Monday, September 3, 2012
After making my reservations to fly Thurs. 30 Aug. to Salt Lake City to race at the AHRMA event at Miller M/S Park, I was asked at the last minute to fly to SoCal to assist Thad Wolff when he rode a Matchless G-50 CSR at a dirt oval in Simi Valley for a Motorcyclist Magazine photo shoot. It sounded all too much and unnecessary, and I suggested alternatives but, in the end, knuckled under. I tried to change my reservation so I would fly to SLC from L.A. rather than NYC, but found that that's not so straight forward these days. After spending more than two hours on the phone, much of it on hold with 'customer service' in India I found every sensible option was denied by arbitrary airline rules, and I gave up. The next day, it was suggested that I could fly to Ca. and back, then fly to SLC on my original reservation. I resisted this, but in the end caved in.
So Sunday I went to the annual bike show at Works Engineering in Williamsburg. This year's was bigger than ever and, in addition to seeing a lot of very nice bikes, I got to catch up with a bunch of friends.
Mon. morning, I was supposed to fly to Burbank, via SLC ironically, but my flight out of JFK was delayed and I missed my connection in in SLC and was put on a flight to LAX. Thad was able to pick me up there at the height of rush hour, and our trip north and west to his house in Newbury Park wasn't too bad because an accident south of LAX reduced the traffic for us.
The bike that was the subject of the test and photo shoot, is a '62 Matchless G-50 CSR. This is one of 25 made as a homologation special to enable the G-50 to be raced in the AMA GNC. This particular bike was raced in TTs by Cal Rayborn, as an amateur before he had become famous. I was involved in restoring the bike at Team Obsolete and it was felt that someone familiar with the bike should support Thad to make sure every thing went alright.
Thad had everything well under control, but was a little concerned by a low RPM stumble/hesitation. This he had largely overcome by fiddling with the pilot screw, but the 'matchbox' float was pissing gas out at certain rpms and we spent Tues. morning futzing with the float bowl, never completely curing it.
In the afternoon, we took the bike to a small private oval in Simi Valley, opposite the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The track was superbly groomed by Thad's friend Randy Marsh, an ex-Speedway racer of some note. A photographer and videographer set up and, after doing many static and detailed shots, photographed Thad doing laps, crossing it up and roosting dirt. Gill Vallincourt and his wife, of Works Performance Shocks, who live about 5 miles away, stopped by to smooze. It all went fine and the photographer was happy with the shoot.
Wed., we left well early for the airport in Burbank and Thad took me first to Gary Swan's house, home of Toad Town Racing. Thad wanted to visit Skip Van Leeuwen as Don Emde had told Thad that Skip was one of the established Experts who would have been competing at El Cajon when Rayborn was riding this bike as an Amatuer, along with Eddie Mulder, Dick Hammer, Dusty Coppage, and others. This worked out well, as Gary needed a battery picked up at Skip Van Leeuwen Enterprises. Skip had no memory of Rayborn riding the Matchless' which is not surprising as it was 60 years ago and Rayborn was just getting started. Skip gave Thad the phone number of Dick Hammer and another racer who might remember something of Rayborn and the Matchless, and we went on to Burbank.
There we stopped at Jay Leno's garage and Bernard Jhutli gave us a quick tour of the motor cycles before we had to drive around the block to drop me off at the airport. It was a somewhat frenetic trip, but Thad and his wife Jodie made in more than bearable by being great hosts.