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Salt Torpedo Chapter 24

Secret Desert Test Run

By Bandit with photos by Zack C.

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On Tuesday, January 22, we nervously took the Salt Torpedo into the desert for some passes on a desolate paved road. I can’t tell you where we went. It’s top-speed secret, that only coyotes and bleak desert bikers know about. What a trip.
Zack and my Grandson, Frankie helped us load it into Don Whalen’s new trailer. It was a 6 by 12 job and fit the Torpedo like a glove. The trailer was secured with a multitude of padlocks, door locks, hitch locks and a padlock and chain strapped around a light pole for the night. You can’t be too careful in Wilmington the designated RV homeless community in LA by the mayor.
Zack and I rolled out of town and onto six freeways heading sorta southeast for 150 miles, but that’s all I can tell you. We arrived and met Micah McCloskey and his lovely wife, Carmela and their quiet, all creamy white lab dog right on time. Carmela works for the Red Cross, our EMT specialist in case of accident or injury.
While we discussed the plan with Dustin Leinweber in a shed behind the Wheeler Station, something dawned on me. Our first hiccup of the day. I worked for weeks preparing and adjusting for this. I struggled with the top of the body, but this puppy was buttoned up tight, and I was beginning to think we needed an engine hatch for mechanical access. That notion was voted down, but another notion surfaced. We will get into that in a future chapter.
I was a nervous wreck planning for this, and when we arrived, Justin added to my high-anxiety with a myriad of road-use requirements and the possibility of going to jail, if we got caught. I tried to look calm. 
While discussing the CHP and our desert run plans it dawned on me that the rag was still stuck in the velocity stack to keep shit out of the intake. I thought, “Oh Fuck.” We opened the trailer and I discovered a space for a skinny arm to maybe reach in beside the muffler, and Micah gave it a shot—success. Did I miss anything else?
We followed a few brothers down the highway a short stretch and made a right on a straight paved road leading away from the highway. I don’t believe it was a highway. The highway disappeared 25 miles prior and the street turned into something downright strange like, “Old Spider Lane.” As we rolled deeper into the sun-soaked hills, the homes became bleaker and more destitute. There were no businesses. A brother asked about something to eat, and an old woman pointed back toward interstate 15 and said, “Thirty miles to the nearest burger.”
We were instructed to climb this straight hill for ¾ of a mile and pull off the paved portion, into the sand, pop open the trailer, yank the Torpedo out, fire it up, put it onto the asphalt, make a blast down the straight-arrow smooth road, turn around, blast back and into the trailer for a quick escape back to the city. It was all sorta clandestine. We needed to move and groove, avoid eye-contact with the locals, pray the CHP didn’t arrive and get the hell out of Dodge.
We did exactly as we were told. We pulled off the pavement, cracked open Don’s trailer, unstrapped the Torpedo and pulled it into the sun. Micah quickly donned his helmet and jumped in, fired it to life and we pushed him backwards toward the pavement. The sandy surface leading to the asphalt rolled like the wake behind a sailboat and a couple of times the belly scrapped over the sandy humps.
On the asphalt, Micah shifted and let out the clutch, the Torpedo lurched and died. He fired it up once more and aligned himself with the two-lane paved road and took off. It sounded odd but then gained speed. It’s like throwing a gray dart down a long highway. It immediately straightens out and disappears. The puppy was amazing how straight and sleek it seemed to roll. 
I should have brought a set of binoculars. Almost a mile down the road he stopped and started to turn around. A brother waited at the bottom at one the of designated turn-around points and helped him realign the streamlined trike for the return pass. That’s when noticed an issue with the clutch. It was slipping badly. 
Justin commented that we may have fried the clutch. Micah baby-ed it back to the trailer turnout and pulled off the road. We immediately started to remove the top. That’s when I started to be disturbed by the time it took to remove and replace the fiberglass top. There needed to be a solution and I think I have it. Only four 5/16 doomed Allens hold the top to the frame on each side, but then there’s another ten 10-24 fasteners holding the top to the fiberglass bottom. 
I may have come up with a solution to the 10/24s, but I need to test it. We removed the top and adjusted the clutch cable. We tried it and it still wasn’t working. This is when I noticed the clandestine operation falling apart. There didn’t seem to be the urgency to escape the desert after a run and more guys kept showing up. I gave everyone Bikernet bandanas. 
Micah wanted to adjust the chain and a local rider jammed to his house for a larger crescent wrench for the axle than I brought. We adjusted the clutch throw-out bearing and the clutch was ready to rock. 
The heim joint holding the rear brake anchor bolt had fallen out and Speed King, dual-caliper brake anchor rotated and jammed against the parachute roll-bar. We lucked out, replaced the bolt and got ready to run again.
Suddenly a UPS truck appeared on the scene and slid sideways into the sand. The Mad UPS driver jumped out to check the action. We were drawing a crowd. Micah hit the gas and peeled toward the bottom of the hill like any self-respecting Torpedo should. It flew quickly to the bottom of the road and he flipped-a-bitch and headed back. This was a completely successful run and we hit over 100 mph, but he started to notice a shimmy. 
We checked out the front end and decided to load it for the trip home. But I thought we could make one more pass as a more moderate speed to keep breaking in the chassis and driveline. Micah stepped into the cockpit, but this time it stumbled. We thought it might be low on gas, but that wasn’t the case. A wire must have come loose. 
He putted down the road turned around and made it back.
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SALT TORPEDO TO-DO LIST—After making several passes on a stretch of pavement in the desert we have a to-do list. 
I spoke to Chris Morrison about a paint job. His shop is next to Larry Settle’s in Harbor City. He will be ready when I return from Deadwood .
We need to adjust the shocks. The torpedo is seriously lower than when we rolled into the desert. Something settled and we had a slight shimmy. 
I spoke to Gary Maur, who is in Detroit and has built numerous 300 mph drag cars. The axle rake or camber is currently at 6 degrees. He said to go to 10 degrees for more stability.
We need to check the clutch and clutch cable. We had a problem, but Micah adjusted it and was good to go. We need to take a second look.
Fix the rear brake anchor tab and inspect. 
Wiring issue. A loose wire? Find and correct it.
Check front wheel toe-in or caster.. Make sure it’s and 1/8 of an inch or less.
At the end of the runs, I was on cloud nine and relaxed. Justin said, "You made my day."
I said, "You made my 2019." In general everything went very well. Until next time. Keep your fingers crossed, we’ll be heading to Bonneville.
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Reader Comments

Reminds me of the day someone left a shop rag in the oil pan of my father's dragster. It went unnoticed until we fired it and had no oil pressure. The rag got sucked up over the oil pickup and we had no pressure. Fortunately we shut if off in time, and I wasn't the one who left the rag in there!

Looks like fun guys. Be fast, be safe!

Paul Aiken
Charlotte, NC
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Editor Response Thanks brother.
Camber – The angle of the wheel when viewed from the front of the vehicle
Caster – The angle of the steering pivot as seen from the side of the vehicle
Toe – The direction the tires point, relative to each other

Toe is sometimes confused with tow. Tow lines and toe the line. Just more confusion from the English.

I had to look this up. I'm from Texas and we do not speak English here.

Monday, January 27, 2020
Editor Response I'm glad someone checked. Appreciate it.

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