April 2013 Featured Build Weslake Powered El Mirage and Bonneville Land Speed Record Holding Sidecar
Builder - Bill Anderson
And for somerhing completely different and a subject that is often overlooked on most motorcycle websites, welcome to the world of land speed racing.
Look past the big budget, high profile teams and there are the unsung heroes of the sport. These are the people that win records with little to no budget and even less fanfare. These truly home built bikes constructed in the residential garage are the result of true dedication and talent.
One such gentleman is Bill Anderson. Bill has a remarkable background in motorcycling and his efforts and results in land speed racing are definitely inspiring. Its a story that I wanted to know more about.. After a little arm twisting, Bill agreed to share a bit about himself and his record holding sidecar.
Take it away Bill!
"The part I hate. I'll assume the part about being born and growing up is a gimme. So I'll skip that. I started riding bikes around 1959. Illegally as I was too young for a license. Desert racing started around 1963 with an ancient DOT (remember those?). Nothing too memorable there. My Dad was an Irish immigrant and as I grew up he filled my head with stories of racing on real roads in Ireland. In 1967 I headed over there to check it out. Turned out everything he said was true. Racing on real roads is way ahead of track racing. The plan was to go for a year or two but I enjoyed it so much the two years stretched into 15.
While I was there I got to race with the Joey and Robert Dunlop. That's not to say I was in the same league. I wasn't. Usually i would see Joey and Robert on the grid and then back in the pits. I was, in comparison, nothing more than a grid filler. Although in 1979 I did win an Irish road race championship. I returned home to California in 1982.
I started the land racing thing in 1996 with my Weslake/Norton. I ran it at El Mirage and Bonneville. It did run a record at Bonneville but it has since been broken. It also set a record at El Mirage in 2007 of 129.915 on gas. That record still stands.
I brought the sidecar out in late 2007. It was designed and built on the garage floor just as you see it in the photo. Not having a lot of equipment and even less money meant I had to do everything myself. The frame was arc welded with an ancient Montgomery Ward welder. Paint, fiberglass design and fabrication and all assembly was all done by myself.
A few details of the sidecar. I'm a lifelong fan of singles. The Weslake in the sidecar is a late 70s/early 80s upright pushrod single. I don't know its exact age. It started life as a 500 but I bored it out from 85.6 mm to 90 mm to qualify to run in the 650 class. A 90 mm piston from a GM speedway engine went in nicely. The frame is 3" x 1" mild steel with 1" square bracing. The wheelbase is 108". The front wheel is a steel 10" item from an Austin Mini. Tyres are Yokohama. Forks are modified and cut down from a Kawasaki KZ650. I cut 4" out of the neck to get it lower and shortened the legs. No suspension. The back wheel is an 18" Triumph conical (1971, I believe). Once again no suspension. The gearbox is an AMC from a late 50s Matchless. Wide ratio unfortunately. Keep threatening to go find some closer gears. As I seem to be perpetually struggling for money most of this stuff was what I had laying around the garage.
Originally the sidecar wheel was a 5" kart wheel (10" o.d. with tire) Kart tires have no speed rating. So I was limited to 130 mph. When I reached the 130mph limit I had to change the wheel to comply with the rules. Not wanting to have to go to a bigger wheel I machined up a 10" o.d. alloy wheel and made up a small swing arm suspension for it.
As list of records held by the sidecar.
500 SC/PG (pushrod gas) 122.240 mph
500 SC/PF (pushrod fuel) 120.157 mph
500 SC/PG 119.667 mph
500 SC/PF 117.166 mph
500 SC/PBG (blown gas) 111.494 mph
500 SC/PBF 112.717 mph
650 SC/PF 128.703 mph
That's about it. I don't know what else to write. I'm really a dull person that loves trying to get junk to go fast."
Well, I for one disagree! Dull? Hardly! A great read and a big thanks to you for sharing some of your story with us.
Building a bike like this takes some serious effort. The skill to design and fabricate your own frame, bodywork, suspension certainly adds an extra dimension to the term 'home built".
And to take a few records on the way is certainly the icing on the cake.
We wish Bill the best of luck in this years events and look forward to seeing him set some new records.