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...