Working on an old snotter that came from the Vesco Family

I pick bikes up from time to time that some owners just cannot get going, other shops have had a go and no joy, and I picked this old bike up a long time ago from the Vesco Family, Grandson of Don Vesco, I left it in storage for a while and wasn’t too bothered as this has not run since the early 1980’s.

Don Vesco was an American businessperson, motorcycle racer, and multiple motorcycle land-speed record and wheel-driven land speed record holder. He set 18 motorcycle and 6 automobile speed records during his life.

This bike is a real mess, no idea if it will run but am determined to get this inline four running again, need to know how the motor is before I begin to rebuild it into a cool ride once more.

It has had a hard life and has been from pillar to post and no luck getting this old 500 pound SOHC machine to run again, but I know I can get it sorted, just takes time and patience.

There seems to be leaks all over the Motor, the kick stand has seen better days and there is oil and dirt all over the bike, would love to know what life it has led.

Has a weird set of clip ons that wont stay clamped on it and the wiring harness is old and brittle as well as the usual repair using different colored wire etc, this is going to be a pain.

The tach cable looks like it ended its life a few years ago and the end cap drive unit is still stuck in the valve cover, thats a good thing else the oil would come out of there when it ran.

Some funky wiring going on with horrible plastic sleeve covering, thats all gotta come off right now, so strange what some people will do to their bikes in the shed.

Top triples had seen better days and someone had ground the handlebar clamps off so they can use some later clip ons, but they are about a millimeter to wide and wont clamp down hard, I shall go back to a standard triple tree and fit some scrambler bars I think, just to get this bike as a runner for a while and see how she fares, then- I can decide a little later to strip and build into a Custom Machine.

Everything seems to be covered in oil or grime and crappy clamps etc, its had a hard life, but my main objective is to first remove the shitty wiring and connectors etc and then fit a new harness, battery, coils etc and see if I can get this old girl to fire up again.

The coils had decided to crap them selves and the wire harness was as solid as a rock, the California Sun had dried it all out and this has to all be removed right now.

As you can see, there are different gauge wires that have been added to this harness, the Fuse box is knackered and temporary connectors all over the place, just really bad work.

The carbs will need tearing apart but for now I shall pull the bottom end out and fit New main jets and Idle jets and see where we go with a new battery and plugs etc.

So now its time to do what I like doing and will see if I can figure out all the bad things that have happened to this inline four over the years, hopefully I can resurrect this 70’s iconic machine.

And we begin, it does take a lot of patients but its worth it in the end, I have to see whats up with the Motor first as that at least gives me an idea at the cost involved to turn this into a great looking Custom Motorcycle and it sure warrants that, seeing it was in the Vesco family.

12 interesting facts about land speed racer Don Vesco

Don Vesco doesn’t fit neatly into a specific category of motorcycling, but the one thread that runs through his career is the quest for speed. He became famous for his land speed records in the 1970s and continued racing through the 1990s.

Here are a dozen facts you may not know about Vesco, who was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

1. Vesco was born in 1939 in Loma Linda, Calif. During his lifetime, he was a dirt tracker, factory road racer, drag racer, motorcycle dealer, race-team owner and land speed record-holder.

2. He was mechanically inclined from a young age, tearing apart model airplane engines and making them faster by the time he was in third grade.

3. As a teenager, Vesco parlayed his mechanical skills into cold hard cash. He would buy old Cushman scooters for $20, fix them up and sell them for $25.

4. In his teens, Vesco fixed up a Triumph twin and entered his first official race, a local drag racing event. Then he took that same Triumph and started racing scrambles, TTs, and eventually road races on an old military airport outside of town.

5. One of Vesco’s riding buddies, and his archrival on the track, was future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Cal Rayborn.

6. Vesco won a lot of local road races in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He caught the attention of Honda, which was just coming into the U.S. market. Honda hired him to race its rare and very expensive RC161, a 250cc, four-cylinder racer, to promote the brand.

7. Vesco’s relationship with Honda lasted until 1963, when he took an offer from Yamaha, which was also just getting started in America, to race at the United States Grand Prix (a non-points-paying international race) at Daytona International Speedway. He rode a works Yamaha RD56 250cc GP bike and won the 500cc class. Also loved his Norton Motorcycles too.

8. By the late 1960s Vesco had already been a factory rider for Honda, Yamaha and BSA. He was even a factory rider for the little-known Japanese maker Bridgestone in the 250 GP class for a short time.

9. In September of 1970, Vesco set the motorcycle land speed record of 251.66 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in a streamliner powered by twin Yamaha engines.

10. In 1975, Vesco broke the 300 mph barrier in the Silver Bird Yamaha (powered by twin Yamaha TZ750 motors). Then in 1978 he broke his own record, turning 318.598 mph in a twin Kawasaki turbo rig. That record stood for 12 years.

11. Vesco lost an eye after being hit by a rock while watching a sprint-car race in 1996.


12. He died on Dec. 16, 2002, after a long battle with cancer.



Steve Carpenter

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