Har­ley-David­son KRTT

Just across the floor plate from Burt Munro’s “World’s Fastest In­dian”, in the E. Hayes and Sons’ shop in In­ver­cargill NZ, stands John Shand’s 1960 KRTT 750 Har­ley-David­son; one of only a cou­ple of C class rac­ers ever to be sold by the fac­tory rac­ing depa

Old Bike Australasia - - NEWS - Story and pho­tos Stu­art Fran­cis

In 1952 Alf was sacked af­ter los­ing his tem­per and throw­ing a span­ner across the work­shop at his iras­ci­ble boss Alf Tap­per. Hav­ing spent some time in the pub he re­turned later that day to pick up his wages. He also had his pis­tol with him, shoot­ing and wound­ing Alf Tap­per in the shoul­der! Af­ter serv­ing time “at her majesty’s plea­sure” he re­built his life and by 1960 had enough money to buy and im­port a brand new Har­ley-David­son KRTT 750. Alf bought the KRTT 750 to com­pete in the open classes in lo­cal club events, hill-climbs, sprints and beach rac­ing. Af­ter some ini­tial runs, he de­cided, with Burt Munro’s help, to do a bit of tun­ing, adding a sec­ond mag­neto and a sec­ond spark­plug to each cylin­der head. The sec­ond mag­neto was fit­ted where the rev counter drive emerged from the tim­ing chest. The cylin­der head fins were also drilled, whether to im­prove cool­ing or lighten them is not clear. In this form the ma­chine was clocked at 118mph at a Christchur­ch meet­ing, how­ever on a pho­to­graph taken at the time, Alf wrote “Twin plugs tried – no suc­cess”. He later re­marked that the twin mag­neto set up was no faster than the sin­gle mag! At a later Christchur­ch meet­ing he achieved 125mph one way and a two way av­er­age of 122mph. Alf con­tin­ued to race the KRTT 750 through the 1960s, oc­ca­sion­ally buy­ing up­dates from the fac­tory. Af­ter some years of rac­ing the KRTT 750 was get­ting rather long in the tooth and so was Alf, so he sold the ma­chine to an Auck­land deal­er­ship, Hal­danes, who then sold it to Jack McKay of Auck­land. The ma­chine was reg­is­tered for the first time in 1970 by Jack and was al­lo­cated plate num­ber 73 NC. The next owner, Tim Thomp­son, came across the KRTT 750 purely by chance. He had heard that Jack McKay had a 1947 Har­ley David­son 1200cc UL for sale, and flush af­ter sell­ing some land in Ar­row­town NZ, wanted to buy it. How­ever Jack McKay didn’t want to sell the UL un­til he had got rid of the other Har­ley he had, the KRTT 750, so Tim bought them both. How long Jack McKay owned the ma­chine is not com­pletely clear, ac­cord­ing to the own­er­ship pa­pers it was sold to Tim Thomp­son in

1973, although it is very likely that Tim owned it for some time be­fore reg­is­ter­ing own­er­ship and the reg­is­tered ad­dress does not ex­ist, all of which has a bear­ing on the next part of the story. In 1972 Alf Groves (or some­body pur­port­ing to be him) con­tacted the Har­ley-David­son race shop ask­ing to buy the lat­est up­dates for the KR750TT. As the ma­chine had now been su­per­seded by the XR750 they despatched two (yes two) com­plete sets of lat­est tun­ing parts, in­clud­ing the twin carb ar­range­ment, spe­cial bar­rels, close ra­tio gear clus­ter, a com­plete se­lec­tion of cams and a host of spe­cial parts, free of charge. The date of the re­quest for the parts is strange as Alf had sold the ma­chine more than two years ear­lier and seem­ingly had no con­tact with Jack McKay. How­ever Tim Thomp­son did know Alf Groves and knew of his pre­vi­ous con­tacts with the HD race de­part­ment. Tim Thomp­son was well known in South­land and Otago for wheel­ing and deal­ing in mo­tor­cy­cles and cars be­fore his pre­ma­ture death. Af­ter be­ing caught tak­ing deer car­casses he did com­mu­nity ser­vice as a teacher, run­ning a class at the lo­cal In­ter­me­di­ate School for de­prived chil­dren. One of their projects was to re­build a mo­tor­cy­cle he owned! In 1978 Tim Thomp­son de­cided to take an ex­tended work­ing hol­i­day in Aus­tralia with his friend Gor­don Twad­dle. Be­fore leav­ing he told John Twad­dle (Gor­don’s brother) that he had made a will, leav­ing him the KRTT 750, and they joked about it. Af­ter tour­ing north­ern Queens­land, Tim, Gor­don, and a lady Gor­don met, went miss­ing. Their bod­ies were found on the side of a bush track in a re­mote set­tle­ment called Spear Creek near Mount Isa; all three of them had been shot. The crime has never been solved de­spite cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence as to who the mur­derer might be, and is one of a num­ber of un­solved mur­ders and dis­ap­pear­ances in that re­mote area.

Tim Thomp­son’s be­quest of the KRTT 750 to John Twad­dle was in recog­ni­tion of all the hard work he had put in to the ma­chine. John got it go­ing again af­ter Tim had bought it, mainly by re­turn­ing it to its orig­i­nal fac­tory spec­i­fi­ca­tion. With a known base­line, John worked on im­prov­ing and de­vel­op­ing the ma­chine for Tim to race. John was well placed to look af­ter the ma­chine as he had owned and re­paired a num­ber of Har­ley-David­sons and worked at McIvor and Veitch in Dunedin who sub­se­quently be­came Har­ley-David­son spe­cial­ists. John com­peted suc­cess­fully on the KRTT 750 in hill-climbs, road races, BEARs, cir­cuit races and beach races un­til the mid-1990s. A knee in­jury forced him to stop rid­ing it and even­tu­ally con­vinced him to sell the ma­chine. The ma­chine also took part in some road ral­lies, in­clud­ing a na­tional mo­tor­cy­cle rally, com­plete with open ex­hausts. The cur­rent owner John Shand knows John Twad­dle from his time at McIvor and Veitch, so when he found out the ma­chine was up for sale he made John an of­fer he could not refuse. When Shand picked up the ma­chine he was amazed at the large num­ber of un­used spares that came with it, a num­ber of which were still in their orig­i­nal black, red and white H-D pack­ag­ing. Un­for­tu­nately some parts could not be used as they were made for the later “low­boy” framed twin car­bu­ret­tor KRTT. John had enough later spare parts to build a 1969 twin carb en­gine, which he put in an early XR750 frame (some­thing the fac­tory did), which is now on dis­play in his front room. Over the years the ma­chine had been up­dated and mod­i­fied so John Shand de­cided to re­turn it to the state that Alf Groves raced it in in the early 1960s. Re-in­stat­ing the twin mag­ne­tos, twin plug cylin­der head and other pe­riod parts was rel­a­tively sim­ple. The ma­chine has been re­built for demon­stra­tion runs at events but it will not be raced. The only con­ces­sion to moder­nity is a Mikuni car­bu­ret­tor, so much easier to live with than the capri­cious Linkerts and later Til­it­sons. I am in­debted to John Shand, John Twad­dle, Ashley Bell and Ray Sharp for their help in com­pil­ing this ar­ti­cle and help­ing to sort out the facts from the fic­tion that sur­round this ma­chine and its own­ers.

ABOVE 1960 KRTT as mod­i­fied and raced by Alf Groves. BE­LOW John Twad­dle on his 1960 KRTT.

Mikuni car­bu­re­tor fit­ted for ease of use. LEFT 1960 KRTT en­gine num­ber, be­lieved to be the 15th made in 1960. ABOVE Cer­tifi­cate of Reg­is­tra­tion in Jack McKay’s name 26/2/1970. LEFT The KRTT parts ship­ment re­ceipt from H-D.

Alf Groves’ mod­i­fi­ca­tions – the ad­di­tional mag­neto and drilled cylin­der heads.

The KRTT as it ar­rived at John Shand’s home. John Shand in­spect­ing the moun­tain of KRTT spares.

TOP The TT front brake with dummy air scoop. ABOVE TT rear brake. BE­LOW Alf Groves’ mod­i­fi­ca­tions – twin plug cylin­der heads.

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