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A need for speed…

Published: 15 September 2016

Updated: 14 September 2016

Since Johnny Allen’s landmark Bonneville top speed run in 1956, the motorcycle land speed record has passed to nine different machines with the record now at 376mph. Guy Martin is going to try and beat the current record this week in the 1000 bhp Triumph Infor Rocket Streamliner. These are the machines that have all held the coveted motorcycle land speed record...


1956 -214.50mph - Johnny Allen The Texas Cee-gar

Reworked to breathe through twin carbs – the signature of the later road Bonneville – the 650cc Thunderbird-based machine ran on 60% nitro and made 100bhp. Its 214.5mph snatched the record from a German NSU streamliner.


1962 – 224.57mph - Bill Johnson Triumph streamliner

Aircraft mechanic Joe Dudek gained the inspiration for his Triumph streamliner from the X-15 rocket-plane. Ridden by Bill Johnson, it was actually powered, appropriately enough, by a bored-out T120 Bonneville engine.


1966 – 245.66mph - Bob Leppan Triumph Gyronaut X-1

Triumph’s 15-year world speed domination reached its peak when a car designer and Triumph dealer teamed upto build ‘Gyronaut X-1’ in 1965. Power was by two highly-modified 641cc TR6 engines creating 70bhp each.


1970 – 251.92mph Don Vesco Yamaha Big Red

Following a shakedown at 1969’s Speed Week, Don Vesco returned with his twin 350cc R3 Yamaha 18-foot streamliner, which was converted out of a jet’s wing tank, in 1970. He established a record of 251.924mph.

1970 - 265.49mph - Cal Rayborn Harley streamliner

Within a month racer Cal Rayborn rode Dennis Manning’s 10-foot-long Harley-powered streamliner to 265.492mph. Rayborn had to pilot it by lying on his back and peering out of the two side windows.

1975 - 302.92mph - Don Vesco Yamaha Silver Bird

As a Yamaha dealer, Vesco was loyal to what he knew and five years later he reclaimed the record from his good friend Cal Rayborn with an all-new Yamaha-based machine, the twin
TZ750 engined ‘Silver Bird’, in the process becoming the first


man to beat 300mph.


1978 - 318.59mph - Don Vesco Kawasaki Lightning Bolt

Vesco claimed the record for the last time in 1978 hitting 318.598mph in Lightning Bolt, powered by turbocharged twin Kawasaki Z1000 motors. His record stood for the next 12 years. Vesco, incidentally, was inducted into the AMA ‘Motorcycle Hall of Fame’ in 1999 and succumbed to cancer in December 2002

1990 - 322.15mph - Dave Campos Easyriders Harley

On July 14, 1990 Dave Campos set a new world speed record that would stand for 16 years. Owned by Joe Teresi, owner of Easyriders magazine, the streamliner was funded in part by $25 public shares that bought readers tickets to the event. The bike was powered by two 1500cc Harley Shovelhead engines.

2006 - 350.88mph - Chris Carr Bub Seven

Powered by a 3000cc, 500bhp, turbocharged, V4 built specifically for taking the record, the BUB Seven did just that when it became the first to break 350mph. The 21-foot-long streamliner featured a monocoque carbon fibre frame fitted with a carbon, aluminum honeycomb and Kevlar shell.

2010 - 376.636mph - Rocky Robinson Ack Attack

Owned by Mike Akatiff and driven by Rocky Robinson, the 20-foot-long Ack Attack is powered by 900bhp, 2600cc, heavily-modded twin Suzuki Hayabusa engines. Two years earlier, it had broken the 16-year-old record of 322.149mph with a 342.797mph run, but only held onto that one for two days before the BUB Seven stole the show.


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