Latest Update May 11, 2012 - New entries will appear on this page. Links to earlier episodes, see right column.
Bonneville, part 4
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With the bike up and running I thought I was about ready for Bonneville, but there were still tons to do. I’m going to the Salt with 6 other British bikes and there’s some phenomenal machines going, all purpose built for this one meeting. Here’s a list:

Steve French: Supercharged and intercooled Triumph.
Briz: Weslake fuel injected 1000 V-twin.
Me: Indian 741B.
P.J. 1327cc Suzuki.
OZ: Honda CBR1000.
Alian & Co. Modified Triumph 650.

The good thing about going as a team is shipping. We worked out that everything will go in a 20ft container, and after hours of browsing on the interwotsit, I found a company that could ship to Long Beach, California. The cost per bike, return, worked out to just under £1000 each and it was booked. We’ll be dropping the bikes off on June 23rd. The next problem was getting myself over and the air fares were averaging £850, but after more computer hours I got one for £520 with British Airways, stopping over at Denver and ending up in Los Angeles. My mate Briz is on the same flight.

So that’s us and the bikes in the USA, only problem being it’s 650 miles from L.A. to Bonneville, so now we have to hire a van for 3 weeks, or should I say 4 vans (at £600 a week per van) as each team has to have its own support vehicle. Another problem will be making sure we all meet up at the same time and place which should be interesting as we’re arriving on four different flights at two different LA airports.

The expense doesn’t end there, we need somewhere to stay. Bonneville’s no problem, I’m taking my tent! We also need to buy a CB radio and fire extinguishers per van as they will also be our support vehicles. On top of all this is the paperwork….eeeeek!

I had to join the “BNI” (Bonneville Nationals Association) at $125 , apply for a race number, pay the race entrance fee of $450 then start filling out U.S. Government forms like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Air and Radiation), the NHTSA (importing race vehicles) U.S. Customs, ESTA (visa), renew my passport….the list goes on.

So that’s transport sorted, now to put a few finishing touches to old “Bella”. Did I say a few? When you join the “BNI” you get a rule book, and they’re pretty strict, stating such details as seat height, thickness of the chain guard, the fact that the exhausts must point away from the salt, where splitpins should be, tyre types etc.

When I built the bike I’d obtained a scanned copy from Lars, the 2010 version, and the 2012 one hadn’t changed much. The book also contains lists of all the records, and Burt Monroe’s still in it (forever) at 183.586mph….he never did manage to back up his 200mph run. The one I’m going for is currently 125.614mph. I needed new tyres and a list of other stuff so it was a full day visiting bike shops sourcing second-hand parts where possible.

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I couldn’t get on with the foot clutch, it was too difficult to use with the pedal set right near the rear axle so I decided to re-fit the hydraulic hand clutch I’d tried previously but abandoned because it was too heavy and there wasn’t enough travel. By using a different (GSXR1100) master cylinder it suddenly worked beautifully.

The bike had always had an annoying drip from under the gearbox, and it was still there after the rebuild, so it was off with the hydraulic clutch, breather pipes and catch tank, battery and battery tray so I could get at the primary cover. Then it was off with the outer and inner cases and clutch and out with the gearbox, which was fully stripped (again) so I could check the casing for cracks. There were none, but the bottom thread on the box was suspect. Why Indian only put one bolt in the bottom I’ll never know, there’s tons of meat for more, so I drilled and tapped two more at 8mm, using dome-headed bolts to clear the clutch basket. Definitely a good upgrade to remember. After 20 years she was drip-free.

Moen had given me more good tips (he keeps doing it), one being to use a twin-lead coil and run “wasted spark”, so I’d got a coil from one of the breakers off some Kawasaki (my bike’s 12 volt). The conversion was so simple it was unreal. Make a new bracket, unplug one coil and plug in the new one, throw away the rotor and distributor cap, make a lid for my billet ally distributor, and the job was done. More potentially problem-giving parts eliminated.

A pair of “H” rated tyres were fitted (I hate fitting tyres) and the rear one fouled the chainguard, so 2 days were spent fabricating a new one (it’s in two pieces to aid sprocket changing), and while the rear wheel was out, the spindle was drilled to take a castellated nut and splitpin to comply with Bonneville regulations (which was also why I had to fit new tyres).

It was the front wheel’s turn now. I’d temporarily fitted a 19” wheel with twin leading shoe brake, so I could test it on the road, but the “race” wheel is a 17” Honda and no brake fitted. Making a new spindle, wheel spacers and fitting a front mudguard gobbled up two more days. Many more trivial jobs were carried out and it was time for a road test, so it was off with the new mudguard, on with the braked wheel and off with the Bonneville-specified 15 degree each-way steering stops.

I BLASTED her up the main road and found a big problem, she was a b*stard to change gear, ad I knew why. I’d read about how Lars’ “Salt Cracker” had kept jumping out of gear so, to be on the safe side, I’d wound the selector spring cup in a couple more turns when I rebuilt the box. Getting at it was impossible so off came the new chainguard, undo all the bolts around the ‘box and remove the rear r/h engine plate. I could now undo the big locknut. If you’re conversant with Indian boxes you’ll know there’s a big screwdriver slot in the spring-cup, only accessible with the gearbox parted from the engine. Only accessible, that is, unless you foresee the problem, tap out the end, and fit a hex-headed bolt during re-assembly. I’d done just that. Phew!

Whilst everything was apart yet again, I modified the gearchange cross-shaft I’d previously made, to run in nylon bushes. The result was pretty pleasing to say the least, she has a nice smooth action now.

So that’s about it with the bike…or is it? I’ve decided to do two last jobs, fit and ream out a new clutch basket centre bush, and install new cam follower roller bearings, just to be on the safe side. Last jobs? More road testing as I need to get the hang of lying flat and working the pedals, and then, hopefully, a trip to the Dyno Man. 

Dyno testing is the most accurate way to get baseline settings for carb jetting (which will need changing at Bonneville due to the altitude, but it helps to have sea level jetting to start from) and ignition timing, and to get a horsepower reading to help determine a starting point for the gearing. If the engine power and frontal area of bike/rider are known, an estimate can be made for the top speed and, with max engine rpm conservatively set at 5000 rpm, a gearing worked out. Adjustments will probably be needed for the gearing too, but a reasonable place to start from will save time on the salt. At Speed Week there are few opportunities for unofficial test runs, and lines can be long for official runs.

Finally….I needed a shipping pallet, which has to be forklift-friendly. It couldn’t be made of wood unless it was specially treated and U.S. Department of the Environment approved. Here’s where “The Race Team” came up trumps in the shape of six steel pallets previously used to ship Harley-Davidsons. I got one, it’s blooming HUGE, so the whole thing was dis-assembled with my Plasma Cutter and re-built to be a perfect fit for an Indian. At the rear are two uprights and the rear pegs sit neatly in two pieces of angle iron. With straps around them, and two more straps at the front, she’s rigid and ready to take whatever the Atlantic can throw at her. All my tools, spares and other equipment will be strapped around the bike.

I’ve made an attachment so I can lift the front end off the deck, and by moving the two rear angle-irons up a hole, the back wheel is also raised, leaving the whole bike 2” off the ground. It can be “run-up” on the stand in gear, it’s that rigid, and the whole thing also doubles as a work area, free of salt. Doing the pallet ended up taking yet another 3 days. 

One last job to do, that was to make an easily detachable side stand for when I’m waiting to run, and when it’s in the truck afterwards, it has an extra wide base and simply slides over the rear peg. I just found out the return trip from the pits to the track is 27 miles. I didn’t realise just how vast Bonneville is! 

Stay tuned...

Part 1    Part 2   Part 3

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This is the story of Chris Ireland's 741 Land Speed racer.

A race bike built on a shoe-string budget by sheer 
ingenuity and hard work in the shed. The first parts 
of the story will cover the construction of the rolling 
chassis. Next the engine rebuild (actually the engine 
rebuild story will get a page of its own; I hope to get 
around to that soon) and then testing and revisions 
in preparation for the big trip. For the finale, well 
- let's see what happens on the Salt!

For more information, or offers of help or sponsorship, contact Chris on desperate@britchopper.co.uk

Click for video.


Please support these good people!

Click to go to the Aerocoat website
Custom powder coating at Aerocoat, who did 
the chrome-like coating on the frame and red 
body parts - all paint on the bike is powder
coating with no filler underneath.

Click to go to the Billet Bike Bits website
CNC machined aluminum parts at Billet Bike Bits.
BBB made the fork yokes.

Click to go to Earl's website
High performance hydraulic hose and fittings,
and a bunch of other cool stuff at Earl's UK.
Earl's supplied all the hose and fittings.

New Parts for Old Indians. IPE supplied the 
CV manifold and carb top, electronic ignition, 
main bearing housings and other odds and ends.

Click for more Rock Oil info
Rock Oil is generously sponsoring the whole 
team with oil. Their large range covers almost 
any - street or race - engine you can think of. 
Click logo for more information.

Click to go to the Shawn Taylor Racing website
Shawn Taylor Racing sponsored the dyno 
testing. Optimum ignition timing and carb 
jetting were determined, as well as at what
rpm the power started to drop off. All very
useful for rejetting at Bonneville with its
"thinner" air and, not least, for gearing. 
Shawn really knows his stuff, and can help 
your bike realise its potential too.

Click to go to the Shawn Taylor Racing website
Richard Dunn from Tiny-Tach UK graciously 
supplied one of the small, neat, accurate and
affordable digital rev counters that are fast 
becoming the norm for racers everywhere.
He suggested the "Commercial" model was 
best for this bike (among other features, it
reords max rpm on the last run), but talk
to him about what will suit your bike best.


Chick to read the story on Virtual Indian
Chris has owned Bella, his 741, for a long time, 
and she has come in several shapes over the years.
Read the story on Virtual Indian.

Click to go to the Brit Chopper website

Chris is the editor of Brit Chopper Magazine, 
"the magazine for serious petrolheads", and 
was the owner of Desperate Dan's, one of the 
most original and influential UK custom bike 
shops of the 1980's and 90's.

Click to go to the Brit Chopper website



For more information, or offers of help or sponsorship, 
contact Chris on desperate@britchopper.co.uk