Being focus on the British bikes, I discovered TrackMaster recently when I found the picture of a Vincent Special, which had a frame quite similar to the one of a 1971 Triumph: I mean a large backbone shaped in boomerang, connecting the steering column to the swinging arm anchorage. In fact it had nothing to do with Triumph, it was simply a TrackMaster, a brand that you do not know necessarily, unless you are familiar with the American Flat Track.

TrackMaster has been proposing rolling frames since 1969 for many power plants available on the market, such Triumph, BSA and of course Japanese engines, with the intent to compete with the stock Harley Davidson 750 KR (flathead) and XR (OHV) that were winning more or less everything in Flat Track, and at least 29 of the 37 championship between 1972 and 2008.

So what is the story behind this picture?

The owner of the bike is in fact Tony Blackstock, a former racer, which spent most of his racing career in Flat Track and Desert Racing disciplines, but back in 1955, Tony made its debut on a genuine Black Lightning. This is already quite a story, but what makes it more epic is that Tony was only 15 year old at that time….

This is a kind of experience, that you likely never forget, so when Tony had the opportunity to meet Rick Cresse, the c0-owner of TrackMaster, he shared his idea of a motorcycle which would blend his racing debut on the Lightning with his longer racing career as Flat Tracker. So was born this unique motorcycle, never intended to be raced but simply to be a kind of life achievement.

The project started with a 1952 Vincent Rapide from which the engine was removed and modified by Marty Smith: Lightning cams (MkII), 2 front heads, a BT-H ignition, 1″ 3/16 carburetors, electric start and multi disk clutch. The frame was in line with TrackMaster production but designed specially for this project, Cresse having added 2 inches to accommodate the Vincent engine. It is somewhat unfortunate that a running Vincent was used in this operation but as Bev Bowen reported in his article, the donor bike was smartly reassembled with a mock-up frame replacing the V-Twin, thus reverting to the original stage would be possible subsequently.

So, if this TrackMaster Vincent is unique, what about “the other” one presented as a TrackMaster-Vincent at Midamerica auctions earlier this year? My theory is quite simple: this one is a one-off built from a standard TrackMaster frame (e.g. like a Triumph) as the front tubes of the frame have been cut off to accommodate the Vincent engine while Tony’s bike uses a special frame to avoid this. You will notice as well that the overall building quality is far from TrackMaster execution as you can see on Tony’s bike.

Philippe Guyony © 2014

I would like to express my special thanks to Hank Blackstock, Bev Boven, Paul d’Orleans (The Vintagent) and Steve Lacey for their contribution.

Tony Blackstock (left) consulting with builder of his TrackMaster Vincent. I originally thought it was a Triumph frame. Wonder why? see the next picture
Tony Blackstock (left) consulting with builder of his TrackMaster Vincent. I originally thought it was a Triumph frame. Wonder why? see the next picture
Here is a 1971 Triumph frame designed by Rob North. Look pretty similar doesn’t it? However TrackMaster came first in 1969…
Here is a 1971 Triumph frame designed by Rob North. Look pretty similar doesn’t it? However TrackMaster came first in 1969…
The TrackMaster Vincent project Finished. Flat Track inspiration with no doubt.
The TrackMaster Vincent project Finished. Flat Track inspiration with no doubt.
Tony can now ride this bike and think about his early days, racing a Black Lightning.
Tony can now ride this bike and think about his early days, racing a Black Lightning.
Tony in front of the project and in the background the donor bike. Note the mock-up frame specially built to connect the UFM (upper frame) to the RFM (rear frame), a quite clever approach that will prevent the loss of these parts for the future. Photo courtesy Tony Blackstock
Tony in front of the project and in the background the donor bike. Note the mock-up frame specially built to connect the UFM (upper frame) to the RFM (rear frame), a quite clever approach that will prevent the loss of these parts for the future. Photo courtesy Tony Blackstock
A BSA A65 TrackMaster. Converted street legal, note the headlamps in the front racing number plate.
A BSA A65 TrackMaster. Converted street legal, note the headlamps in the front racing number plate.
A Triumph 650 Bonneville TrackMaster, also converted street legal.
A Triumph 650 Bonneville TrackMaster, also converted street legal.
The second TrackMaster-Vincent which is likely a garage project.
 As the original trackMaster frame was not large enough front tubes have been cut off and the engine installed like in the Vincent frame, structurally by the cylinder heads.
The second TrackMaster-Vincent which is likely a garage project.
 As the original trackMaster frame was not large enough front tubes have been cut off and the engine installed like in the Vincent frame, structurally by the cylinder heads.
Glenn Bewley’s comment makes the point: “Notice the rear caliper acts on the near side sprocket, I would take this as a small clue to the overall design and execution of the exercise.” On my side I concur with this analysis, which explains why the bike struggled to sell.
Glenn Bewley’s comment makes the point: “Notice the rear caliper acts on the near side sprocket, I would take this as a small clue to the overall design and execution of the exercise.” On my side I concur with this analysis, which explains why the bike struggled to sell (highest bid was $40,000).
Cannot finish without presenting the Queen of Flat Track: the Harley Davidson XR750. Note that all these bikes have this minimalistic styling and the typical long horn handlebar. One gear and no brakes… why would you need brakes?
Cannot finish without presenting the Queen of Flat Track: the Harley Davidson XR750. Note that all these bikes have this minimalistic styling and the typical long horn handlebar. One gear and no brakes… why would you need brakes?
This is the Flat Track: a pack of rabid flat-out on dirt…. ☺
This is the Flat Track: a pack of rabid flat-out on dirt…. ☺

References:

Bev Bowen article in MPH 734 Mach 2010: http://www.trackmastermotorcycles.com/pdf/vincent-trackmaster.pdf

http://www.trackmastermotorcycles.com

http://trackmasterracingframes.com

http://www.bikeexif.com/trackmaster-motorcycle

http://www.bikeexif.com/bsa-trackmaster

http://www.midamericaauctions.com/motorcycle/vincent/43542-2/

http://lsvoc.vincent-hrd.co.uk/dodge_city.html

More about Flat Track

http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/2479/Motorcycle-Photo-Gallery/The-Ultimate-AMA-Flat-Track-Shootout.aspx

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4 thoughts

  1. If you de-tab and nickel-plate a 71+ Triumph frame, it looks just like a Trackmaster, and many riders in California have done just that! The stock steering angle is not ideal for dirt track racing, but I doubt any of these were used in the dirt, just ‘street trackers’ as we call them.

    I have a Redline Norton Commando 900cc beast which was originally flat-tracked, and has since been converted for road use. The folks at Redline worked at Trackmaster originally, as did the founders of Champion frames, I believe. There’s a story here which needs to be sorted out… might be my next book!

  2. I’ve thought about building a similar street tracker with a Vincent Comet engine I have kicking around my garage. A large part of the appeal of doing something like that is the annoyance factor to the Vincent purists.

    1. Hi Steve, things have changed a little bit. Destroying a good bike as guys does today with the recent classics to transform them in Cafe Racer is still seen by many as a pity, not only for Vincents. However as many Vincents have been modified or broken down for racing long ago, there is no shame to revive an old engine which is sleeping on the shelves. However as you can guess, the work to do a racer from scratch is significant. If you are motivated, go for it!

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