The Lost Art of

Twist­ing tubes through the ages

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Brody Cox

in 1967, Tri­umph Mo­tor­cy­cles ap­proached ex­pert race tuner Ray Hens­ley with an off-the-wall re­quest. The com­pany was so­lic­it­ing a line of cus­tom frames to be stamped with of­fi­cial Tri­umph part num­bers, cre­at­ing “of­fi­cial” fac­tory re­place­ments. Whether this was to sub­vert the AMA “Class C” dirt-track rules is left to spec­u­la­tion, but what de­vel­oped was essen­tially an im­proved copy of a 1965 Tri­umph Bon­neville chas­sis.

“Well, if it was an of­fi­cial Tri­umph part, it was le­gal to be raced,” says Gary Davis, who in­her­ited what be­came known as the Track­mas­ter brand. “That was the start of it all, right there.” Davis went on to ex­plain that Hens­ley’s first frames for Tri­umph were chrome-moly steel and fea­tured re­vised ge­om­e­try that would al­low race­bikes to han­dle more ag­gres­sively on dirt tracks.

This was the ob­jec­tive of the “framer” as it con­tin­ued to evolve: a pur­pose-built frame made specif­i­cally for rac­ing. The new chas­sis placed an engine of your choice lower in the cra­dle, the rear suspension at a more up­right po­si­tion, and pulled the fork an­gle closer to the frame.

Com­peti­tors soon be­gan to emerge. “Cham­pion and Red­line jumped on the band­wagon shortly af­ter­wards and be­gan build­ing frames too,” Davis ex­plains. “Their frames pushed in the cor­ners though.” AMA dirt-track rac­ing swelled into the 1990s, and Davis tran­si­tioned the man­u­fac­tur­ing side of the Track­mas­ter busi­ness to Rick Cresse. With AMA Pro Flat Track even­tu­ally man­dat­ing the use of OEM frames in the sin­gle-cylin­der class, many of the ar­che­typal framers dis­ap­peared.

Still, the im­pres­sion that early framers left on the sport is still rec­og­niz­able to­day. Mo­tor­cy­cles run­ning in the cur­rent Amer­i­can Flat Track Twins class all fea­ture cus­tom-made frames based around pro­duc­tion en­gines. “That’s re­ally the next-gen stuff though, a world apart from what we were do­ing,” Davis says. And true to its roots, Track­mas­ter con­tin­ues to build frames, just the same as they al­ways have.

To Davis, that per­ma­nence is vi­tal: “I in­her­ited the com­pany with the prom­ise that I would keep it alive, and I in­tend to do that. I’ll pre­serve it, just as it was meant to be.”

Well, if it was an of­fi­cial Tri­umph part, it was le­gal to be raced.

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