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The Salt Torpedo Trike Bonneville Build: Chapter 22

The First Start-Up

By Bandit with photos from Wrench, Zack Conner and Frankie

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We are so damn close, yet let’s see.

I will rattle off my Salt Torpedo list. We are considering using one of the new Feuling oil tank vents to prevent blow-by. Unfortunately, they haven’t developed one for Twin Cam engines, only the new M-8 configuration.

I made progress on the team T-shirts, and Micah had a connection for another fire suppression system but after a month of waiting it didn’t pan out. I had to order another one from Shrouds who sent me to Summit Racing for a $15-dollar discount, but it still costs $550.

My art guy at Wellington signs left the company and I didn’t know about it. I had ordered vinyle stickers for the body. Micah changed his mind about how low the liner ran. I think the rulebook scared him, so I had to order taller shocks. Yesterday, he sent me a shot of a liner on the salt at speed week. It was slammed on the salt, maybe an inch of clearance. Speed Week is happening now, but rain has caused a day delay. That happens on a regular basis this time of year. Actually, it turned into a four-day delay.

Micah brought over his vacuum bleeder, and Bennett’s Performance made the brake lines. The brakes are bled and ready.

They arrived in the correct configuration this time, but still no wrist restraints?
They arrived in the correct configuration this time, but still no wrist restraints?

My RJS belts came incomplete, so I had to reach out to them. They said send them back for a quick correction, but another month passed, and I didn’t have belts. I started calling every day and leaving messages, nothing. I finally reached Sean. He said, no problem I would receive a tracking number later that day. Three days passed. I received a call yesterday and there was a problem in the warehouse. He fixed it and they were shipped.

We had a discussion about our front axles and how to safety-wire them. I had to order more fasteners from McMaster Carr. We are going to drill holes in every flat so we can adjust the Timken bearing pressure to suit our needs. That’s going to get interesting. I like the notion of shims to adjust the pressure. Better order some.

The wiring is virtually done. I had to hold off and run wires through a protective loom. I needed some fire suppression goo. We handled the latch yesterday. We bled the brakes on Saturday, but I need to adjust the release spring. I got that handled.

Here’s my list for the next day. I can finish the latch. I will hopefully get close on the firewall and finalize the wiring. I need to make a bracket at the back of the Paughco Frame and fasten the top and bottom of the body to it. I’m hoping for a start-up this weekend or Monday.

Then we need a road test the following week. If all goes well… Wait, we still need to install the fire suppression systems and Micah threw in another glitch. He decided he doesn’t like the carbon fiber vents I paid big bucks for. We are looking at non-aerodynamic scoops.

I started work on the Salt Torpedo firewall final aluminum construction. We have just eight days before we should be rolling out towards the salt. Not sure if we will make it.

We have several hoops to jump through before we get there. We need start-up and test. Then we need two tests on the road, one around the block and one at about 50 mph. We need someone to inspect this beast and determine whether we will pass the inspection. We need a few days to plan and pack for the trip. I will need to rent a trailer and find a room or two in Wendover.

 I never went after sponsorship funds because I wanted to see if it would work first. As you can see, someone else built a belly tank trike, which was on display at a show recently. Would like to know more about it.

My notes are constant reminders, and then I scratch them out and start over.
My notes are constant reminders, and then I scratch them out and start over.

BRAND New Bikernet Reader Comment!--
SALT TORPEDO Chapter 21: Too Close to Bonneville

Good god man! this has been a heart-pounding adventure!!! Are you there at Bonneville!

-- Koz Mraz
La Quinta,, CA

Not quite. The motorcycle meet is from the 25 to the 29th.--Bandit

Yesterday I handled the cotter-key safety wiring on the front axles. I finished the canopy latch, welded it, painted it and installed it into the top of the body.

I was sketchy about the wiring and discover a couple of mistakes, corrected them, finished the wiring and made the hot lead to the battery. Amazing, the puppy turned over. I needed to add another quart of oil. I also need to add more oil to the transmission.

I started to make up the sparkplug wires, when I discovered late model coils use a different connector to the coil. I went out to Jeremiah’s Dyna and pulled a plug wire and checked it out. After almost 100 years of doing it one way, they shifted. Frankie is going to Bartels’ to see if I can get a couple of ends, without it costing me a fortune. One of the techs gave him a set of used plug wires--Perfect!

I fixed the brake lever return spring, which was too long for our system and reinstalled it. Then I shifted to making more cardboard patterns for the firewall. I need to order 3M heat sealant today and get it shipped my way. I’ve found firewall grommets. I’m beginning to build confidence in this area.

Decided to find a use for my Dacca Vents, which Micah started to veto.
Decided to find a use for my Dacca Vents, which Micah started to veto.

Today, I will study how the Shrouds safety team installs the parachute. It’s ready to go back into the body. Then it’s all about making the firewall work, over the next couple of days. I’m hoping for start-up on Sunday, when Micah comes back, and if we’re lucky we will make our first rolling run around the block. 

Sunday was damn exciting. Micah made it over along with Zack, my Grandson Frankie and Darrin. It wouldn’t fire. The battery struggled and the compression releases didn’t seem to work. I didn’t have a compression gauge to test them. Micah will bring one.

Micah, who ran a shop for 40 years, came up with the notion of keeping air moving through the gas tank while brazing.
Micah, who ran a shop for 40 years, came up with the notion of keeping air moving through the gas tank while brazing.

Then we noticed a gas leak. Pissed me off. We took a break and went to lunch at Shamrocks Mexican Seafood? We returned cleaned the bung area and re-brazed it, still leaked. Micah had to leave.

Zack and I fucked with the gas tank after Micah peeled out, trying different things. We thought the blowing air in the tank might be forcing bubbles when I brazed. We stopped and took the chance it might blow up in my face. We were trying to do this outside and the breeze fucked with my brazing efforts. Finally, I tried another rod for a different alloy, and it worked.

We replaced the tank and put in a little gas. The tank only holds 1.3 gallons. Zack came up with an anti-gravity battery jumper system and we gave it a shot. We got it to pop. Then after more checking of connections, spark plug wires, and using the accelerator pump, it fired to life and ran like a champ. We let it run for a while.

We tried fitting Zack into the Torpedo for a trial run.
We tried fitting Zack into the Torpedo for a trial run.

The battery was still an issue, but Zack’s jumper was doing the trick. Once in a while, the compression releases seemed to work, and it would spin. Micah rolled back to the valley, so we thought we were done for the day, but damn a roll around the block was a critical test in the fight to get to the salt this year. Everything had to go smoothly.

Weight is a major issue in the front. The bike was perfectly balanced for a long time, but no more. It’s heavier in the rear. Dr. Hamster came by on Saturday and we discussed weight and handling issues. He recently bought a Devon sports car and went to work on it. He replaced the VW engine with a big Porsche engine in the rear and drove it around the area. The front end wasn’t happy, and he started to add weight, a lot of lead weight. It didn’t help much until he had like 200 pounds in the front. Then he tried an air damn and it worked like a champ. Interesting.

So, we rolled the Torpedo into the street and Zack climbed in. We added more gas and fired it up. Zack was ready to roll, but the Torpedo decided not to shift. We struggled with it, removed the linkage, but no go. Micah set it up and adjust the shifter pawl. I wanted to leave it to him. Meanwhile, I reached out to James at Tucker about the battery.

James Simonelli got right back to me. A fresh engine can be a real drag on the battery. He suggested this battery, when we determined a big dresser battery wouldn’t fit.

Here’s how I responded: You’re right, it is a fresh engine and I was struggling with electronic compression releases. We did get it started with the jumper system and it only has maybe 20 minutes of run time on the fresh engine.

The Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials are the 25th to the 29th. There is an outside chance we might make it. We are so close we can taste the salt. Yesterday was critical, with the first start-up. We ran into some issues, but ultimately got it started. But then we ran into shifting issues, so no street run. Where I live, we have a straight 50-plus mph street alongside the building for a mile. On Sundays there is almost no traffic.

We have a week to test, tune, study the handling, build the firewall, install the fire systems, find a trailer, find some money and get to Bonneville. It’s looking dicey, but we’re trying. If we don’t make it, we will have a year to test and dial this puppy in for next year.

James wanted us to make sure the compression releases were working properly, and we got more time on the engine before we switched batteries.

Unfortunately, we’re burning daylight and needed a strong battery to be there for us. I reached out to Anti-Gravity Battery. They are close by and immediately responded to my request with some additional questions.

Thank you for reaching out to us.

We have a few different batteries that would fit in a battery compartment of that size.
To recommend the best option, we need a little more info on the trike.
What will be the main purpose? Race, show or street? If race only, will it run a charging system or total loss?
Will it have just the basic accessories, such as lights and gauges, or will there be extra accessories installed?

Also, are you looking for the lightest/smallest battery or the one closest to the dimensions provided?

Our ATX20 Heavy Duty is very close to those dimensions, just a bit over an inch shorter in height.
At 900 Cranking Amps, you will have no problem starting that 135".


I hope to hear back from them. More fasteners arrived from McMaster Carr for our Dacca vents, which are now in place. I'm still waiting for two, Micah approved clamshell vents. 

Micah arrived Monday morning, fixed shifting and maybe we could slip around the block. That’s not good enough. We need to get her up to 50 plus to determine the weight issue, somewhat. We may need to wait until next Sunday.

Micah checked the S&S G jetting and it had a 74 main and 29.5 intermediate jet. He left them alone. It ran like a top. Micah had issues with his dresser and needed to take it to Bartels’ H-D. His battery wasn’t charging properly, and his compensating sprocket rattled since he bought the bike. “It’s no problem,” the sales guy said. “They all do that.”

Bartels’ gave Micah a loaner M-8 Road King and he flew to the headquarters and took the top off the transmission. The shifting mechanism was hitting the lid. Kent had relieved it some. As long as we left the bolts loose, it worked fine. Micah started to clearance the lid and then he discovered the other spring tensioner arm at the other end of the shift drum was hitting the lid also. He kept grinding away and replacing the lid until it was golden for the Fat-5 JIMS transmission.

We discussed the S&S compression releases and chased the wiring. We took a couple of tests and determined the wiring was cool, but Micah brought a compression checker and it indicated that the compression releases were not working.

We charged Zack’s anti-gravity jumper system and the puppy fired right to life. The Bikernet Headquarters are located on the busiest street to and from the Port of Los Angeles. Thundering container, car-carrying, oversized load and fuel trucks are thundering down Harry Bridges Boulevard constantly, always in a big hurry.

We opened the gate, fired it up, looked for an opening in the traffic and Micah shifted into first. It rolled over the gate rail and into the streets that merges into the Alameda corridor to downtown Los Angeles.

This was an acid test. How would it handle and steer? How would the weight issue resolve itself? We had no idea.

He rolled into the street like a champ and shot down the street like a rocket ship. He rounded the bend and I could hear him shifting through the gears two blocks away. He came out onto Harry Bridges two blocks from the shop, surrounded by 18-wheelers, and it died in the center of the lane. I hobbled down to him and got it out of the street.

We fired it back up and he flew into the headquarters. We were all as excited as hell. Success. Micah peeled out and back to Bartels’ to pick up his flamed bagger. Zack helped me lift the Torpedo back onto the bench and I went back to work removing the bottom of the tank to adjust the firewall for new construction. I needed to adjust the gas tank for petcock clearance.

We needed to be able to add fuel. I'm hoping this aligns with the gas cap.
We needed to be able to add fuel. I'm hoping this aligns with the gas cap.

Later Kent weeks called me and suggested an additional starter relay devoted to the compression releases to prevent voltage drop. I have another one and will get to work on that tomorrow.

Rodan, who was an SCTA official for over 25 years and holds numerous records offered to come over to inspect the beast, when we are ready. I need to install the belts, and they arrived yesterday afternoon. I need to finish the firewall and make and install the brackets at the back of the torpedo for body support, and then we’ll be ready for more tests.

Hang on for the next report.

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Reader Comments

Hey, is that roll cage gonna pass? If the thing flips upside down there is no way to keep the rider inside the roll cage the way it's open at the top between the hoops. On our dragster it was closed off with two pieces of tubing connecting the hoops.

Just my $.02


Paul Aiken
Charlotte, NC
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Editor Response We followed the rules, I believe. I don't believe there's enough room for his helmet to pop out. Micah is in Bonneville right now. He going to check with the officials. Thanks for brining it up.

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