With his supply of front tires gone, Wheeler was approached by several people who attempted to get him more of the tires without success. “Unless you want to put the money up (to get the tires made by Goodyear), it’s not gonna happen,” he said of the cost that is said to be upwards of $120,000 for the special LSR tires. Then Wheeler was approached by Ruedi Steck of Switzerland about making a solid “tireless” front wheel out of aluminum to run with. Wheeler had actually tried a solid front wheel in his original version of the EZ-Hook streamliner, but wasn’t very comfortable with it. But with Steck’s insistence that it would be made precisely to Wheeler’s specifications, the Californian decided to try the solid wheel one more time.
Wheeler returned to the Cook LSR meet in 2008 with his new solid front wheel, and he found that “it worked, we went 350 (mph) again, but it was tearing up the salt something fierce.” Then in 2009, Wheeler solved the problem by fitting an Öhlins shock tuned by his friend Bruce Burness — only for continuing chain problems and other minor issues to blunt his attempt.
A young Wheeler in 1969 figuring...
A young Wheeler in 1969 figuring out some final design touches to the streamliner using a normally aspirated Norton 750 Commando engine that propelled him to a record 208 mph on pump gas in 1970.
Five Cal Tech aerodynamics...
Five Cal Tech aerodynamics graduate students took up the design of the EZ-Hook streamliner bodywork as their class thesis project. Here they’re doing some final tweaks to the scale clay mockup before another lab test.
Anytime you have legendary...
Anytime you have legendary Vance & Hines engine man Byron Hines taking a personal interest in your racing effort, you know the company is “all in.”
Wheeler then watched in 2010 as the Bub and Ack Attack streamliners once again traded the top speed record at the Cook LSR meet at Bonneville on September 25, 2010. The current record of 376.693 mph set by the Ack Attack machine still stands from that meet.
Although a drag chute will...
Although a drag chute will handle most of the slowing, Wheeler also has this carbon/carbon brake setup from Lamb Components. Owner Roger Lamb is a high school buddy of Wheeler’s who helped build his first LSR effort.
A New Setup
Wheeler knew that he needed to upgrade his powerplant if he was going to have a chance at breaking the 400 mph barrier. “When the Ack Attack went 376,” he said, “I knew we couldn’t be competitive because they went 394 out the back (after the measured mile, the bikes usually continue accelerating).” He also knew that an alternative drive system would be necessary because a chain wouldn’t hold up to the sustained stress.
Then Wheeler’s friend Dick Lague helped him meet up with the CEO of American motorcycle parts and accessories distributor Parts Unlimited, Fred Fox. Fox was immediately enthusiastic about Wheeler’s effort after meeting the soft-spoken electrical engineer from Arcadia, California. He not only provided some much-needed financial aid, but was also instrumental in helping Wheeler obtain some LSR rear tires from Goodyear that had originally been manufactured for a now-defunct automobile effort from Europe.
One of the Suzuki Hayabusa...
One of the Suzuki Hayabusa engines built at the Vance & Hines race shop in Brownsburg, Indiana that will be powering Wheeler’s streamliner. Note the upper engine mounts that also double as the intake plenum attachment point.
Even more important was that Fox helped rekindle Wheeler’s contact with Terry Vance of Vance & Hines, who quickly jumped in with engine support. “I’d originally spoken with Terry back in 2007 or so at an NHRA museum event,” recalls Wheeler, “and he was very interested in supporting the project. His company was all-Harley back then though, and they wanted to put a Harley engine in (the streamliner). I told them if they could make it put out 500 horsepower for 90 or so seconds, I’d do it, but that wasn’t going to happen, so that kind of killed it back then. Now they work on all different kinds of engines, so it’s an easier fit.”
The Vance & Hines race shop in Brownsburg, Indiana, has built two Suzuki Hayabusa engines (one primary and one spare) designed to support 500-plus horsepower for the EZ-Hook streamliner. Turbocharging the engine will once again be handled by Terry Kizer, with a full MoTeC engine management system not only allowing precise fuel/ignition control, but also traction control as well.
Utilizing a secondary transmission...
Utilizing a secondary transmission built by Weismann Traction Products that runs off the countershaft of the Hayabusa engine will allow the EZ-Hook streamliner to get up to 180 mph before Wheeler even shifts to second gear with the Suzuki engine.
Having the necessary tall gearing to reach past 400 mph means getting started from a dead stop can be difficult (some streamliners use a tow or push truck to get them started up to 100 mph or above), so Wheeler got together with Chris Weismann of Weismann Traction Products with an idea for a secondary transmission. By building a secondary transfer case that attaches to the countershaft of the Suzuki Hayabusa engine, the Weismann transmission’s two speeds allow the bike to reach 180 mph before Wheeler even shifts to second gear with the Hayabusa gearbox. The Weismann unit has no clutch; the shift mechanism is located inside the mainshaft, and transfers power directly, so there is no backing off the throttle in order to shift.
In order to get rid of the heat buildup and stretching associated with chain final drive, Wheeler sought out longtime belt drive manufacturer Gates for help. The company’s immense experience with drive belt technology allowed it to design a drive belt for Wheeler’s application that not only will handle “up to 800 horsepower,” but will also do it without heat or adjustment issues and fit within the tight confines of the EZ-Hook streamliner body. “We just need to make sure that salt doesn’t get built up inside the ‘sprockets’ — that’s what they call the pulleys,” says Wheeler, “because that can cause problems with the teeth and belts. That shouldn’t be a problem with how our setup is.”
Wheeler’s EZ-Hook streamliner loaded up after its 300-plus-mph crash when the front tire failed. He had just set the fastest one-way pass of the meet at 355 mph; luckily the drag chute kept the streamliner from flipping/rolling in the crash.
The rear wheel made by Performance...
The rear wheel made by Performance Machine with the Gates belt drive “sprocket” attached. Wheeler has gone to a custom belt drive system because of constant problems with chains overheating and failing at speed.
One of the Hayabusa engines...
One of the Hayabusa engines that will be powering Wheeler’s EZ-Hook streamliner sits ready for assembly in the well-organized confines of the Vance & Hines race shop in Brownsburg, Indiana.
A streamliner needs everything...
A streamliner needs everything to stay completely straight and true at 400-plus mph. These pieces carved from aircraft-quality aluminum billet are part of the rear suspension assembly needed to transfer 500-plus horsepower without any issues.
Watch out for Bonneville Next Summer
Wheeler had been burning the midnight oil to try and make the scheduled Bub and Cook LSR meets this past August/September, but luckily the salt conditions were poor enough that the Ack Attack streamliner declined to participate, leaving the 400 mph barrier safe until 2013. This gives Wheeler a good amount of time to get the latest version of the EZ-Hook streamliner dialed in with its new engine, electronics, and drivetrain, but he also realizes that time may be running out on his chances. At 69 years of age after doing land speed record racing for 50 years, “This might be my last time racing on the salt,” admits Wheeler.
One thing’s for sure: We’ll have our eyes focused on Bonneville come late August/early September 2013. And our money will be on Sam Wheeler and EZ-Hook.