Friday, August 14, 2009


Found on Ebay...

Rumor has it that after Gary Nixon won two GNC titles in a row on his Triumph, Harley-Davidson filed a protest with the AMA that Triumphs were unfairly fast. The AMA ruled in Harley's favor stating "it is obvious after a thorough investigation of past results that we have a problem. Triumph has won two titles and our rules are very clear on this...they aren't supposed to. In fairness to Harley-Davidson we have no other choice but to further restrict any brand with a snowball's chance in hell at winning a GNC title." With the British twins already limited to 500cc powerplants compared to Harley's 750cc machines there were few options left and so the "Bonanza Plan" was born. The AMA, obviously with fairness in mind, was going to make Nixon ride a Bonanza at GNC races in 1969. H-D was still nervous when, after initial tests, Nixon declared that the Bonanza was "the first minibike I've ridden that really feels like a motorcycle." According to multiple sources it was the possibility of losing to Gary Nixon on a Bonanza that fast-tracked the development of the XR750. Fortunately for Harley-Davidson fate intervened and Nixon was injured and out for the season...thus saving H-D from the possibility of losing to a man on a minibike.

At least that's what I heard.


  1. Ummm...what YOU HEARD, wasn't exactly the truth :-þ As for the Brits running 500cc against 750cc Harleys in 1969, the Harleys were Flatheads, the Brit bikes were OHV engines. And when the Ironhead XR750's were intoduced, the rules changed- of course allowing any 750cc OHV engines, and Triumph, Norton, BSA and Enfield already had them in production.

  2. Ok ok ok...perhaps I was not completely honest with the post. In reality Nixon did not break his leg at the Santa Rosa mile...he was kidnapped by Harley goons who forced him to spend the latter part of '69 testing the new XR750 in Milwaukee. hahaha!

    In all seriousness though, 1969 was actually the first year of the new AMA rules allowing 750cc OHV engines. Triumph, oddly enough, was not prepared for this and had to rely on the 650cc engine until the 750 could be homologated. They still got a few wins though...the Palmgren brothers used the 650 to pick up wins at the Indy, Sacramento, and Santa Rosa miles and the Reading, PA half-mile.

  3. Funny you should be mentioning 1969, as that was the year I went to my First GNC race in Reading Pennsylvania. I was 11 years old, and all I wanted for my birthday- was for my Dad to take me to those races, and he did. My memory is a little hazy from 40 years ago, but I thought Gary Nixon and a few others were riding the BIG Brit twins, and even have a couple of photos from that GNC race as well. At the time, I think I was a big Jim Rice/BSA fan, but I got to meet Gary Nixon there, and as an 11 year old- I became an instant fan, even thou I always rooted for the California boys otherwise. Do you have any pix of that 1969 Reading Pa- GNC race ?

  4. Ralph - I posted the only Reading, PA photo I could find. The only info I could find on the bikes raced there and by the Palmgren Bros. throughout '69 said they were 650cc machines. The 750cc kit for the T120 would win its first race in 1970. Maybe someone reading this can add more firsthand knowledge of the situation.

  5. I actually met Gary Nixon. He retired in Timonium MD selling RC Cars/boats/planes etc. Not sure if he is still alive. Someone let me know please. Shortly after he retired from Flat Track, he sponsored a guy named Rodney Ferris which I also met briefly at the District 7 AMA awards many years back. Rodney unfortunately died racing (I think in TX). When I used to flat track at about 14 years old, Gary Nixon offered me a ride and flat track sponsership on a custom bultaco 125. I was young and scared of the bike and class at the time (I was in the 85cc class at the time and quickly outgrowing the bike). I was stupid not to accept but I really was not aware of the ICON he really was. I Did not learn about this until recently. Gary must have seen something in me that I did not at the time for him to make me the offer. I can't imagine how my life would be different today if I accepted his offer. Now I'm in Florida building street legal Flat Trackers to commemorate two of the greatest - Gary Nixon and Rodney Ferris. May you rest in peace.

    John in Florida formerly AMA District 7 champion and National Hillclimb champion of 1983.