Oklahoma City: Part 3

There were four heads to start with, all used, that had the seats and valves retouched by Clyde Day, there in OKC.  Clyde has been doing cylinder heads for over forty years and most recently was the cam designer for Hotcams in Iowa.  Being able to talk to Clyde allowed a lot of information to be imparted, so I was able to take notes after we met and visited for some of the morning.  Clyde has been viewed as terse and not suffering fools gladly, so it was a challenge to keep up and not let him see my jester’s hat.  I also found out that many of the techniques we use here at the shop are the same as his, which made me feel pretty good.  I was chastised for lapping a couple of exhaust valves at the races, but hey, at 11 o’clock on a Saturday night in rural Georgia, what’re you going to do?

Resetting the adjusting shim thicknesses was one priority as the sims range from 1.95 mm thick to 3.20 mm thick.  Most of the heads were getting into the lower ranges and the keepers, shims and retainers were not playing well with each other towards the end of the season.  I did move a couple up into shim ranges not used before to even out the demand on the shim assortment (not every valve in every head would need 2.50 mm thick shims.  I also added about 30 lbs. of seat pressure to help in the valve motion control.

This was pretty much my vacation for the next three days, along with making an assortment of spare replacement valves for use at the track when rebuilding the heads.


I was supervised by the shop cat.  This cat was always found in unusual places, asleep in a box, up on the shelves, occasionally underfoot.  I never did learn the cat’s real name.  It ranged from “Miss Kitty” to “Fuzzybutt” to “Spaz” (from her occasional semi-deranged outbursts).  She would knock over drink cups if they were accessible, but the coffee mugs were very cat-resistant. Lucky me.


Having a chance to work with Delvin Clark, the data man for the Nitro Conspiracy team, I got an insight into the tuning methodology that was available and began to formulate plans for the tune up we may need at the different tracks.  One of the unusual aspects of our first race at Valdosta, coming up in April, is the lack of data from the successful runs that were made.  Luckily Motorcycle Performance team has been there three times ourselves and can try to assimilate the conditions and what is needed to perform well there.  A bit more consistency in the first 60 to 150 feet of the racetrack will yield big dividends down the strip as once the bike gets rolling it really moves.  I still feel that Mike Dryden’s fuel system makes as much power as anyone else out there and getting it to the ground will be the biggest challenge.  Once that happens, look out!  With Sam’s riding and guidance I still feel we are a major contender in this arena.

I must admit that towards the end of the fifth day I was getting a bit gassed.  Looking at the fourth head, it was an effort to get up, get going and take care of things on this one, too.  But a big cup of the black death, and we were ready to go!

Cleaning up the race room work area, I was allowed a bit of time to see how Sam’s shop was a bit different from ours.  One thing I wasn’t aware of was the amount of dust there is in Oklahoma.  This necessitated any solvent, cleaner and parts to be blown off in the back as the atomized solvents can land on things and attract that dreaded dust.  We had a similar situation here at the shop when the back parking lot was gravel and the south winds came along and blew dust and cottonwood seeds all over.  Final washing and clean assembly was paramount both at Sam’s and our shops.  I must admit that Sam’s place is a bit cleaner and better organized than ours, but clean and well-put is Sam’s nature, not mine so much.  I just need to be able to find and finish a seemingly endless myriad of things.

The next morning, getting up at four a.m. for the ride to the airport was hard.  Not only the hour, but realizing that the time for dedicated racing work at Sam’s was over and I needed to return to my bailiwick and that version of reality.

Winging across the skies towards home, it would be good to return and see the smiling faces of family and friends, and put a little of the knowledge gained to work.

Now back upstairs to paint some more of the gaudiest dragbike out there.

More updates as they occur.

Our next Bull Session is Saturday March 11 from noon to three p.m.

Aloha pardner!

Bill W.


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