The “Salt Ghost” first came out of hiding around 2005 at the Bub Speed Trials, where some old guy rolled it out of a trailer at that event’s swap meet. Keith Martin of Big D Cycles in Dallas bought it without a second thought. Keith and his crew got it running in a few hours and rode it back to the old guy, who seemed mighty impressed that they could exorcise his demon so quickly. Keith took it back to Dallas, where it remained in his office until Wes White, another learned student of Bonneville lore, started bugging Keith about the machine a couple years ago. In September of 2009, Keith Martin succumbed to Wes’s prodding and sold his LSR time machine to Four Aces Wes and fellow partner in grime Tyler Malinky of Lowbrow Customs.
Along with the bike Wes and Tyler got a box full of trophies, memorabilia and documentation proving the Salt Ghost’s racing pedigree. One such piece was a photo showing bike and owner/builder doing a buck-forty and change at SoCal’s El Mirage dry lake in 1969. The man behind the bike was Theo Ozen, the president of an El Mirage racing club called the Rod Riders in ‘68 or ‘69.
The Salt Ghost is a classic piece of dry lakes racing history, complete with badass speed parts. A 1961 Bonneville engine powers the bike, and the chassis comprises a 1948 Triumph rigid frame with a swingarm pre-unit Triumph gearbox mounted with custom alloy engine/gearbox plates. The Bonne mill has a later nine-bolt head on a 650 barrel with Harmon and Collins roller tappet conversion. The cams have yet to be identified, but they have serious lift, enough for the valves to require .008” and .010” clearances when stock was .002” and .004”.
Two Amal GP carburetors dump fuel into this fire-breathing motor through not one but two Amal Matchbox floats. These floats are like an open or shot trap door. Since GP carbs have no idle circuits, keeping the Salt Ghost lit requires revving the throttle constantly. Both the stock primary and final drive chainguards are functional works of art with just enough meat to save the rider’s foot from turning into hamburger. This open approach was necessary to facilitate speedy gear ratio changes. The oil tank is another super tricky piece that was made to fit into the place where the generator on the stock bike would have been. It probably holds a couple pints—just enough to keep the motor lubed for the three-mile stretch at Bonneville. The clip-ons are barely there, and the rearsets with no-frills brake and shifter linkage are pure function, no flair at all.
Rolling stock on the Salt Ghost is a cornucopia of goodness for vintage part nerds. The front rim is a WM1x21 Borraini Record, and the rear is a WM1x20. The front wheel is shod with an Avon Speedmaster and the rear boasts a shaved Beck “TT Special.” Shaving tread was low-buck speed mod back in the day to reduce the rolling resistance and rotational mass of a racing bike’s meats. The crowning glory for this bike is the ultra-rare 1957 Tiger 100R/R gas tank, which is distinguishable by its angled petcock fittings and its super-slim shape, to say nothing of its original, stock paint. Where is the seat you ask? It is on top of the fender, and after sitting in a barn for the past 30 years it has become a taint breaker without equal.
The Salt Ghost’s new owners are justifiably thrilled by their latest acquisition, but remain circumspect about their machine’s future. Could a resurrection on the hallowed grounds of its birth be in the Salt Ghost’s racing log? Time will tell. Today only one thing is certain: The Salt Ghost’s spirit is destined to live on in the greasy, nurturing hands of two very dedicated and capable patrons of the Brit bike arts.
Click the here above for a big desktop-sized photo.
Photo by Hugh Swingle