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.
Bev Bowen article in MPH 734 Mach 2010: http://www.trackmastermotorcycles.com/pdf/vincent-trackmaster.pdf
More about Flat Track
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!
Good article and thanks for the credit.
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.
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!
Hii great reading your post