Zach Reynolds’ dragbike restored
Legends are always more entertaining than the truth. Zach Reynolds was born in 1938 as the heir to the RJ Reynolds tobacco fortune.
His wealth, daredevil-attitude, and lust for speed made Zach, or Dr. Zach as the locals called him, into a pseudo- celebrity. In 1974, Cycle magazine named him the owner of the world’s largest motorcycle collection. He built a rocketpowered 1964 Ford Galaxy, nicknamed the Tobacco King (no joke, just Google it), which terrorized empty Winston-salem, North Carolina, highways late at night. An avid stunt pilot, he flew movie stars in his planes out of an international airport named after his family. He drag raced cars on the street and chased naked women through his mansion.
You won’t find Zach’s name on the Walk of Fame, and, honestly, you probably haven’t heard it before unless you’re from North Carolina tobacco country. More than anything, Zach was a hometown hero. He was the young, charming, cool guy who shared stories with the neighborhood kids.
Zach’s local hero status touched many lives, including Will Spencer, owner of JKS Incorporated in Winston-salem. He knew Zach as the grown-up kid who lived down the block and paid him every summer to wash his motorcycles. Here, he fell in love with motorcycles and idolized Zach. One bike, which stood out from the rest, was this Ironhead dragbike, nicknamed Hog 2. It was a 1960 XLCH built as a street-legal dragbike, which, after Zach’s death, was sold at a 1984 estate auction, alongside 50 other bikes. After that, it was passed around the country, losing most of its originality. That was, until Will found it and restored it to its former “Zachified” glory. Zach nicknamed most all of his bikes and added his own personal flair, coining the term “Zachified” and stamping all of his bikes with “Zach’s Cycle Garden.”
Hog 2, pictured, was found in an Iowa motorcycle museum in 2012. The bike was bare without a fairing and had been “de-zachified,” as Will says, but more importantly, it was mostly whole. Will owns a total of 12 bikes from Zach’s collection, currently on display at the Winston-salem Motorsports Museum, but this one has been the only one to receive special treatment in the form of a complete restoration where many parts were put back to exactly how Zach had raced it or at least made period- correct.
“By having the original fairing to Hog 2 and some of the other bikes I had purchased prior, plus internet pictures of Zach racing this bike, and, of course, my own adolescent memory of Zach, I put the bike back to as original as I could,” Will said. “Very fortunately, I have a team of paint experts and hand letterers who work for my primary business, JKS Incorporated. I used their skills to bring the bike back to ‘Zachified’ life.”
Sadly, all those original Zach markings and stampings had been removed, ground, and polished off of Hog 2. The bike had been semi-restored with a subpar paint job, which, curiously enough, featured four aces of clubs— a common paint job for Zach’s bikes—to the top of the gas tank, but it wasn’t original.
An air shifter and the factory drum brake front wheel were on the bike when found, so a free wheel hub was relaced and a Speed Master Mark II tire was put back during Will’s restoration. The front forks appear to be from a Harley-davidson Hummer— common dragbike forks for the era. Luckily they were in good condition and easily restored.
When Will added Hog 2 to his collection, the rear fender had been replaced with a homemade fender, so a factory fender was trimmed 6 inches to match Zach’s drag racing photos. The rear fender struts were not the original to the bike but were factory correct nonetheless. The seat was the one Zach had used, so it was left untouched.
Not much is known about the internals of the engine, other than the obvious stroker plates seen at the bottom of the jugs. The engine was originally built by famed drag racer and engine builder Danny Johnson and then freshened up by Will’s team. It features a kick pedal now, but in the day, it was started only by an external starter, which Will also found and restored. The custom exhaust and S&S L Series carburetor Zach had installed were still on the bike when Will purchased it, so those were left alone as well.
“Zach drag raced this bike on the strip and the street,” Will said. “At one time, it had headlights and taillights. Zach raced this bike the most though, and that’s what makes it special to me. I remember it sitting in his garage and washing it when I was a kid.” SC
Zach Reynolds’ builds from the past.