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1952 Triumph Thunderbird

Posted on August 30, 2011 by Scott in Classic, Racer. 15 comments

Depending on what floats your boat, you will eventually make the pilgrimage to your ‘Mecca’. If you are a surfer, then you will take on the waves at Teahupoo. If you’re an Elvis fan, then you will shuffle your blue suede shoes to Gracelands. And if you are a motorhead, then you will take your speed machine to the Bonneville salt flats, like many did a few weeks ago. One of those people was Alp Sungurtekin, who took his purpose built bike, a 1952 Pre-Unit 650cc Triumph Thunderbird. The bike is named ‘Kursed’ – because of all the things that went wrong with it. He really had to race the clock to have it finished on time. Actually, he was still working on it up until the final hours of leaving for the legendary salty race strip. This is how Alp describes his time at Speedweek and the pursuit of his own personal land speed record.

Hand stitched Elk leather seat pad by Alps girlfriend Jay.

“The Salt Flats are approximately 4,218 feet above sea level, and because of the weather conditions, the DA (density altitude) goes up to 7500-8000ft or more, which makes tuning the carbs really difficult. Last week during Speed Week the temperature was between 72-90 degrees Fahrenheit (23-32 degrees celsius), my girlfriend and I stayed there almost the whole week. Most of the people just camp next to the speedway in an area they just call “The Bend (in the Road)” – we also stayed in this spot. There were more than 500 racers and probably thousands of spectators (only guessing), there were so many rv’s/cars I couldn’t really tell. There were some spins and major fish-tailing, but no serious accidents that I witnessed.”

“I worked on this Triumph for about 10-12 weeks minimum 10 hours a day, I modified the cases, the crankshaft and the rocker boxes to fit the cams, the whole engine is modified. Some of the components that I fabricated are: custom made intake manifolds, rear hub, brake, stainless steel pipes, rear fender, I also reconditioned a pre-war triumph girder front-end; I machined special bronze bearings to fit the front end on the frame…”

“Sometimes I thought I wasn’t going to make it because of parts missing, delays, miss happenings etc.. as a matter of fact because of all the incidents/set-backs I called the bike ”kursed”. I was still trying to finish it on Thursday the day we were supposed to leave.. other than kick starting the engine a couple times, I never had the chance to test ride the bike, I guess I got lucky and it end up running 113.275mph.”

After arriving home, Alp learnt that the AMA National M-VG (Modified-Vintage Gas) record is 92.515mph – held by another pre-unit Triumph. Unfortunately, because he was running under the SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) the record doesn’t count. “I never thought I could go 113mph!” says Alp. “Next year I’m thinking of running for the AMA as well and hopefully will break the record.”

Alp has been bitten badly by this trip to the ‘motorhead mecca’ and is already making plans for next year. “I don’t think it’s ever too early to say “see you at the salts!” he says with a smile.

  • SR85

    Any idea how much it would cost to ship ya bike to the salts to give it a good thrashing? id love to do it one day

  • Drillmastertommy

    Too frikkin cool!!! I wish I had the knowledge and the finances to do something like this……. How much to bring my bike from the UK to the flats and back?????

  • Scott

    @SR85 I'm guessing it would probably cost close to $1000 each way from Australia to USA.

    You're better off riding it to Lake Gairdner in South Australia.

  • Next SCR ride-out – Bondi to Lake Gairdner?

  • awesome bike!
    i'd be down for that SCR ride 😉

  • I've heard that the roads are pretty bad getting to the lake – you'd probably have to trailer the bikes… at least for the final leg.

  • GuitarSlinger

    Salt Fever . It'll get ya every time … guaranteed !

    Any clue as how to get a poster/photo of this M/C ? It'd look great on the garage wall .

    And hey the BUB is happening this week on the Salt . Might I suggest a write up on the twin engined Vincent powered LSR Streamliner " Black Lightning " ? We're ( VOC of America ) all rooting for him .. The ultimate New Meets Old race bike .

    Let me know if you need a hook up and how to contact you if you do .

    Black Lightning folks . Keep the fingers crossed

    @ Drillmastertommy – Let me know if you're serious . If so I'll hit up our UK VOC brethren and get the answer .. but first what kind of M/C is we talkin about ?

  • alp

    Thanks guys, i would love to visit Lake Gairdner in South Australia too, hopefully one day.
    GuitarSlinger, you may send an e-mail to "alp(at)" and i send you an high resolution image to print out..

  • Rupert

    I just got back from the Salt Flats for the AMA and BUB speed trials. You could ride the bike out with out trailering, the roads aren't that bad. But it is in the middle of the desert in 100 degree F heat with extremely limited resources. I would only suggest trailering because you literally need to set up a camp out there. The area where the bikes are run is about 9 miles from the main interstate. It's worth the trip. There is no where else like the Salt Flats in the world.

    Awesome bike.

  • Just to be clear here, Australia has it's own salt flats located in South Australia at a place called Lake Gairdner. From previous stuff I've read, I believe that it's a bit of a trek to get yr bikes onto the salt i.e. I think you might have to trailer them and pull it out to the salt with a 4WD. Could be wrong tho. Anyone been out there?

  • More information here. Getting there seems like a pretty serious undertaking i.e. get it wrong and you could end up as dingo food…

    So who's up for it? 😉

  • The Wild One has gone to the Salt Flats!

  • Ash in Bali

    That's like givin ya Grandad a long line of the Peruvian powder. Good onya for resurrecting AND red-lining it.

  • Gloo

    A friend of mine is the grandson of the dude that actually rode the Indian that the movie "World's Fastest Indian" was made about. He's an Aussie guitar player (I build guitar equipment for a living). I have a picture of his grandad standing next to his Indian at the flats. This bike's picture would go very well with it. If it's ok I'd like to email you and get a copy of that bigger pic you told the other poster about?

    The two pics would really compliment each other.

    Sweet Triumph. by the way! 😉

  • BSAMatt

    Very cool bike.  If you want a cool, near-iconic modern photo of a Triumph on the flats, check out Triumph’s brochure picture of Kyle Malinkey of Lowbrow Customs redlining it.