Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Plymouth Monster

I've rekindled a pretty serious "window shopping" habit again for vintage motorcycle magazines. I'm still nursing moving expenses so I'm not buying much but I'm certainly tempted to.

This routine has made for some interesting finds recently. This June 1950 issue of CYCLE features the "Plymouth Monster," a motorcycle I recall seeing in one of Flathead Rob's Plymouth Club magazines as a kid. I had to dig up some details. I'd love to see the actual CYCLE article.

Despite the bleak economic condition of the country in the mid thirties, the spirit of adventure was very much alive and well, especially in the world of speed. It was the "Age of Speed" and the place to be was the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Apparently a rather large reward was offered to the first man to break 300 MPH on a motorcycle. Californian Fred Luther welcomed the challenge. Luther, a Chrysler employee, convinced the company to supply him with a power plant suitable for his attempt. Chrysler supplied a complete 1934 Plymouth PF six cylinder engine and transmission.

The basic bike was built around a much modified Henderson "X" cycle. After stretching and strengthening the frame the engine was mounted lengthwise. The steering was mounted far back on the frame, behind the center point of the engine, and was driven by a heavy roller chain via a jack shaft on the front fork. Skid plates mounted on either side served a dual purpose. In addition to maintaining an upright position they could be deployed as brakes on the surface of the salt to slow the bike down. Firestone supplied 30x5" 8 ply treadless tires purpose built for high-speed salt use.

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