Salt Ghost

With the total count fast approaching 500 motorcycles, the National Motorcycle Museum displays around 100 racing machines. They range from rare factory-built Board Track racers from around 1915 to 1920 all the way up to the fine, relatively modern Elmer Trett Mountain Magic drag bike, even a couple of Buells. So few race bikes survive; outdated, parts are scavenged from them, storage conditions cause them to rust, corrode, maybe even lock up. Old receipts and photos stuffed in a box, misunderstood, are tossed. With this, the history of a racing motorcycle is lost.
But like the Nitro Express, a Triumph 650 campaigned by Theo Ozen, some survive. Even more important, instead of being meticulously restored, polished to within an inch of their lives, some are left “as raced” with well earned battle scars, even some corrosion brought on by the Bonneville salt that is so hard to get out of every nook and cranny.

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.
salt-ghost_4The 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

6 replies
  1. corey apperson
    corey apperson says:

    I have a 1958 TR6 trophy. Built 12+ to 1 pre unit bike, in ealy 60s. bien through the motor.Its really amazing. Love the bike hope to finish it one day. Got it and it looked like the last collisium ride of Evil Keneivlles triumph ride. But I amm sill looking forward to it.

    • Eric Moses
      Eric Moses says:

      Great article Tyler, I have thought about racing on the salt ever since I caught your history with the salt ghost. Very inspiring.

    • Geoff Valker
      Geoff Valker says:

      Thank you for writing that article, Tyler! I found it and read it earlier and bookmarked!! Then I stumbled across this National Motorcycle Museum page. An excellent museum, I’ve been there a few times and look forward to returning.


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