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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.