Motorcyclist - - Shift - —Bill John­son

The bike is a run­ner af­ter all this time. It sounds great and feels like a racer should.

BIKE 1968 Bul­taco Me­tralla RIDER Bill John­son AGE 71 HOME Mcmin­nville, OR OC­CU­PA­TION Re­tired Steam­fit­ter

IN THE SUM­MER OF 1974, Bill Mc­grill in­vited me to watch a mo­tor­cy­cle race at Sears Point. Sum­mers be­fore, Bill and I had spent qual­ity time chasing each other in the hills above Berke­ley and Oak­land, but nei­ther one of us had rid­den on a track. I could some­times stick the nose of my X-6 on the tail of his Me­tralla and try to get around him, but not of­ten. He was a nat­u­ral.

Bill rode his Bul­taco to the event, took the dirt road up the hill from the pits, and leaned the Bul against the fence out­side turn two. I spent a lit­tle time soak­ing up the sights, sounds, and smells in the pits be­fore hik­ing up to join him. Just as I got to the cor­ner, a flock of two-stroke scream­ers flew up the hill, turned right, pointed their ex­pan­sion cham­bers at me, and gassed up. The au­ral over­load from the 250 GP race was a thrill. I was hooked. Later in the day, an older fel­low came by. He turned to Bill. “Why isn’t this bike out on the track?” A few weeks later, we joined the fray.

The Ja­pa­nese two-strokes were tough com­pe­ti­tion in 250 Pro­duc­tion, but we found a per­fect fit in the 200 GP, a con­struc­tor’s class. We stripped off the street gear and mounted an RS tank. Then we mod­i­fied a re­cy­cled fair­ing to fit, with Bill han­dling the glass­work and the paint. I built an ex­pan­sion cham­ber and an al­loy seat and fin­ger-ported a bar­rel from a 200cc Astro. Bill rode the Hun­gry Mo­tors Spe­cial to AFM class cham­pi­onships in ’77 and ’78 with wins at Sears Point, River­side, On­tario, and Willow Springs.

In 2006, Bill passed away. He knew it was com­ing, and the last time I saw him, he told me he wanted me to have the Bul. I am hon­ored to have it in my shop, and it is a real plea­sure to work on the lit­tle de­tails we never had time to clean up be­tween races. The bike is a run­ner af­ter all this time. It sounds great and feels like a racer should.

This bike changed both our lives. Bill got deep into rid­ing, earn­ing the No. 2 AFM plate at one point in his ca­reer. I got deep into the me­chan­i­cal side, re­work­ing and tun­ing the Bul, a cou­ple of TZS, and an RD200 for good mea­sure. This is the bike that started it all.

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