Bike of the Month

January 2017

1955 BSA Goldstar

Jerry Meadows is an excellent motorcycle builder and restorer, restoring several award winning BSA's. In a moment of weakness in 2002, Jerry Meadows agreed to build a 1957 BSA Goldstar for a friend, Phil Anderson. The deal was that Phil would give Jerry a Goldstar for building one for Phil. In 2006, Phil once again caught Jerry in a moment of weakness when Jerry agreed to build another BSA Goldstar for Phil. This BSA would be a 1955 Goldstar used for competing in vintage motorcycle events. Ultimately, the bike was used at land speed competitions at El Mirage and Bonneville, where it set class records at each venue. Phil has since passed, and to fulfill his commitment to Jerry, the Goldstar shown below was Jerry's reward for building the initial Goldstar. 

For additional information on the Goldstar, please see Jerry's account of the bike and story below, as well as photos of the record setting machine with Jerry and Phil at Bonneville in 2007.

THE ROAD TO BONNEVILLE

By Jerry Meadows

Part I

 

My “obsession” with BSA’s began in 1975 with a basket-case A65 and has since grown to 20+ with about 10 other makes thrown in the mix.  I have been with the BSAOCNC since its inception.

 

Phil Anderson started racing Gold Stars in the 50’s when they were new.  His obsession is larger than mine, which he has turned into a business, Ace British.

 

In 2002 Phil caught me in a weak moment and suggested I build him a Gold Star for which he would give me one to build for myself.  The Gold Star being one BSA not yet in my collection, I took him up on his offer.  Phil’s 1957 DBD Gold Star was completed and has been on several Club rides as well as to the International in Massachusetts.

 

In December 2006 he caught me in another weak moment – “Let’s build a bike for me to race at Bonneville in August 2007.”  To which I replied, “WHAT!?! Uh-h-h, Okay.”  So began the project of building a 1955 production based chassis and motor for competition in the vintage class.  I picked up Phil’s frame from Harold Heitmiller’s backyard that same week.  Then found good wheels, oil tank and tool box in the rafters at Phil’s shop.  There were also front forks in the pile of forks.  The old chrome fenders polished out okay.  The chrome on the old wheels and spokes was fine.

 

In January we ordered new tires and the new Pearson oval crank.  We sent the piston, supplied by Ron Halem, off for coating to fit a standard bore liner, also from Pearson.  I began assembling the swing arm, forks and wheels.  Dick Mann loaned us an RRT gearbox and agreed to do the head work.

 

The crank arrived in February – WOW – its really too bad it has to be buried in the motor.  The liner arrived with the crank.  While waiting for Gold Star items to arrive in my shop, I am keeping myself busy restoring a 1958 Ariel Huntmaster.  Phil has become a frequent Friday night visitor for consultation, fittings, homemade pizza and wine tasting.

 

In March we fitted the engine cases in the frame.  The new seat arrived.  Bill Botelho of Motor Machine returned the cylinder bored to fit the piston but the head is still missing.  While at the Clubman I consulted Gold Star gurus, Ron Halem and Dave Kath, for their opinions over what I’d messed up on so far.  The ignition was ordered from SRM Engineering.

 

The painted items came back from Harold Heitmiller in April.  I fitted the oil tank, toolbox, and primary clutch using the standard six-spring as Phil only needs to shift four times at Bonneville.  I was caught up on this project again so I sold a dual sport, I couldn’t even begin to touch on, which dropped me below the magic number of 30 bikes so I found a 1984 Yamaha RZ350.  People have told me I’ve deviated from being a BSA purest.  So many bikes – so little time.  My neighbor, Mel English of Carson KTM, has an awesome machinist and Mel comes over nightly for parts delivery, moral support and inspection.

 

May sees the arrival of the head and ignition.  The bike is assembled for a photo to be submitted with the entry for Bonneville Speed Week program.  It’s a go!!  The combustion chamber is clayed and final assembly of the cylinder and head is done.  The ignition is installed.  Haven’t seen the carb from Phil yet.  Hope to bring it to life in June with plans to take it to El Mirage for a tech inspection.

 

Not bad progress when it usually takes me 2+ years to build a bike.  Watch for updates from the road.

 

Part II

 

Let’s see, where did we leave off?  Oh yes, we hadn’t started “Brenda” (Bonneville Brenda as dubbed by Phil – after a love in a past life).

 

We left off with the ignition installed but no carb the end of May.  Phil got me the 1 3/8” GP carb.  We went to El Mirage, CA June 9/10 for tech inspection with the bike not running.   We came back with a list of minor changes/deficiencies to be made or fixed.  Phil, Moe and I stayed the weekend to watch the racing.  Phil joined the Gear Grinders and we met really great people.

 

The bike was started on Father’s Day – how appropriate!  Phil had purchased a starter-block and we (Tad and I) set it up on the lift.  We tried and tried – helps if you put it in gear – (brain fart) then she started right off and ran like a top.  Wish I could put that sound in the newsletter!  Patti has it on her camera.

 

The following weekend we took her on a maiden 130-mile ride to Gerlach for breakfast. Tad rode beside on the 76 Honda CB 750 to keep a look out.  Patti followed with the van and trailer – just in case.  I kept looking out the window at Bruno’s (breakfast) but no leaks.  We did manage to vibrate off the battery straps – not enough lock-tite.   None of the pieces went missing.  It is amazing what you can do with wire ties.  When we got ready to leave, a gentleman pulled off the road and waited/watched while we restarted so he could hear her.  When we pulled away, he was still staring.  Tad took the ride home and came all the way to the house without a falter.

 

I changed the oil and advanced the timing to be ready for the first speed runs at Stead Airport.  Moe has connections, so we used an abandoned runway to test for speed.  We have a problem with cutting out at high speed and found we needed to safety-wire everything on the carb as it all started to come loose.  We called it a day and decided to reconvene at a dyno to test prior to El Mirage the following weekend.

 

Upon evaluation and phone call to Ron Halem, we determined we might have a battery problem.  On Tuesday at the dyno at Freedom Cycle,  Brad & Mark Yuill, Phil and I “Jerry-rigged”  a battery direct. As it went to 8200 rpm without a problem, figured it was indeed a defective battery.  Replaced the battery and purchased a back up and went home to load up for El Mirage.

 

We ( Phil, Tad, Patti and I) left Saturday, June 23rd at 5 am in our pickup and trailer loaded with the BSA, our Honda 100 for a pits bike and a couple bicycles as well as all the camping gear, food and coolers.  We arrived and drove across for flats until we thought we surely must have passed where the races might be.  We now understand why it is called El Mirage.  At 1:30 we saw the first vestiges of the race site.  We found the tech trailer and unloaded the bike for their inspection.  They went over the bike and we had to prove the clip-ons came from the factory.  They did like the parts book we had brought along so they passed the BSA and all of Phil’s riding equipment.  The CB would not work so Phil & I had to run back to Victorville to purchase one.  Tad and Patti stayed to set up camp.  We got back just after 5 but too late to reaffirm to tech that we had the CB.  Also missed the track walk. 

 

Met all of our neighbors, barbecued hotdogs, drank wine, ate cheese and watched a beautiful sunset.  Tad took some awesome pictures of the bike with Phil.  Then we just vegged.  I took a Buill for a test run and my traitor wife got pictures.

 

We woke at 6 am to the sound of a car being tuned.  We are pumped and ready for our first attempt.  All rookies have to do a rookie-run which does not count for any records.  Phil had to do a rookie orientation and then came back to suit up.  Tad and I have figured a way to push the BSA with the Honda to get it to the line.  Patti will bring Phil in the truck with the starter (air-conditioned). 

 

They start rookies on a whim with no set pattern out of the “rookie line”. There are three other start lines, 200+, odd and even.  They go on a rotating pattern.  We finally get to the front of the line, start the bike and wait about 8 minutes to be released due to a hold at the top of the track.  The announcer is excited about the bike and so are the on lookers.  We are sending the announcer sign language to his questions as to year, cc’s, etc.  Finally time to go and Phil is in second gear but too late to worry about it – rookie or anxiety mistake.  The starts down the track we peel off to the left to proceed to pick up.  The announcer comes on the radio with his speed of 95.79 at 5338’, 86.7 deg.  9:28 am.

 

We get Phil and the bike picked up and back to camp to cool off and wait for the next run.  As he will not attain a speed of 125 for licensing, we are able get in the proper odd/even lane for the next run.  Phil goes to talk to buddies and we get lunch fixed while waiting for the second run to be called.  It is getting hotter and we are glad for the pop-up.  They start calling for entries to do the second run about noon and as our number is 184, we figure we have plenty of time but due to the heat and attrition, they finally just call for everyone wanting to make a second run to line up.

 

Tad and I take the bike, Patti and Phil follow in the truck.  We wait in line about 90 minutes.  While in line, they announced the temp at 102 deg.  Phil is glad to be in the AC with his leathers on and Patti is more than happy to be his chauffeur.  Tad and I just keep advancing the bike in the line.  We did get in the truck once.  Much water is consumed.

 

We are up, the bike is started and in the proper gear.  He is off.  Tad follows on the Honda.  Patti and I take off in the truck with the radio tuned to the announcer.  WHAT – WHAT – 100.246.  “That one will have to go to impound.  That is a record.”  We can’t wait to get to Phil as he is patiently waiting at the end of the run for pickup.  Tad gets there on the Honda and Phil takes it to make sure we heard right.

 

Yep – the bike needs to go to impound and we must take the heads off so they can reaffirm it is not over the 500cc limit.  The wind is blowing the sand around and I am not liking this at all.  But – they will seal the cylinders and we will not have to do this again at Bonneville.  It was certified at 499cc, sealed and in the record book.  YES!! 

 

Part III

 

We are home from the El Mirage record run of July 23rd with a certain “glow” but with work to be done.  The bike is still cutting out at top speed and less than a month till we need to be ready to go to Bonneville.

 

We know we have to change the timing and re-jet for altitude.  The head must also be re-secured from the inspection.

 

First we need to clean all the El Mirage dust off everything.  Phil was amazed that I had left the dust on bike for more than a day.  I re-secured the head and gave it all a thorough once-over.  The timing was advanced and the main jet was lowered one size.  I patted “Brenda” on the pillion and deemed her ready to go.

 

Phil brought his enclosed trailer over early the week of August 10th to be packed and ready to leave that Friday.  Phil and Moe showed up at o’dark hundred and the caravan was off.  It turns out to be the same distance to Bonneville as it was to El Mirage – 400+ miles.

 

Upon arriving at Wendover, Utah we went directly to the salt flat only to find we had to do a water crossing at “end of pavement” to get to the event site.  Our initial impression was that everything is VERY white!!  And that white was sticking to everything because of the water crossing.  We found the sign-up trailer, did tech inspection with faces familiar from El Mirage and got in line for the spec fuel.  The fuel is 110, leaded and the gas cap is sealed. 

 

A pit location is found and all is unloaded, trailer unhooked.  Now is time to inspect what other types of machinery is around.  There are a few rat rods, other bikes of all types and sizes, as well as streamliners, diesel trucks, drop-tank hot rods, lakesters and more stuff than you could ever image.  Back to the pits to relax before having to leave the salt at 6 pm.  We will be back on the salt at 7 am to do our rookie run.

 

Saturday morning finds the lake still at “end of pavement”.  We get to the pits, hook up the trailer and get in line. This year at Bonneville, because of the rain earlier in the month, there are two courses.  One is the long course – 7 miles with run-out.  The other is the short course – 5 miles with run-out.  Rookies are to use the short course. 

 

By the time we got to the start line, the temperature had reached 91 degrees.  As it was our “rookie” run at Bonneville, the speed really didn’t count.  We just need to make a nice run, 93.935 mph at 7,264’ (corrected altitude).  The bike quit at the end of the track.  Our first rookie mistake was in the retrieval of the bike from the track.  Back to the pits to diagnose why it quit.  Discovered the gel cell battery was toast.  We borrowed a “real” motorcycle battery from Rich Newton and wired it in.  All was, again, right with Brenda.  Phil disappeared on the Honda pit bike to visit with some of his Rainbow girls from Reno.  We later found out we could have made a second run.  (Second rookie mistake). We also learned we could pre-stage the trailer so the length of wait time the next day would not be so bad.  We were informed by officials that we would need to be at the trailer at 7 am so as to “not hold up their line”.  So the trailer is in line and we are off to the hotel to clean up and have dinner. 

 

After dinner we wandered across the street from our hotel to inspect the wonderful display of rat rods, most had been out playing on the salt all day.  WOW!!  What ingenuity to take pieces from a junk yard and put them together to form these rods with little money spent.

 

Up early again on Sunday to be at the trailer by 7.  The sunrise on the salt is magnificent.  We are at the start line about 9.  Phil is ready and the bike is running like a top waiting to be sent down the track when it suddenly just quits.  No amount of effort would re-start.  Back to the pits and our early advantage is lost. Track down that little problem and wire around the switch, (Yes, Ron, you’re right, the original Lucas headlight switches are really bad after 50 years) get back in line by 10 to wait our turn while the weather deteriorates.  Ron Halem and Dave Kath found us and visited for the afternoon.  Dave Anderson, current record holder in our class, stopped by and hung out in the trailer with Phil.  We also met our “competition”, a 1955 BMW. 

 

The course was on wind/rain hold for about two hours and then only cars were released for their runs.  Finally at 5:30 we were released to run and off Phil went.  His exit speed at mile 3 was 90.958 mph at 7,554’ and 94 degrees.  This is enough to break the old record of 81.4 mph and require the bike be in impound overnight, with the BMW, to back up the record runs first thing (7 am) Monday morning.  Gus Varetakis found us in the impound lot while Phil, Ron, Dave and I were having a tech session as the bike is still missing on top end.  We dropped the needle jet one size, double checked all the wiring, charged the battery and called it a night.

 

Back across the “lake” to town for a celebration in anticipation of the possible record the following day.

 

Monday morning is no problem to get up early and be out at the impound lot at 6:30 am.  Another beautiful sunrise.  All machines from impound are escorted to the starting lines to make their back-up runs before the rest of the field can run.  Phil left the line at 7:30 and his speed at mile 3 was 92.745 mph, 6,128’ at 73.2 degrees.  The average of his two runs is 91.851 mph.  That, BOYS and GIRLS, is a Bonneville record.  When we picked him up, he had a big grin on his face and for the first time was semi-happy with his speed.  Not as much as he had wanted, but enough.  Back to impound for the inspection.  Thankful for the seal put on in El Mirage, the head did not have to be removed again.  While the tech is finishing his inspection, the BMW pulled in with a speed of 95+ but his average speed did not best our average so he was back to try all over again.

 

We pack up the pits and prepare to leave the salt for the trip home.  Only one more lake crossing.  The salt has built up on our truck like heavy snow and I can’t wait to get to a car wash to get some of it off.  We called Dave Kath when approaching Elko to see if the Star would be open for a Basque lunch.  Gerri and Dave met us as well as Ron Halem, who had not yet left Elko on his way home.  We had a very nice lunch, Dave fulfilled his promise of  a bottle of champagne and we toasted Phil, Jerry, Brenda and the record.  After lunch, Tad went with Ron, Moe and Phil went on and Patti and I spent $6 in quarters at the local car wash to get the first 20+ pounds of salt off the truck.  Once home it will take another two days to clean all the salt off everything while watching the BNI website to see if the record will hold.

 

Well --- the BMW turned out on their next run and didn’t run again.

 

BRENDA’S BONNEVILLE LAND SPEED RECORD IS OFFICIAL.

  

Epilogue

Phil and I were talking the other night about this summer’s events and he said “Bonneville Brenda” was destined to happen.  When I asked him why, he explained that the Bonneville bike was to be mine for building his Gold Star.  He had made that promise to me and was following through.  However, a gentleman walked into to his shop, Ace British, with a Gold Star to sell.  It was in much better shape than the one he had, so that was to become mine.  That left him with another Gold Star and a dream to fulfill.

 

It is amazing what you can make happen when you put your mind to it.  My current bike project, a 1958 Ariel Huntmaster, went on the back burner as we went full steam ahead with the Gold Star.  Phil has connections and I’d like to think I pulled a few strings also.  Anyway, it progressed and there are so many people to thank in the course of making things happen and hopefully they have been mentioned in previous articles. Our team consists of Phil Anderson, Owner/Rider; Jerry Meadows, Builder/Mechanic; Moe, Son-In-Law/Crew Chief; Tad Meadows, Starter; Patti Meadows, Team “Mom”.

 

We are looking forward to going back to El Mirage in the spring to partake in a full season to extend our hold on the record.  Tad may even compete on a BSA Hornet I have in the shed.  Who knows what the future will bring to BSA land speed racers.  This year records were set at Bonneville by one Norton, eight Triumphs and four BSA’s, all in various forms and sizes.  Anyone can do this and I encourage everyone to try.  It would be great to see more vintage iron in the books.

 

It makes you believe in people and the power of a dream.