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
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.