  At least the beach provided a wider racing surface. You had to deal with changing tides, dodge puddles in low areas of the beach and dodge spectators on the asphalt. One year a spectator was hit and killed. About ¾ of the way down the asphalt backstretch there was a hump in the road. Just enough so you could not see over it. You never knew what might be in front of you when you came over that hump. Fans were always crossing the course in front of us. They did not always realize how fast we were going. It made for some close calls.” “The mixture of sand and salt on the beach churned up by over 100 motorcycles created a sticky mist that would fog your goggles so that you could hardly see. But you dare not take your hand off the handlebar to wipe them. I had a powder puff on my glove, when I came off the beach at the North turn I’d wipe the goggles with the powder puff as I headed south on the asphalt. The gas tank size regulation made it necessary to pit for gas at around 100 miles. I always got a pair of clean goggles during that stop.” “Dick Klamfoth and I ran pretty close the whole race. He was only 20 seconds behind at the finish. His bike was a BSA Star Twin like mine. The next 3 finishers were BSA 500 cc single cylinder Gold Stars.” Race time: 2 hours, 7 minutes, 22.7 seconds –average speed 94.24 MPH.

Dick Klamfoth comments on his 2nd place finish: “I can’t remember if they asked me to ride the BSA or if I asked for the opportunity. But, I was there on the BSA. BSA sent the bikes and a tuner from England, Ceral Halliberne. The beach and road course was not open for any practice so we tested and tuned on a back road near Daytona. You had to do some testing to see if your carburetors were jetted properly, etc.”  Overall BSA did not have that much racing success but they sure ran and held up that day. The race was not very safe. Over 100 riders started. I don’t think they turned anyone away. There were guys out there that did not know what they were doing. One year I was racing with a guy and he decided go around me as we came on the beach. Well, he tumbled end over end, I was able to miss him but I hit his bike and it took me out. That backstretch was really rough. My bike was the same as Bobby’s except mine had a swinging arm rear suspension. All the others were rigid. Mine was, too. But on the last day of testing my bike went a little sour. I was on a back up bike with the swing arm. I don’t know how Bobby beat me; I guess he just out ran me. I ran as fast as I could and really did not know if he was ahead or if I was. It was close but at the end Bobby was the winner”.
Dick Klanfoth (2nd) & Tommy McDermott (3rd) discuss
the BSA Sweep 57 years later.

Bobby Hill continues: “It was a big day for BSA. The BSA distributors in the US, Hap Alzana in the west and Alf Childs, Eastern Distributor from Nutley, NJ threw a big party for us.”

“In those days there were other races that I won that carried more prestige than Daytona. The mile race at Springfield, Ohio was one. I’ve been elected to 4 different “Hall of Fames”. At the time I don’t know that the Daytona win was that big a deal for me. But now, looking back, the recognition I’ve received as a Daytona champion, I’d say it was the highlight for me.  The rules at the time allowed you to race a bike for 10 years after it went out of production; the last Indian was produced in ’48 so I had to give up the Indian in ’57. I rode a Harley in 58 and ’59. My last race was Daytona, 1959 on the Harley. I finished 5th.”
After his 2nd place in ’54 Klamforth decided he wanted to race the BSA Gold Star (500 cc single) in the US. His dedication to excellence was so great that he paid his own way to England to work in the BSA factory. This paved the way for Dick to go on to a very successful 7 or 8 years on the Gold Star, winning many nationals. His BSA was a little short on top speed for the mile tracks but Klamforth and his Gold Star were hard to beat on ½ milers.
It is ironical that BSA, after dominating the 200 in 1954 did not win another 200 until 17 years later, at the Daytona International Speedway, when Dick Mann rode a 3 cylinder BSA, the Rocket III to victory.  A year later, in 1972, the last BSA rolled out the door of the factory. The companies motorcycle division the victim of Japanese technology and corporate mismanagement.

There is a monument over on the beach dedicated to the Daytona 200 Champions of that old beach/road course. That’s where the 200 was run from the start in 1937 until 1959, after that they moved to the new Daytona International Speedway.  Dick Klamfoth is almost single handedly responsible for that monument.
Learn more about the Monument at the web site:
http://www.daytona200monument.com/
Bobby Hill,  “To be included on that monument means very much to me. No one can vote you into that monument. You have to earn your place by winning on the track. Any one who has the chance should visit that monument; it’s something to see.”