IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT..........
Well, ok not really. As a kid in Ohio, my fascination
with engines started with handing wrenches to my Father while he fixed our
1955 Plymouth. Later when I was twelve I had to repair our lawn mower
out of necessitation when Dad passed away. That started the neighbors
bringing their mowers to me to fix. Time passed and my Mother married a
puke by the name of paul murray paul b. murray or paul brian murray. One day out of the blue for no reason at all
he exclaimed: "Any time you don't like it here, you can leave". The
day after school I joined the Army. Seventeen years old and two weeks
out of high school I was pounding ground in Sand Hill, Ft. Benning, Ga.
Best thing I could have ever done. Having shipped out to Vietnam a
Battalion Colonel picked me from fifteen hundred men to be his
helicopter crew chief on a UH1H Huey. I was in the 520th Transportation
Battalion, assigned to Pipesmoke Recovery. I was an Army 67N20 or
Helicopter Crew Chief. My door gunner was a guy by the name of Buddy
Hinson. His real name was Arthur Hinson. I desperately would like to
contact Buddy and everyone in Pipesmoke and the 165th in general
especially Shane Elder. He was the man I told in country, that if I ever
had a son. I would give him his name. My Son, Robert Shane McKahan is
now 24 years old. A promise is a promise. Shane was either from
Knoxville or Fort Knox, I can't remember which. Years ago while in the
States he drove around in a car, new for the time with the word GREEN
painted on the back.
Army Aviation taught me to strive
for perfection. While in Vietnam I bought a brand new sight unseen 1972
Kawasaki 750 H2 Mach IV. Had it sent home and set an IHRA world motorcycle
drag racing record on it in Lakeland, Florida. In 1973 I bought the
first Z1 sold in the Tampa
Bay area. I still have it. From it I built the first Turbo Kawasaki in
the area. The very first Turbo bike built in the Bay Area was a Honda
built by Tri City Honda mechanic Jack Gravelle in Clearwater, Fla. from a
purchased American Turbo Pak
kit. I had gone to a junk yard and bought a turbo from a Corvair for
35 clams and down sized the exhaust turbine to 55 cubic inches. I machined
up an intake manifold and put a 50hp four cylinder two stroke Mercury
outboard magneto on the left hand side of the exhaust cam. I had to, at
the time reliable ignitions were not yet made. The mag was stable to six
grand. Cams turn half the speed of the crank, so now I could twist the
Z1 to 12,000 RPMs and still have a stable ignition. Boy, would that
thing go. MTC 960cc pistons and 25 lbs of boost. Click on the pics below
to see an enlarged version of them. I still have the bike, I put nearly
$12,000.00 in it during the mid 70's, which for the time was a Kings
ransom. Check out the manifold and magneto mount. Machined from billet
aluminum before billet was cool.
I kicked around for a
while wrenching here and there in a few shops in St. Petersburg, Fla.
One such shop I really liked was Frank & Donna England's Pinellas Cycle Werks, way too much fun
and getting paid to boot! Later I landed a job with
Danny Childs @ Competition Products. Danny was the first to turn a
cylinder head backwards on a TOP FUEL motorcycle, Mike Grey's Terminal
Van Lines Top Fuel Bike. A modification that is De Rigueur for all out drag bikes. He also invented the air
shifter which was first used on drag bikes. Some people mistakenly
believe is was Mike Murdock of MRE fame that invented the first air
shifter. Not so, Mike was trying to shift a bike by an electrical
solenoid fastened to the shift drum. Being unsuccessful, he commissioned
Danny to make his idea work. Danny scrapped his idea and produced the
WORLD'S FIRST air shifter. While at Danny's Competition Products I built a Kawasaki
Turbo Drag Bike that set two NHRA national records. Danny is one brilliant man. He
is now teamed up with the man who, with Danny taught me my machinist
skills. Dave Rudenis of
Race Cars of Yesterday. I owe the both of them
too much to put into words.
As an update we have lost Danny Childs of
Competition Products, Mike Murdock of MRE, Bo O'Brochta the pilot of the
Top Fuel Bike and Evel Knievel who used to stop by the shop quite often.
It's terribly sad to think of their passing, but what helps a lot is
when friends gather to remember all the laughter and good times those
people gave too.
Now for some good news - Pipesmoke
Veteran Rick Roggensack or "Sack" found this site, called me which led
to finding Buddy Hinson as he and Sack talked all the time. Then Sack
found Norm Klingenberg or "Bugs" and he only lives some fifty miles from
Sack. It's a very small world at times and I for one am glad of it.
There is more to come, stay tuned my friend.