The Jalopy Journal
Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Bill McGuire, May 1, 2013.
Saw him at Muncie Dragway in the early 70's. FEARLESS!
Here's a followup feature: Video of the last run EJ Potter made on a Widowmaker. On July 1, 1999 at age 58 he came out of retirement for one last pass. Like he never left!
Video Bonus: EJ Potter in Action | Mac's Motor City Garage.com
I saw him at Castlereagh Dragway in Sydney Australia in the 1960's. he was the ultimate showman. We'd never seen anything like it in Oz. Do you reckon that V8 drag bike would be allowed to run in 2013?
Saw him at Ravenswood in Western Australia. Seen a few v8 bikes after that, particulaly at Hidden Valley in the Northern Territory with Mad and Lout, think Mad has one of his old bikes, but will never forget the original.
Thanks for posting all the great photo's and stories about a true legend.
Some people are duplicators and followers and others are innovators such as E.J.
He blazed a trail for others to try and follow.
EJ really enjoyed Australia, loved the people and the sights. In terms of performance, conventional drag bikes with MC engines have eclipsed the potential of the SBC V8, but not in the quality of the show.
...always thot he was one of the greats,...if you can find the book and DVD you will thoroughly enjoy both. RIP E.J.
Didn't see it mentioned here, on his first bike(s) there was no clutch, he'd put it on the rear wheel stand, rev it it up and kick the stand over.
That was the normal launch.
In the late '60 / early '70s a friend of mine had a dual engine drag bike. E. J. was appearing at a strip where my friend was running. The promoter wanted the two of them to race each other. Although not as much fun to watch, my friend's bike was actually a good bit faster than the V-8 bike. E.J. obviously understood how he fit into the big picture because he wisely declined the race. Faster or not, people didn't come from everywhere to see the drag bike run, but they were amazed by the V-8 bike. Why do anything to diminish that appeal.
E.J. said the scariest thing was if wheel spin decreased to the point the bike started to hook up. No doubt it could have been faster with the tire hooked up, but riding it would have been a challenge.
I have a bike chassis dyno he sold commercially back in the 70s. It was made of military surplus bits, including a big old aircraft generator. The engine cooling fan is a 1 HP 3600 rpm motor with a vicious looking 2 blade fan barely enclosed by a flimsy wire guard. Very scary to be around, kind of like I imagine riding his drag bike would be.
I saw him run that bike at the 1963 NHRA Nationals in Indy. If I remember correctly, he was using the drop start also? Tire was spinning nearly the entire length of the track. Wild guy for sure!
Yes, that was it. All the bikes were run that way. They had an in/out coupler like a sprint car for starting and moving, but the launch was direct drive off the axle stand.
I'm lucky,my brother owns 2 of EJ's bikes.The last one and one of the first ones.
I believe Frank spoke with him last week about them.
I've heard of but never saw one. Do you have photos?
I found this on a facebook site. They are selling some pretty cool things that he had in his shop. Nothing major, some aircraft and race parts along with some of his trophies from the tractor pulling days. There is also some body parts from Art Arfon's Green Monster that they are auctioning off. Worth checking out for sure, hope the link works.
What next, they will be auctioning off his Steel balls?
They are going on the block next week. Good luck bidding, you ought to wear one on each shoulder.
i saw ej run back in the late 60s unbelivable to see, got to talk with him at a friends party about 4 or 5 years ago. he had balls for sure. a friend told me a story about going to his garage, and he fired an allison aircraft engine clamped to a workbench!!! bench was jumping off the ground when he hammered it! ej wasnt afraid of anything with an engine on it or in it! good read in his book.
I saw him at Detroit Dragway several times over the years ....I know he passed himself as " Michigan Madman " but anything I heard about Potter was that he was a very savvy guy about race bikes and racing .
Link no worky... maybe this...Thanks Bakchoy... Thanks freaky stuff that is...
His Plymouth...backseat driver...
The last time I seen E.J. My buddy Clyde and I sprung him from the nursing home he was in, just north of Ithaca Mi..... He wanted to go get a "Rat Burger" (The name he gave any food you could get from a fast food restaurant)..
When we were getting close to Burger King,.. He got excited when he seen a Subway. That was where he wanted to go! .... Subway, Here we come! We make our orders and sat down. EJ said,.. "Yeah this is healthier for us than rat burgers."..
I look at him and say "EJ, after all the crazy stuff you've done, and all the chances you've taken. Why the sudden interest in eating healthy?"... He gets a crazy grin on his face and says.. "It's never too late to develop healthy habits"...
It’s kind of funny to see this thread come up now,.... "Widowmaker 7" is at Bonhams in Las Vegas right now,... Looking for a new home some time this weekend.
The world got a little smaller the day EJ crossed the finish line... He was truly one of a kind !
Here is part of the write up over there in the catalog,..
1971 EJ Potter Chevrolet V8 "Widowmaker 7" Dragbike
• The world's fastest motorcycle in 1973 as confirmed by Guinness Book of World Records
'Drag racers...would try anything that made sense... While motorcycle guys have often borrowed technology from car guys, some have gone so far as to borrow engines. And no one has been more associated with this than E.J. Potter, affectionately known as the "Michigan Madman".
'Potter grew up in the central Michigan town of Ithaca, the son of a scientist. After first competing on dirt tracks, he decided in 1960 to pursue a dream (of)...putting a Chevy V8 engine into a motorcycle frame... Potter would spend more than a decade building, racing–and sometimes wrecking–six more "Bloody Mary" and "Widowmaker" machines. And he did so...in the USA, England, Australia and Canada... In the beginning... Potter was paid $1 for every mile per hour he exceeded 100mph. He quickly realized that his homemade clutch (built from a Harley-Davidson drum brake) was limiting (him) to about 115mph and that, in turn, limited his income... His solution...was to eliminate the clutch altogether. And...trap speeds increased to 136mph...
'The first engine Potter used was a 283 cubic inch, carbureted Chevrolet. The transmission was connected to the engine by means of a chain... Potter chose a large, steel backbone...trellis...that used the engine as a stressed member...' Motorcycle Drag Racing: A History by John S. Stein (Gear Head Publishing, 2011)
Widowmaker 7 has a Chevrolet small-block 350cid V8 with Crane gear-driven roller cam and rockers, Brodix aluminum heads, 12.5:1 forged pistons and a 1960s Vertex Len Hughes-built magneto, and Kinsler-rebuilt Hilborn fuel injection.
In September 2016's Classic & Sports Car, Mick Walsh wrote: "Photographs in American magazines of a wild V8 motorcycle smoking down a dragstrip captivated me as a kid and, ever since... I've been fascinated... While studying the spectacular drag 'bikes in the Goodwood Festival of Speed paddock, I was stopped in my tracks by...Widowmaker 7. As I chatted to its owner ... others who'd seen Potter perform at Santa Pod in '66 came to pay homage to the 500bhp Chevy-powered beast. He sadly died aged 71 in 2012 in Ithaca, Michigan after battling Alzheimer's."
I talked to Clyde Hensley, who owns Widowmaker 7, in Vegas yesterday. He told me it is on the Top 5 list of interesting motorcycles there. It goes on the block this afternoon. I will post the results after I talk to him.
Ah yes, E J Potter.... A few more little known facts. NHRA banned him in the early 60s after several accidents, he could only run outlaw tracks or at non-sanctioned events. Also in the late 60s one of the national service station chains was offering tires with a mileage guarantee. He bought one, and Potter would get a couple of appearances out of one tire then turn it in for replacement. He got 3-4 free tires before they caught on...
Saw him run several times, always a great show. I saw his electric car run in the late 60s, it was erie; very fast, and in near-total silence from the car (the generator on the other hand made up for it!). The biggest extension-cord reel you ever saw..... LOL.
It was a no sale at $38,000. I thought it would have brought a lot more and am really surprised museum owners were not there bidding against each other. Oh, that's right. They are closing.
I will talk to Clyde tomorrow and see what his plans are for it.
That was his "Super Slot Car".... I bought the old Ford pick up from EJ that he used to haul the Allison powered generator and cable reels with... many moons ago. (So I assume you've seen this rig before) EJ was really something !
I believe that the auction and sale going on now is being run by his daughter, Alison.
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