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BIKERNET BONNEVILLE UPDATE, CHAPTER 9: Once more on track with the help of Paughco

It all started a couple of years ago…

By Bandit, Steve Massicotte, Ron Paugh and Kent Weeks with photos by Rick Krost
4/4/2016


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This is a tough one. We all have dreams, but dreams take resources. And of course, your resources need resources. Our Bikernet, 5-Ball Racing dream is to build the first streamlined trike, the Salt Torpedo. Several companies recognized the concept and stepped up, including JIMS machine, Paughco, MetalSport, Carl’s Speed Shop and BDL. We got moving.

I tried to stay true to form with my new Indian Chief, with the 5-Ball Racing color scheme, handled by American Biker in Charleston, SC.
I tried to stay true to form with my new Indian Chief, with the 5-Ball Racing color scheme, handled by American Biker in Charleston, SC.



Hell, Dennis Manning, who is working on his first book about Salt Flat Racing, saw the light and helped initiate a trike class through the European sanctioning body, FIM. “If you’re building a trike, we better have a class,” Dennis said.



Another company stepped up, Lucky Devil Metal Works in Houston, Texas, to help us mate the Paughco engine carriage to a dragster front end. Unfortunately, the one-man talented band, Kent Weeks, was forced to move his shop, and he couldn’t deliver on the frame. We had to adjust our thinking, look for more resources, shift gears and get the juices flowing again.



While reshaping a set of beautiful Victory bags, Kent helped to organize all of our components. Then a brother suggested, “Ship them to LA. We’ll haul ass to Carson City and deliver them to the Paughco Wonderland,” said Kelly Dube.



I called Rick Krost of US Choppers, who I introduced to Ron Paugh. He worked with Paughco for five years on his Board Track frame line. Now, the Paughco team builds his tanks, frames, you name it. It’s amazing what Ron Paugh’s team is capable of, and Rick’s always looking for an excuse to jam north to the Paughco facility and discuss new ideas.

Rick didn't want me to shoot everything. He was working a special US Choppers deal on some parts. He's holding exhaust port rings for Evos. You'd be surprised how many steps go into making these puppies.
Rick didn't want me to shoot everything. He was working a special US Choppers deal on some parts. He's holding exhaust port rings for Evos. You'd be surprised how many steps go into making these puppies.



We peeled out early on a Sunday morning and rolled comfortably into Carson City, Nevada. It’s a helluva road, U.S. 395 weaving along the base of the snow-covered Cathedral Range of mountains through small towns, like Mammoth and Bishop, with 30 mph limits. We stopped in Bishop for some amazing barbecued chili in a baked potato.

Steve came in early to check out the belly tank parts.
Steve came in early to check out the belly tank parts.



Prior to the northern run, I spoke to Ron briefly and he wanted me to talk to Steve Massicotte, the wizard of shop projects and product development. It’s always interesting when you talk to someone about your dream. You’re animated and exuberant and sometimes the other person looks at you strange, like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” These guys understand trikes, and sometimes old guys get the Belly Tank notion. Tying the two together is often a problem.



The badass Paughco Billy trike, too cool.
The badass Paughco Billy trike, too cool.



They’ve been at it for 40-plus years and have the equipment to draw 10-inch deep gas tanks. “We ship two springers a week,” Ron said, as we wandered through his shop discussing various products and chopper history.



This is one of those little seemingly simple parts. They seem easy to make, but not so Kimosabe. This is a headlight ring shown in stages.
This is one of those little seemingly simple parts. They seem easy to make, but not so Kimosabe. This is a headlight ring shown in stages.



At every turn, there stood a jig for a tank or component from 25-30 years ago, and he can still make everything he did when his dad helped kick off the company. “He was the master. He could build anything, including brass headlight buckets and rings.”

They use a band saw to carefully cut each one of these turn-out pipes.
They use a band saw to carefully cut each one of these turn-out pipes.






“At 5:30 AM sharp on every work day for the last 40-plus years, I head for the Paughco facility with a smile on my face,” Ron said. “Simply put, because I love this industry and consider myself one of the luckiest people alive for being fortunate enough to have been part of it from the beginning.”



As we wandered around the shop, we stumbled across massive machines and the abilities to build anything right. “Having grown up in the San Fernando Valley, the custom bike and car culture had a great impact on me during my rebellious youth,” Ron said. “In 1964, I bought a 1946 Knuckle basket for $150.00 and built my first Bobber. It was my daily transportation to high school and really set the stage for my lifelong involvement with choppers.





“In 1968, at the request of the southland’s premier chopper shop, my father’s manufacturing company crafted what is recognized as the first custom part made specifically for the chopper market. That part was a replacement tin inner primary for Pan and Knuckleheads. Once other shops caught wind that we were capable of producing such a specialized product, requests for other parts flooded our office.”



Fortunately, Ron is also a trike believer and for years developed systems to hook trike sections to almost any bike. This is his latest feat. They built a Billy Bike replica in a trike configuration in less than 60 days. They do trikes, so he understood our desire to build a trike streamliner. He gets it. But he still didn’t share my vision.



It wasn’t until I handed Ron the Atomic Bob original drawing/painting at lunch that he said, “Is this what we’re working on?” Suddenly, he was inspired.

Could this be the first streamlined trike?
Could this be the first streamlined trike?



I was also moved to feel some Salt Torpedo movement under my feet. We unloaded the parts with Steve Massicotte and Kyle, another Paughco team member, fab genius, in the back of the shop in a very private room about the size of a two-car garage and started to kick around ideas.



I was concerned about my size and my ability to fit in this puppy. We eyed the original Paughco touring bike frame and I explained how the rear tire would cut through the bottom of the belly tank to meet the surface of salt. We determined that I could fit if I cut off my feet and could fold myself into the shape of a Pretzel. Actually I was cool, but we needed to find a steering box.

Here are Kent's rough sketches.
Here are Kent's rough sketches.



Kyle asked about the pipe bends Kent had mandrel-bent in Houston and I started to take notes. We needed a sketch from Kent, and a steering box.

“We never did get a steering box,” Kent said. “I was hoping to get a little help on that once the frame was roughed out, so I never made a final choice, I was looking at dragster parts, though.”


“I have a folder heading out to you with MSDS sheets for the materials, along with some other paperwork, so I’ll put a basic sketch together for the tubing and send it along,” Kent added. “The bends are for a dragster style five-point roll cage (basically the center tube goes from under the driver’s seat, connects to the back bone of the bike frame and comes around overhead and is the center rib for the roll cage). It was done in two parts and still needs a sleeve made for the weld joint.”

Jigs for heat shield brackets.
Jigs for heat shield brackets.





“I have a very good friend up here, Darrel, who owns a Knucklehead and built several rail chassis,” Steve added in the shop. “He raced quite a bit in the ‘60s.
He came by and looked at the project and is excited to help...really good guy and one of the best fab guys you will ever meet.”

They are now making solid springer trees in three different configurations, with zero, three and six degrees of rake built in.
They are now making solid springer trees in three different configurations, with zero, three and six degrees of rake built in.



Kyle immediately analyzed the front dragster axle while Ron gave us a tour of the shop. They are selling more frames than ever.



I reached out to Kent about his sketches.

We received a quick lesson in drawing gas tanks using special sheet metal. You pull them too hard they split, not hard enough and you get this effect. Interesting.
We received a quick lesson in drawing gas tanks using special sheet metal. You pull them too hard they split, not hard enough and you get this effect. Interesting.



“I don’t have the project drawn out in blueprints or anything. As I mentioned, it takes about as much time to put it on paper as it does to just start in with a little old fashioned prototype fabrication,” said Kent Weeks, “but I did whip up a basic sketch help share the idea. It’s a fairly basic design really, a dragster frame with a Road King frame for the drive section.”

 

 

Steve mentioned his friend who builds dragsters, and even though the dimensions will be completely different, maybe he can do the front section with a few mods to his fixture and pass it back to the Paughco team to join the two together. Otherwise, he can just build some fixtures and perhaps go from scratch as I was going to do.



“There is a hot rod book I am sending with your paperwork,” Kent continued. “It has some basic dragster frame designs laid out in case Steve goes from scratch. I felt that if it looked like something the officials were used to seeing, it might just help it get approved to run without scrutinizing troubles, haha!”



Meanwhile back with Ron and Paughco history: “Time was when it was just a bunch of young rebels armed with hacksaws, torches and spray paint, cutting, chopping, bobbing and stripping. In those early days, you didn’t dare ride anything but a rigid and electric starters were taboo. Being able to light your engine within a specified number of kicks was pretty much how we measured your cool factor and relationship with your bike.”

This is an example of their low-cost springer. It's as solid as any Paughco springer, but with a few less machining moves, and a flat powder finish.
This is an example of their low-cost springer. It's as solid as any Paughco springer, but with a few less machining moves, and a flat powder finish.



Speaking of old and new times, they’ve developed a low cost, mostly powder-coated springer, which is still Paughco strong. “We need to keep safe springers on the market to combat the dangerous ones.”

Could it be the first streamlined trike?
Could it be the first streamlined trike?



There you have it. The flames are screaming at the sky. I’m in touch with Bill Woods, and Bikernet is a sponsor of the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. It sure would be a joy to see the Salt Torpedo make a pass or two on the Salt Flats in 2016. Hang on for the next report.




5-BALL RACING SPONSORS

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Reader Comments


Received your text. Will let you know how it goes at Paughco. I will brain storm this with Steve next week.

daryl schaar
carson ,city nv., NV
Saturday, July 09, 2016
Editor Response Thanks, and I appreciate your involvement.
--Bandit

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