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‘51 BSA Star Twin ‘Greasy Gringo’ – Dan Daughenbaugh

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Andrew in Bobber, Classic, Racer. 26 comments


“If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” That’s what my Dad often says. But quite obviously, my Dad has never met Pennsylvania’s Dan Daughenbaugh. And if he had, he would undoubtedly have even more sage-like advice to dispense on exactly how Dan is going about his attempt at a world land speed record. There’s the barbecued third-hand engine. The less-than-perfect welds and the drain pipe exhausts. And let’s not forget the tangled mess of un-aerodynamic cabling right up there where the wind hits the bike. But you know what? If I were to attempt to build and run a land speed bike of my own, this is exactly how I would want it to be. What’s that, Dad? Sorry, I can’t hear you over the roar of the crowd celebrating my amazing victory.

“The motor was found after a Philadelphia bike shop burnt to the ground.”


Dan’s passion, apart from going very fast, is vintage British bikes. And this couldn’t be more clearly illustrated than by his choice of motor. It’s originally from a 1951 BSA Star Twin and it has more than a little history under its belt. “The motor was found after a Philadelphia bike shop burnt to the ground. A few days later they had a Fire Sale and there it was, blackened and charred. All the pot metal parts had melted off, but the cases were still good.”


The build is impressive as it is original. After stopping every passer-by in their tracks at the National Triumph Rally in Oley, Pennsylvania last month, it took home first place for the people’s choice award. The bike has also been lettered and numbered by Philadelphia’s most sought-after traditional sign painter, Gibbs Connors.


Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover all of the work Dan’s done to make the old motor run a hell of a lot faster than it’s early 50’s contemporaries.“The motor is a real mongrel inside. The stock crank is a well-known weak link in the design and at the power levels I wanted to make, it was pretty much guaranteed to fail. So I machined a crank to fit from a 70’s BSA Lightning on my old 1940s mill.”


“With that done, I wanted to use longer rods to lower piston speed and take advantage of less rod angularity. I settled on Carillio Triumph 650 units that were 1/2 an inch longer than originals. These had to be narrowed by .160 to fit. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like milling away at brand-new $600 rods. I’m also running Triumph Trident pistons in a standard size, with a .063 spacer under the barrel to keep them from hitting the head. Compression comes in at 13.6:1 and I run it on a Methanol/Nitromethane mix.”

“The valvetrain is a mix of modern Ford V8 parts and Titanium pieces.”


“The camshaft is a Harmon & Collins roller unit that was made in the 60’s, I have never seen another one like it. I made the pushrods out of aluminum and the valvetrain is a mix of modern Ford Mustang V8 parts and titanium pieces.”


Since the bike’s first record-breaking run at the ECTA Ohio Mile in May 2014, where it managed an official 90.142mph, Dan has rebuilt the top end, made a brand new stainless 2-1 exhaust and refreshed the transmission, making sure to including a new set of high quality bearings. He also upgraded the wheel bearings, just so they wouldn’t feel left out. “I’m hoping with the new upgrades that we will go well above the current 111mph record.”



And just when you think the whole story couldn’t get any better, we’ve saved the best bit ’till last. Actually, the best bits. See, Dan’s work has attracted some attention in the form of a bunch of guys who are putting together a documentary on his exploits. Knowing a modern-day Burt Munro when they see it, they’ve decided to create a little film they are calling ‘A Line in the Salt’. Interested? We thought so. You can find out more by clicking through to their Indiegogo page. Or maybe you’d like a little taster first? Then take look below and enjoy.

[Via The Post Agency]

  • TJ Martin

    ‘ Kit bashing ‘ for adults . Every time I see and read about this and all that went into it .. it brings a smile to my face . Honestly though . How could it not ? Fingers crossed on the Salt . A little ‘ kit bashing ‘ humbling some of the big boys is well needed these days

    • What’s a ‘kit bashing’?

      • TJ Martin

        Ahhh .. obviously an American idiom . My apologies Andrew !

        Kit Bashing – A plastic model car kit building term/idiom used to describe when an individual combines parts from multiple kits in order to create something unique , original and different from what the manufacture(s) originally intended .

        I’m guessing y’all do the same … only using a different term to describe it ?

        FYI – I’ve been a ‘ kit basher ‘ since the early years , continuing on in every aspect of my life right up to the present . So yes .. its a compliment [ when done right as this bike is ] in my opinion

        • LOVE that stuff. Never knew what its name was – or that it even had a name. I remember using a battleship’s guns etc. to adorn a muscle car when I was a kid. Mad Max, eat your heart out…

          • TJ Martin

            Leave it to us Kings of the Idioms Yanks to come up with a term like that . I’m pretty sure it was originally coined by Model Car Magazine back in the early 60’s when everyone was saying this guy or that had ‘ bashed ‘ a bunch of kits together to create something different . Hence ‘ Kit Bashing ‘ . Then the Hot Rod & Custom folks picked up on it … artists .. musicians … and off it went . Its a little out of vogue these days unfortunately . But IMO its still a relevant and applicable term . BTW .. love the guns on a muscle car thing ! I did the same with a jet engine out of a fighter plane stuffed ( literally ) into a Funny Car model . You sure you’re not a Yank at heart ? lol 😉

          • arnold

            excellent definition, TJ. Just don’t start with our alphabet soup: for instance the CIA is pronounced (see-a) in Spanish, a real kind of (?) if you are not a real good talker. Kit bashing also Involved firecrackers when we were very young. I will follow Dan’s progress on his speed quest.ald

          • Just try to listen on: “Kit bashing definition”. he.. he.. 🙂

  • Davidabl2

    I’m a bit confused here with the part about”wanted to use longer rods to lower piston speed”
    Since at a given engine speed wouldn’t the rods be traveling further per rpm making the piston speed higher?

    • Steve

      Could be wrong but as the stroke is the same the piston acceleration with longer rods is slower

    • arnold

      On not knowing much about it, I look at the diameter of the chain coming off the to the final drive and…ulp.. what’s he got there?

  • Junior Burrell

    Now that’s cool!!!

    • Thought you’d like it. 🙂

      • Junior Burrell

        Hell yeah!!!

  • Fantome_NR

    Aluminum pushrods = crap. Too much flex. CroMoly or go home.

  • Steve Joseph

    THAT. is. cool. and I don’t say that very often.

  • Did anyone spot the secret chicken in the shots?

    • arnold

      nope, please enlighten this poor soul.

  • holmburgers

    Very curious what record they’re going after; I haven’t been able to find that piece of info anywhere.

    • MayDayMoto

      Here are the May 2014 results:

      A/VF-500/4Daniel Daughenbaugh Greasy Gringo 1951 BSA Star Twin 90.1442mph

      The A/VF 500/4 class means: A = altered VF = Vintage engine, race fuel. 500/4 means 500cc four stroke.

    • sethasaurus

      The current SCTA records show:
      A-VF (500)- Paul Friebus – H/D – 08/13 – 111.839mph

      • MayDayMoto

        nice. there you go.

        • sethasaurus

          It will be something to crow about if a BSA beats a Harley!

  • sethasaurus

    Looks like great work and I’ll be watching out for Dan next week!
    Only one thing missing – supercharger.

  • JamesM

    “Sorry, I can’t hear you over the roar of the crowd celebrating my amazing victory.”

    Yes, he can claim victory for simply having such an awesome (and well told) story.

  • Geezer biker

    Longer rods just mean the wrist pin is further away from the crankshaft. Unless my mechanics is totally wrong the Pistons don’t change speed unless the crankshaft offset is greater.