Triumph Pre Unit Racing, Gary Richards!


We started talking about Triumph 650 cams for racing at Bonneville, and Ed told me to ask Gary, as he probably knew better than anyone. Gary the told me he "rode a couple of Triumphs" at Bonneville a long time ago.

It wasn't until I researched it myself that I found out just how fast (and modest) Gary is...

Gary's father Rich Richards was a highly regarded engine builder and tuner who already held Land Speed records on a Triumph twin. In 1954, Rich set a new 650 class A record of 149.56 mph. This was big news in the motorcycle world as it was only four years after the "new" 650 Triumph twin made it's debut. Rich was active in the Southern California drag racing scene and although fiercely competitive he would often help fellow racers, even during a race! Jack Wilson, Clem Johnson, and Sonny Routt are just a few who went to Rich for advice, as he was experienced in Nitromethane tuning.

Rich Richards and crew, Bonneville Salt Flats 1954

By the time 1960 came around Rich stopped riding and with 20 year old son Gary as the pilot they set a new two way average record of 149.512 mph. This was the world's fastest unfaired Triumph 650...until next year.

Gary and Rich Richards, Bonneville Salt Flats 1960

In 1961 Gary ran the same stock frame 650 Triumph Thunderbird to a new AA class record of 159.542 mph (two way average speed). This AMA 650cc land speed record is still unbeaten 55 years later!


Gary Richards at Bonneville Salt Flats 1961

Gary went into active service in the military for the next four years, but Rich Richards continued to assist other race teams including the Dudek Triumph streamliner.  Gary returned to drag racing his nitro pre unit Triumph and racing at Bonneville throughout the 60's, and built his own Triumph streamliner powered by a pre unit engine with a 750 cylinder. In 1969 he became the sixth motorcyclist to enter the Bonneville 200 mph club with an impressive 221.742 mph two way average!

Gary's Triumph streamliner, 1969

Gary has a successful business and is on the crew of his long time friend Sam Wheeler's streamliner, which will most likely be the first motorcycle to go over 400 mph if the salt at Bonneville ever dries out. He also manufactures Dixon heads for flathead Fords.

As far as the cam advice... Gary told me he used Harman & Collins Racing Cams grind #6877, also known as "Super 77". These cams are very aggressive and the cam lobes are shaped almost like a square. If you run into Gary don't expect a lot of tuning secrets as he has probably forgot more than most of us will ever learn...

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