One of the bike’s owners, Tyler Malinky of Lowbrow Customs offers, “Wes White of Four Aces Cycle and I bought the Salt Ghost from Keith Martin of Big D Cycle in Texas. We didn’t know anything about it and we started trying to track down the owner via the lakes racing clubs in Southern California. We found some racers who remembered the bike, and we identified the builder, owner and racer as Theo Ozen. Theo raced this bike at El Mirage and Bonneville from the mid 1960’s through 1982 from the records we have found. The history can be seen in the wear and tear on the Salt Ghost, and from modifications made to the motor and chassis, from custom cam keyways to modified crank cases allowing removal of cams without splitting the cases. ”
As Tyler mentions, the bike is now known as Salt Ghost, and this machine is part of the Museum’s just-opened Allstate Motorcycle STREAMLINERS exhibit, presented by J&P Cycles. In the Fifties and Sixties, there were probably more single-engine Triumphs at Bonneville and El Mirage than any other motorcycle, and the Nitro Express is a perfect example of that genre. The builder of the bike was Theo Ozen, who was bitten by the dry lakes bug after World War II and continued racing the machine into the 1970’s in land speed record class APF-650: Special Construction / Pushrod / Fuel / 650 cc’s. More recently current owners the bike ran 130.224 mph at El Mirage, then a bit slower at Bonneville probably due to the thin air of the 5000 foot elevation.
The rolling chassis is mostly stock, just stripped, modifications were fairly typical: A pre-unit Bonneville engine was used in conjunction with the later nine-bolt head, Harmon and Collins roller tappet camshaft, and Amal GP carburetors (remote floats currently removed) fed a blended fuel, not pump gas. Land speed racers, of course, look for every way to optimize performance—even in the case of the Salt Ghost, shaving the tire tread reduces rolling resistance and rotational mass.
Today Salt Ghost, many of its trophies and photos are cherished by its two current owners, Tyler Malinky, Lowbrow Customs, and Wes White. They run the bike, and are keen on keeping this cool bike’s history intact, alive, even.
- Engine: Triumph Bonneville pre-unit engine
- Displacement: 650cc / 40 Cubic Inch
- Camshaft: Harman and Collins roller tappet design
- Carburetion: Amal GP carburetors with “matchbox” floats
- Frame: Standard 1948 rigid Triumph frame
- Wheels/Tires: Front – WM1x21 Borrani Record wheel, Avon Speedmaster tire
- Rear – WM1x20 wheel with a Beck “TT Special” tire
On Loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by Tyler Malinky & Wes White