FAMILY AFFAIR – ‘Zeus’ Drag Bike
Photography by Tadashi Kono
Growing up as a kid, Kevin Busch always looked up to his Grandfather. You see, his Grandfather was a mechanic, fabricator and engine builder who had a passion for going fast. He used to build drag bikes in the 1950s and his JAP drag bike was one of his favourite builds, built and raced by him and few of his friends until 1960. “After 1960 the bike was taken apart as they had all moved onto racing dragsters” says Kevin. “Some of the bike was parted and was forgotten about and left in the back of the shop gathering dust for many years.”
So when his Grandfather passed away five years ago, Kevin decided it was time to finally resurrect the old drag bike. After going through his Grandfathers garage, he discovered the original rusty frame, two wheels, and the original BSA front forks that were in parts.
After doing some research using some priceless vintage photographs of the bike, Kevin was able to work out the engine that it was originally running. “The original engine was a 1953 500cc JAP (John Alfred Prestwich) type 6 engine mounted into a mid-1950’s BSA frame that they cut and stretched and made into a hardtail along with a cut down BSA front end to get the bike low to the ground.”
Unfortunately, the original engine with the large alloy barrel were very rare, so had a hefty price tag when he discovered one for sale. He was lucky to discover a 500cc type 4B from the UK which looked and performed very similar to the original engine. “I bought it a few years back off an old timer who had it sitting around and had ran it in a speedway bike back in the day.”
Kevin works in the structural steel industry, so is handy with metal work. He built the small racing gas tank, exhaust, foot pegs, shifter linkage & brackets, chain and primary guards, seat & chest pad. He also managed to run the original BSA SC 4 speed transmission and clutch.
The original BSA front end was in parts when he first started the build. “The front end had been cut down to get the front much lower to the ground. They also drilled the holes into the fork tubes just deep enough that they wouldn’t drill through into the tubes, this was done to shave weight off the bike.”
The beautiful all brass carburetor is a late 1940’s Amal carb that was sourced from a friend in California. “I completely rebuilt it and polished the brass body and brass float until it shined.” Kevin knows the carb probably isn’t large enough for a proper drag bike – but it sure does look purdy.
When it came to the rubber, Kevin went for vintage looks over performance, the front tire is an Avon and the rear is Dunlop slick from the late 1950’s. “It will not be raced or ridden fast with these tires currently, because they definitely are not safe to be going fast with.”
From what Kevin knows, the original bike didn’t have a name. But most drag bikes back in the glory days of racing had a nickname that represented the bikes personality. “So I gave it the name “ZEUS” after the Greek God of lighting.”
In the end, it took Kevin the best part of 4 years to finish ‘Zeus’, and we think his late Grandfather would have been extremely proud of Kevin resurrecting his bike 60 years later. You can see why it picked up the Pipeburn award at The One Moto show earlier this year.