Time Machine Triumph: when Trackmaster met Tracy

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My friend Brian Dietz is a cruel man. Like me, he shares an unhealthy fascination for the non-stock – cafe-racers, street-trackers, bob-jobs, choppers…anything uncommon, interesting or flat-out oddball. So a week before Christmas when he e-mailed photos of a strange and wonderful Triumph with the note, “This needs to be under your tree for Xmas, I’m in a dealing mood, make me an offer,” I knew I was in trouble deep.

The motorcycle, supposedly one of 24 built,  was unknown to me, with a nickel-plated frame by Trackmaster of competition fame, and a dipping, diving one-piece body by Tracy, a big name in 1970s customs. Tracy Nelson’s company, The Fiberglas Works, was based in the hippie enclave of Santa Cruz, California, and in between tokes turned out all kinds of fiberglass parts, most notably combination gas tank/seat/fender modules that owed much to Craig Vetter’s Triumph X-75 Hurricane. What I didn’t know is that Nelson cooked up a deal with Trackmaster to supply kitbike choppers for Triumph and BSA 650cc Twins. The spin-off was called Time Machine, its wares listed in Tracy’s goodly sized catalog.

The 4130 chromoly frames, looking like elongated hardtail dirt-track models, cost $329.99. The fiberglass bodies, in three styles, would set you back an additional $199.95 including a “button tuck” seat of the finest nauga. Buyers could then fit their stock footpegs, front end and rear wheel – or as shown in the catalog add a springer fork and rear disc brake. In the craze of the post-Easy Rider era, when every mouth-breather with a hacksaw and stick welder was kluging up a backyard chopper, these things were pretty stylish.

That this particular Time Machine chopper survives at all is due to the good vision of one of Brian’s friends. Since deceased, he was an avid collector of flat-track racers and spied the Trackmaster frame anchoring an otherwise ordinary rat Triumph chopper (see above). Gone was the Tracy body and the nickel-plate had faded to a cloudy gray, but the collector recognized the telltale backward tilt of the frame’s rear downtube. In his possession and shorn of its ill-fitting gas tank, stretched fork tubes, chrome rear fender and sissybar, the Trackmaster frame polished up nicely. He then hit eBay and amazingly found an original Tracy body for the bike, a Type B or “Sportster-style.” Even more unbelievable, it appeared to be one of the catalog examples, garishly painted (ah, cannabis) at The Fiberglas Works – evidenced by the “Custom Painting by Tracy and Friends” decal – but never mounted.  It had “garage rash,” the nicks and scratches that come with 35 years of storage, but gasoline had never touched the tank’s insides.

Apparently the chopper’s twin-carb Bonneville motor had serious issues because a Trophy 650 with a lone Mikuni now takes its places, probably borrowed from one of the collector’s flat-track fleet if the side-mounted Hunt magneto is any clue. Likewise, the Akront shouldered alloy rims and stock-length Betor forks complete with drum front brake. The result is a sort of sport-chopper, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron.

Did I bite on Brian’s offer? Whaddaya think?! Merry Christmas to me…

  • http://www.ClevelandCycleWerks.com scottydigital

    I want to puke. That bike is soo ugly it has become beautiful. Honestly if you did not buy it, I will!!!!

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    I think I got a contact high just looking at that tank.

  • Deltablues

    I would love to ride this around Little Rock. The frame is quite nice. Simple and Functional. Just the way all motorcycles should be. (yeah, I left off ‘practical’)

  • David Edwards

    Sorry, Scotty, the Trackmaster/Tracy now resides in my garage, queued up behind a Von Dutch bobber and a Dresda cafe-racer on my list of Triumph to-do projects.

    Hey, anybody in HFLand know the whereabouts of Tracy? He apparently moved to Hawaii about 20 years ago, but there the trail goes cold.

    • Omar

      After years of looking for some info I’m finally in touch with Tracy Nelson. Hit me up and I’ll forward you info to him.

  • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

    I’d have to smoke way too much weed to like this bike, but I think the fiberglass body section is far out, man. If I saw it on the street I would definitely stop and say, what IS that thing? And that’s always cool.

  • Michael

    Wait a minute.

    HFL, like a day or two ago:

    “All we ever hear about is how big motorcycles were in the ‘60s and ‘70s and how great some old guy’s POS Triumph was. We don’t think like that,….”

    Unless, on the next day, we do.

    Sorry to do that. But I’m about to bin myself out of this site. I’m pretty fuckin sick of hearing about how us old guys suck so bad in every other article and all through the comments. I need to pay for that, why, exactly?

    Now toss in a little hypocrisy if it’s a particular POS old Triumph which you happen to like, and maybe it’s time for this old guy to just go ride my 30 year old bike and stop paying to read about how much I and my old bike suck and we’re ruining motorcycling.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Don’t be ridiculous. There’s always room here for different views.

      We’ve never said anything nasty about old guys, simply that the manufacturers myopic focus on boomers has excluded younger riders. That’s simply fact.

      The “hypocrite” label is an empty one. The world is grey, not black and white.

      • Michael

        You’re right. It’s just the marketing types at the bike companies. Some other Wes Siler wrote this:

        “Maybe track-riding whippersnappers like us are the wrong audience for the VFR. Maybe it’s really for old guys that want to look like they’re going fast, when really they’re just cruising around on a Lay-Z-Boy; who want to feel fast when really they’re five under. They can keep it.”

        Or this:

        “Less old guys trying to overcompensate with a bike they can’t handle also equals less fatalities.”

        Overcompensate for what, exactly? What next, Wes, Viagra jokes?

        “The Ducati Multistrada 1200 is being launched to a bunch of old guys the world’s motorcycle press this week in the Canary Islands. Due to our disturbing lack of both sycophancy and beer guts, HFL didn’t get an invite…”

        It looks like, Schuler article excepting, “old guys” is HFL shorthand for “dickish or ignorant in whichever manner we’re talking about in this particular article, and which, ipso facto, we younger, cooler folks are not”

        I suggest you query your DB for the phrase “old guys” and check the context(s) – NONE of this has anything to do with bike maker myopic marketing.

        • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

          Uh-oh, looks like somebody needs a hug :)

          Unless I’m mistaken, David Edwards is a distinct and unique individual from Wes Siler, and in all likelihood, has differing tastes in bikes. Lord knows I wouldn’t be caught dead riding that thing, but its a cool story.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Michael, I think you’re looking very hard to find offense where none is intended.

          Here, you can have it straight from me: Old people should definitely not be euthanized once they reach the end of their productive years. There, friends again?

          In all seriousness, our youthful enthusiasm for identifying the focus the industry places on serving the needs of people 49 years old and up at the expense of ignoring children like us is driven by fact.

          - Nearly every motorcycle currently made is tailor made for the needs and wants of older riders. Case in point, the Ducati Multistrada 1200, which is part of a two-pronged, high-dollar attempt to retain customers once they can no longer ride 1198s.

          - I’m 30. People in motorcycles think I should be an intern, not the editor of a motorcycle publication with over 400,000 readers.

          - “Old guys”is only intended to mean what it says on the tin, people that are older than we are.

          And as Mark suggests, not only is David an entirely different person to me, he’s an old guy too! And, you’re not going to believe this, but we respect him despite his advanced years!

          Your geriatric rage seems to originate with something I wrote about the Don Emde article. That whole article was essentially about how awesome Don is and the part of the quote you omitted restates that awesomeness. Guess what, Don’s old too!

          If you pick and choose selective quotes you can probably find plenty where Grant and I call each other idiots, say the other can’t ride for shit or Grant makes fun of me for concussing myself on a regular basis. Does that in any way indicate that our general opinion of each other is low? Well…maybe that’s a bad example.

          Oh and we use dry humor around here. If something sounds like the writer is being a sarcastic asshole, he probably is.

      • Scott

        As a motorcyclist and old guy, I’d say ‘other views’ are HFL’s best moments.

  • http://www.smartcycleshopper.com/author/doug-dalsing/ DougD

    I wonder what kind of person I’ll be when I’m old …

  • David Edwards

    “Old guy” and “advanced years”?! Now I’m pissed off! Why, I used to ride barefoot to grade school, uphill both ways, in the snow while you were just a…

    • Jeff

      Oh fer godsakes Edwards we know you’re old, but your still cool and that thing you used to ride barefoot, uphill in the snow didn’t even have a motor and the wheels were made of stone… Grunt grunt! ;-) And I have to say that Triumph is damn pretty cool.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Uh oh, someone’s let grandpa loose on the computer again. Dammit, I thought the new meds were supposed to prevent that.

  • Cajun58

    Now that’s a chopper I know because I’m old and I was there. David I don’t suppose you could fast track this one to the head of the line I can’t wait to see it restored to it’s full glory. No really I can’t wait I don’t even by green bananas for cryin’ out loud.

  • Peter.C.

    haha “Your geriatric rage” Quick someone form a punk/garage rock band under that name, Gold has been struck! haha

  • David Edwards

    Cajun, the plan is to simply get the Tracy running, wire it, add a seat, etc. and ride it as-is for awhile before blowing it apart and making it pretty — and of course I’m not touching the bodywork in any case.

    • Cajun58

      Changing what is clearly an LSD induced paint job would be a shame. Please update
      us on how a Trackmaster chopper handles.