I just was looking around the internet this morning June 19-2011 and found out Jim Hunter is no longer with us... very sad. I talked to him a few years ago asking him for help with my GS and he gave me ideas and phone numbers. I rode out of San Diego so I never met Jim but I did meet him one summer at Prado Park and where I learned something. Just the other day I wrote the folloeing letter to a racer friend in CA about the lesson I learned up at Prado. ______________________________________________________
A GRAPHIC LESSON
In the late sixties I was just about through racing but a friend of mine wanted me to go with him to LA to help him with his race bike at a 1/2 mile TT track so just for something to kill time with I took one of my old beat up BSA Gold Stars to enter in the 500cc class.
Jim Hunter the local hot shoe was there with his Gold Star and when he got a good lead was putting on a great show by getting out in the soft stuff in the big turn about 80mph and getting sideways.
So I line up for the first heat right beside Jim because I wanted to use him as a pace setter because I knew he knew the track very well but when he looked over at my bike I wanted to crawl into a hole because I was sure he was thinking my bike should be confiscated right then and there to give to a deserving owner because his Gold Star was perfect in every way ...alloy everywhere tank, rims, engine mounts and mine with iron and steel and rust with teeth missing off the rear sprocket and shrader valves brazed to the rear shocks to fill them with 50wt so they might almost work for 30 minutes.
But anyway we took off and Jim was first into the corner and me right behind but after a few turns he pulled about 8 bike lengths on me so I knew if he got away I would have to learn the track on my own so I really threw it into the big 1/2 mile turn and pulled right up to his back wheel as we were now down in the fast blue groove and I realized that if I was going to even try to stay with Jim I would have to ride harder than I ever had and I was very uncomfortable with the speed and thought no I can't do this and a split second later my tires let go and I was on my back sliding off to the guard rail. Well I knew we had the same cut Pirellis and we weighed about the same so something was different.
So back home I took off my old steel wheels which I had hammered most of the dents out from a lifetime of desert racing by a former owner, so I took off the tires and pounded the things a little straighter and tightened the spokes so only the left side of the rim was straight and the right side was really bad but the only right turn was soft dirt. then I mounted the tires and using a dial indicator ground off any remaining high spots of rubber on the left side ( got it down to .005" ) and returned to Los Angeles the next weekend. So here we were again Jim on my left and off to the first turn we went with Jim leading the pack and me following but now I knew the track a little better so he didn't get away so fast and on the first lap when we got to the blue groove in the big turn in the exact spot where I slid out Jim was right there and I thought his bike must not be running very good or he doesn't feel well or something because I couldn't figure out why he was going so much slower than last weekend but we were actually going the same speed as last weekend but it didn't feel like it. and a split second later his tires let go and he was down and headed for the crash wall and since I was no more than 12" off his rear tire I thought I was going to run over the local favorite and the crowd was going to stone me but I missed him.
But what a lesson I learned from that little episode It was hard to believe that now I could ride a fraction of a MPH faster in the same corner and the bike felt stable and smooth but if I would have returned to that track I am sure Jim would have looked to his bike and would have had an answer for me. The only thing I can think of is Jim did not dial in his tires ? I wish I knew. _________________________________________________________
I still have one of his pistons in my GS. and if I can find the photo of that piston and what it went through to finish a road race fo me I will post it. I destroyed many pistons in the past but this one was different.
Ah Yes : Old Jim was a crusty old dude for sure. I somehow got on his good side in the later 70s and had free run of his shop and parts area. Most people got no further than the bungy cords streched across the entryways. Bought a bike or 2 from him over the years also. Indirectly he led me to owning a Vincent Black Shadow. On the wall in the shop area was a small picture of a guy with a Greeves Silverstone. Turns out this was a friend of his that was interested in selling the Greeves. Long story short bought the Greeves and a few years later used it for a partial trade on a ratty Vin. He use to run around with the gal that ran Century Cycles down in San Pedro. Can't think of her name at the moment , but she was a caracter in her own right. I would come to the LA area from Phoenix pretty much at least monthly and there were about a half a dozen shops I would hit. Ah ! those were the good days cheap fuel and lots of parts to be found. Ascot for the 1/2 flat track and speedway further south. John
the piston in Portland sort of came out the exaust pipe the amazing one was is seattle that stayed together and became a lump of aluminum and continued to push the bike around a few laps the only reason I did this to an old Gold Star it was supposed to be my last race and I just wanted to finish..... bad me. the pin hole on one side enlarged to over an inch in dia. and that doesent happen in a few seconds and as long as the revs were up the poor thing would fire....I repeat.... BAD ME
I too, got to be able to wander the parts, much later in knowing Jim, with him helping me spot what I needed.
He even managed to help me find a front end for an A10, that needed the nacell type head light set-up.
He never seemed to me to be crusty... Maybe he had to be, when dealing with the obviously crudlies and whinning poor, trying to cut his pricing down? I asked his price, and gladly paid, no questions. Maybe that's what helped me get into his good graces?
He will be missed...
I've heard of Century Cycles, but never managed to get down there... Now I'm 2500 miles away... Brett
I am not good with names but I don't think I ever met the guy,but it sounds like he was one of the " GOOD ONES", The "GOOD ONES"seem to be falling off, I "suppose" this is all the way it is supposed to happen but it is always tragic, it seems that an early age a lotta "friends" met their demise , lately a lotta more respectable guys have met their maker ,nothing makes sense ,LIVE FOR TODAY!!!!!