Featured Rider, Top Fuel Drag Racing Champion, Elmer Trett

Elmer Trett (3)
Among a dozen or so drag bikes at the National Motorcycle Museum, from various eras, is Elmer Trett’s finest work in gleaming candy purple, Mountain Magic. It’s the culmination of all he learned while drag racing from the late 1960’s in Kentucky, to campaigning Mountain Magic on the national Top Fuel circuit the year he lost his life in 1996 at the age of 53.
Trett did not limit his work, his passion for drag racing to building fast bikes and riding them. He was also a tireless promoter of drag racing, especially Top Fuel. He built bikes for other racers and encouraged people to move up to Top Fuel as he felt that’s what would keep motorcycle drag racing strong as a spectator sport.
Trett’s personal entry into Top Fuel was a double engine Sportster he first campaigned in 1976. Successful with the machine, Trett won his first championship with the then popular DRAGBIKE racing organization. Trends were shifting to lighter single engine bikes and Trett received support from Harley-Davidson Motor Company to build a new Sportster based machine, supercharged and running on nitromethane fuel. With Harley’s rough times in this era, and cutbacks, Trett was soon forced to look elsewhere and moved to Kawasaki for his engines, and Mountain Magic came together.
Trett’s performances, the thresholds of speed he was first to attain are remarkable and will be what stay in enthusiasts’ minds, along with his knocking on the door of a five second quarter mile. Elmer Trett was first to exceed 200mph, 210 mph, 230 mph; he was always at the cutting edge of engine performance, chassis design and traction engineering, to say nothing of having fantastic reflexes and riding skills. Another thing that Trett will be remembered for is that his family didn’t just participate in the sport, they were his team. Wife Jackie, daughters Gina and Kelly maintained the bikes and were his pit crew.
When you next visit the National Motorcycle Museum, spend a few minutes in front of Mountain Magic, Elmer Trett’s finest work. Think about what it’s like to move through a quarter mile in just over five seconds, from a standing start.
6 replies
  1. John Kopmanis
    John Kopmanis says:

    Please extend my sympathy to the family members. I’m not sure if I saw Elmer run or not. My friends and I would frequent the old Detroit Dragway at ” Sibley and Dix”. We saw E.J. Potter run a number of times; it seems that Elmer would have been at the place also. It’s been too many years ago so I can’t say for sure. I’m still riding at age 69 on a new Indian. Greetings to all. Peace.
    John Kopmanis

  2. Christopher Sanchez
    Christopher Sanchez says:

    Hi I seen Elmer Trett race back in the early 1980s at East Hampton Raceway. He was in the 7’s in the quarter. The bike he was running was a Kawasaki with the head of the motor turned around with the exhaust coming out from under the seat. In the from of the head was a supercharger. The tire was so wide that the bike did not need a kick stand. Elmer Wife was cleaning the bike just before he was to go for a run. It is an honor to have seen he race. Thank you
    Christopher Sanchez

  3. John K
    John K says:

    I was at Bandimere Speedway, Colorado in 1996 when we lost one of the most prolific Motorcycle engineer/ rider. Elmer set the bar in many ways. I was at the dragstrip and it was a sea of Harley Davidson…an amazing sight to behold. At the time (and still to this day) I was riding my 1980 Kawasaki KZ1000 on a one month trip through the Rockies traveling cross country from Chicago. When I heard that the Top Fuel bikes were at Bandimere I knew I had to attend because I had seen Elmer on TV and I had the hopes of meeting him. That is one of the great things about drag racing; every ticket is a pit pass. The connection between the stars and the fans is un-paralleled. Unfortunately, we lost one of the greats before I could meet him but, I am glad that I was able to see Elmer in his element doing what he loved with his family. I can’t imagine a better way to go. Rest in Peace with the gods of speed Elmer…you are missed.

  4. Robert Cron
    Robert Cron says:

    I am going to see Mountain Magic in August. The day I met Elmer was the day of his death, at the U.S. Nationals at Clermont Indiana, I went to his pit area shortly before his final run, Elmer was very nice to me.
    I want to see his Mountain Magic and think about our short time together, I doubt if he remembered me or thought about anything but his run. It was a very dark day in 1996, I have thought of it many times since that fateful day.

  5. Stan Martin
    Stan Martin says:

    I saw Elmer Trett race back in the early 80s in Warner Robins, GA. It was insane how much tire smoke his burn outs would produce. The sound of the bike was like a bunch of grenades going off. I had seen nitro cars before, but that was my first experience watching a nitro motorcycle. It definitely got me more interested in motorcycle drag racing. I saw him working in the pits and I remember that his wife helped him. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but he seemed like a nice man.


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