TOMO FROM the Hells Angels in Adelaide started the sand drags, at least in Australia. I’d never seen them before; nobody had. It started as street bikes on the top track at Ponde in the early 1980s and took off pretty quickly, especially in the Modified Street section where people got knobbly tyres.
Tomo always wanted to go faster. He kept blowing up bikes or wasn’t winning enough so he just went bigger and built the V8 bike to make sure he’d win. It’s quite a concept. It was a real eye opener when everyone saw that bike for the first time.
I built this one in ’98—’99, and this is the third motor I’ve had in it. I’ve tried a few different combinations and this is quite a good one — it’s reliable, it’s easy to start, and I can operate it on my own.
My usual street bike has a ’98 Buell Thunderstorm motor in a modified street frame, but the Buell S2 Thunderbolt is the bike I generally take on Poker Runs because it’s bog stock with indicators, or I use the XR 1000.
The frame I made myself, and once I had the back wheel, it was all right. I more or less copied one of my other frames; it was the same sort of idea.
The front end’s off a big Jap trail bike.
The rims are from a speedway car. The hub I made myself, and the inside of the hub is from a Ford mag.
The rear tyre was ordered just for this bike, from Sand Tires Unlimited in America. The number of paddles on the tyre relates to different tracks; heavier or wetter sand; which to use depends on the track and what you can get. The biggest problem with getting the right tyres is availability; that’s always been a big problem. The last couple of years have been better with importing them, but before that, it was six — eight months; now you can get it in nothing flat. I’ve had no trouble with mine but they’re not true motorbike tyres because they’re flat and that helps the bike run straight. You steer by leaning; it’s like a drag bike.
The turbo’s a Fueling Rivera made for Shovels in the early ’80s and adapted to fit my 1200 Sportster. It’s a total loss oil system with oil fed into the top and draining straight out into a catch can, then it’s pumped back into the main oil tank through a Hollinger six-speed gearbox oil pump. It all works quite effectively; you can just turn it off and on as it’s needed.
There’s a Raja wastegate, an SU carburettor designed for this turbo system, a standard five-speed box, a Crane Hi 4 ignition, and a Barnett clutch.
The Buell Thunderstorm top-end and the cams are for the turbo. I ordered the cams from Andrews; they were especially made to suit the manifold. They took eight weeks to come across; they were made for a Sportster but they never made a complete cam kit for it. I had to mix and match pushrods and bits and pieces from a big twin Evo and a Twin Cam — the inlet pushrods were the ones that fitted.
Everything else I suppose had to be adapted, made to fit. Modifying everything takes a little bit of time but you get used to that.
The wire is just for safety, in case they come loose; if you lose one there’ll be oil everywhere.
The oil tank I made, the rear sets I made, the tank and tank cover I made.
I did all the fibreglass — that was all trial and error as well; I’d never done it before. I got the moulds for these tanks, an XLCR tank, and I made the mould for the rear guard — a Fat Bob guard I just cut in half and added 15” in between.
The Sydney Death Head is on the tank and the front-on Hells End Death Head is on the tail.
I’ve got to fix the seal on the turbo, and that’s about it. Hopefully I’m on top of it. On the whole the bike’s fairly good now, and at one stage or another, I’ve won just about every event I’ve been in: I just have to keep everything all in synch and it’s quite competitive.
As far as technique goes in the drags, I can’t just drop the clutch and hold it flat because the tyre digs in and the bike flips over. I have to ride the clutch a bit to get it out of the hole, but apart from that… I just give it to it and hang on.
pics by Chris Randells; words by Boris