The Jimi Hendrix Replica Drag Bike Story


Lebanon Valley Dragstrip - Mother's Day 2001

How we got this bike

  This story starts with my friend John's love of classic motorcycles.  He borrows my 1993 Kawasaki ZX11 for a few rides when his BMW R50 is laid up, and then starts talking about vintage Japanese bikes.  Despite his knowledge of exotic collectible bikes, he wants my opinion of Japanese offerings.  He has the vision that early, big-bore Kawasakis will soon be hot items and not just old UJMs.

  In the fall of 1999 he sees a bike in the back of a pickup in a fast food joint and recognizes it as an early Kawasaki.  He finds the owner and asks if the bike is for sale.  It is.  So John and I go to Rotterdam Junction to look at it.   The owner is working on it in his garage and says he wants $400 for it.  We talk bikes and look it over.   It hasn't been run in years.  It's a '70s era Z1 Kawasaki.  A true Japanese classic.  It's older than the 79 KZ1000 I had years ago. 

  After the guy spends a few hundreds of dollars at M&S Cycle to get the bike running, we go back and each ride it for a minute on route 5S on a cold fall night.  But the price is now $900.  That's more than I think an old bike is worth, which at that time is just how I see it.  But John clearly likes the idea of owning four cylinder, Japanese high-performance history.

'KZ Keith' 

    So after this he finds a guy selling another old Kawasaki in Scotia.  It turns out to be a bike set up for drag racing but not used for years. It still has the sticker from the track on the headlight.  Flat bars, struts, extended swing arm, tether kill switch, pin-striping on the side panels.  Only $1500.

  Before I even get there to look at it, John's made the guy an offer for all of the Kawasaki stuff he owns.  Turns out he has an internet business selling motorcycle parts, especially Kawasaki items. 'KZ Keith', as he calls himself, will sell us all his Kawi stuff for just $2,500, including the drag bike.  This includes another engine, a rolling chassis, frames, carbs, and a mixed bag of other parts.  We'll share the cost and be partners in this collection with parts we could use to build another bike and other stuff we could sell.

   I'm an easy sucker for this deal.  We load up a flatbed trailer and haul all the goodies away.  We quickly fill his already cramped garage and then we start putting the rest of this collection of wheels, fork tubes, electrical parts, used drag items and other miscellaneous stuff in my garage.

The Jimi Hendrix Replica

  The pin-striping on the side covers says "Jimi Hendrix Replica".  We find out that is from a bike used by Ed Killar in the 1980's as an early Nitrous Oxide drag bike and is actually written about and pictured in his drag racing book, Nitrous Wars.  So we own a piece of drag racing history.

  Some day, we can convert this back to street use and have a unique looking bike.




The original Jimi Hendrix Replica (1984)

What do you think of this deal?

  Fast forward 18 months...  John has been working on the next bike that we got from 'Toothless Gary'.   The drag bike is now in my garage.  One day, John calls and says that the mechanic at the performance shop, PCW Racing - Schenectady (where we've had some work done), is offering to work on the bike.   Here's the deal.  If we let him run it at the dragstrip at Lebanon Valley, Darrell has said he will do the work on the bike for free.  We get our bike running for just the cost of parts.  John is asking if this ok with me since Darrell can pick it up right away. 

  I'm for it.  They come by and get the bike.  John buys a new battery and lunch for the shop guys.  I go over to the shop later on to stand around and hold tools while Darrell goes over the bike.  He says the plugs are new, the carbs seem fine and the bike needs very little work.  Even the timing is ok.  The oil is changed but the engine is never opened up or otherwise adjusted.  That night, Darrell calls John and has him listen to the sound of the bike running.  "Come to Lebanon Valley tomorrow and watch it run," Darrell says.  John can't go, but I can.  I ride the Royal Star there on Mother's Day and catch Darrell's first competition run on the bike.  He's already run twice to establish a bracket time, 12.38 sec.

The first run

  I hear the bike run for the first time.  Sounds great.  Really raw.  It's using performance C12 gas that has a special sharp odor.  For Darrell this is probably no big deal.  But I like the idea of MY bike getting launched down the track.  He explains a bit about what's going on and how bracket racing works.   Too bad he redlights his run.  But he says the bike runs just fine.  And he even appears to like the ride. 

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Here's the new tire getting a smokey burnout.

I'll show you how it's done

  So he's out of the competition, but his friend, Jim, who is much lighter, asks if he can take a run and see what he can get the bike to do.  They have to ask me (since I'm the owner), and, of course, that's no problem.  Though, I'm thinking, for just a moment, that I should say "give me the leathers, and I'll do it."  Yeah, sure.


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Darrell, you're the Man

(Darrells' VMAX Drag Bike Project)

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Bench Racing

To read about Darrell's VMAX Drag bike project, follow this link...

(Darrells' VMAX Drag Bike Project)

The Five Runs - May 13, 2002





1 Darrell 12.93 104.27 The bike's first run in 9 years
2 Darrell 12.35 106.02 Better
3 Darell 12.69 105.74 Redlights the start
4 Jim 12.11 115.46 40 lbs. lighter
5 Jim 11.93 115.12 A little better

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