09 January 2009

"The only thing really vintage on them is the motor and the guy sitting on 'em."

I really like Peckhammer. His stuff is pretty interesting and easy to pass on to you. Here's another interview with The Squirrel, with some of my own observations. Previous interview here. Eddie talks about his West Coast Dirt Track Series (pix), and, er, motorcycles.

Eddie Mulder was a leading TT Steeplechase and desert racer back in the 1960s. He won The Big Bear Race at age 17, beating a field of over 500 racers -- even after getting a late start because he was in the bathroom instead of on his bike. He is best known for his five AMA Grand National victories, all on TT circuits. Eddie Mulder, was a factory sponsored Triumph racer who ran under National #12, and he's been a Triumph guy ever since.

We flew to California in November to interview Eddie about his various motorcycle-related ventures. Eddie runs a small business that builds custom Triumph street bikes closely based on his Triumph racers of the 1960s and 70s. Although he does do some restoration work, the bikes he builds have very modern components: Brakes by Brembo, cables by Motion Pro, and Works Performance shocks. The hand crafted motors come with Johnson cams, electronic ignition and all sort of trick bits housed in a C&J Frame. A Carbon fiber tank and body works keeps things light, and Maxxis tires provide the grip. As he said in the interview, "The only thing really vintage on them is the motor and the guy sitting on 'em."


A few personal observations on things Eddie talked about:

'Digger' Helm got his name because he's a mortician.

There's a lovely and pristine Cheney-framed Triumph in the vid, the 325th Cheney frame. I used to own Cheney No. 2.

Re his 'little motor man': Carl Krohn is an acquaintance of mine. He's been a Triumph mechanic at least as long as I have and is one of the best, with long experience building race motors. He's also an old desert racer and therein lies this tale: If you ever want your bike tied down on a trailer, get Carl to do it. One time, he was on his way to one of my club's desert parties and got hit by a drunk driver. The drunk missed his pickup and hit his trailer with a coupla Triumphs on it. The trailer came loose from the truck, flipped over, and was dragged along by the safety chains until Carl could bring the plot to a halt. When he righted the trailer, the bikes were still solidly tied down, and other than a little scrapage on the handlebars were undamaged! He hooked 'er back up and went and partied.

Re John Healy (Irish spelling, no 'e') of Coventry Spares, which has no site of its own that I could find: John is the founder and still the owner of the major Britbike parts house on the East Coast, located in Middleboro MA now, but it was in Wellesley Hills MA when I met him. In '79, I was National Service Manager for Triumph Motorcycles America, the factory-owned Triumph distributor in the U.S. I went back east to speak to dealer meetings about the lovely and newly discovered '60s technical updates on the about-to-be-sprung-on-the-world '79 Triumphs, stuff like negative ground and electronic ignition. Accompanying me, or I was accompanying them is probably more like it, were a coupla factory sales reps who had come over to see why their antediluvian products weren't selling well.

They sorta got it figured out. Triumph at the time was a truly bucks-down motorbike factory, long past its heyday and there was nothing much they could do about modernizing the product, but they thought they could galvanize the dealers in some way. They found out at least two things - first, whereas in England they could visit five dealers a day, in the States it was five days between dealers, and second, a lot of the dealers had been dealers for thirty years and had long ago added Japanese lines which quickly outpaced Triumphs in sales and made these guys rich. Also, the dealers were getting on in years (many were old Indian dealers who had taken on Triumph when Indian went belly-up in '53) and were selling out to younger people who had no interest in Triumph whatsoever. But I digress.

John and Susan Healy, very, very nice people, took us to dinner at a Victoria Station down on Boston's waterfront. We discussed Triumph parts. Duh. I believe that John wanted Coventry Spares to be the East Coast Triumph distributor. My orders from my boss in California were to keep an eye on the factory reps (our bosses, by the way) and not let them sign anything along those lines, although that kinda shit was way above my pay grade. To my knowledge, it never came up. Would've been a bad move anyway, as Triumph was just about out of business. It might've helped, but probably not.

At some point, the waiter brought out a bottle of Charles Krug Zinfandel. He displayed it on a white cloth draped over his arm for our viewing pleasure and poured a little glass, which mine host jiggled a little, sniffed, drank a little after gargling with it or whatever you do with wine under those circumstances, and accepted it for our table. All very proper and nice, I am sure.

I almost choked to keep from laughing, which would have been terribly rude. I'd heard of this little wine dance before, but I'd never seen it. To see this treatment given to what we in California thought of as a jug wine is what was so funny to me! Winophile tip: if it's from California, just check that the cork is wet. If it is, go for it. Doesn't matter with the screw top vintages, and they come in their own glass. Tip and enjoy. There I go, digressing again.

After a coupla glasses of zin, talk turned to the relationship of the Triumph factory to its American distributor and dealers. Ever the imperialists, the factory guys thought they knew more about the American market than we did, and thought they should be calling the shots. The phrase 'how's that workin' out for ya?' was not on the scene at that time, but if it had been, chances are we'da used it.

John and I disagreed with them of course, and about this time teamed up and offered to escort these gents across the parking lot and show them the exact spot where the early colonists had dumped the tea in the harbor! Reminding the Limeys about the American spirit of independence kinda shut 'em up and we had a good laugh over it. I still laugh about it. I may have to e-mail this to him and see if he remembers it the same way I do. Heh.

Thanks for bearing with me when I reminisce.


Here's an e-mail I received from Peckhammer. Boy, was I thrilled when it wasn't a cease-and-desist order!


Not sure if I am writing to Fixer or Gordon, but I wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for linking to my webisodes on Peckhammer TV. I noticed that you are linking to the YouTube vids and wanted to make you aware that my primary posting site is on blip.tv. I've got more stuff there, some really interesting pieces that are too long for YouTube's 10-minute limit. These can also be embedded if anything strikes your fancy.

I also post stuff to www.peckhammer.com (blog).

Again, thanks for the nod on what we're doing. It's nice to know someone appreciates the work. And I was glad to read about the details on Digger Helm, etc.

I enjoy the Fixer and Gordon blog. Always interesting.


Thank you for the kind words, Peckhammer. None of us at F&G are exactly new to the gearhead world, and we know good stuff when we find it.

(Note: none'a the effin' links in the e-mail work for me, but go ahead and try 'em. I'll sort 'em out later. Blogspot's link device was acting a little funny too.)

OK now.

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