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Sad to announce the passing of Eugene “Gene” Thiessen. He died July,12, 2021 at the age of 93.
His racing career from 1948 to 1958 was always aboard a BSA. Hap Alzina along with Rich Childs were major supporters of Gene’s efforts for BSA in America.
DAYTONA – His first time on the beach was 1948 as an Amateur. He placed 33rd out of 119 starters. This feat was accomplished with a punctured lung and broken ribs received from a crash earlier in the race. Later that season he took the same iron head B-34 to the Langhorn 100 Miler and set a new amateur track record. Subsequent Daytona outings resulted in 6 top 20 placing [img]https://www.britbike.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/ubb/download/Number/12176/filename/Thissen 53 Daytona.. The best being 9th in 1952 and 1953, 5th in 1956 and a 3rd in 1957.
ROSEMOND DRY LAKES – July 1951. Fastest time for 40 inch (137.30 on Alcohol – 130.90 on pump gas). Fastest time for 30.50 class 119.20 on pump gas
BONNEVILLE – September 1951. New “Class A" record (143.54) on a Golden Flash followed by a new “Class C” record (123.69) on a Star Twin.
DODGE CITY – 1952 2nd on his Stat Twin. 1953 6th on his Star Tw in
CATALINA – 1952 First place trophy for out of state riders
BAY MEADOWS – 1952 20 Mile National. 7th (Star Twin). 1954 9th. 1956 5th.
PORTLAND MEADOWS – 1951 25 Mile Pacific Coast Championship. 1st (new track record). 1954 1st 5 Mile National. This put Gene in 11th place in the GNC point standing.
SAN JOSE MILE - 1951 (Inaugural Northwest 15 Mile National) 1st place. 1957 5th. 1958 10th.
WILLOW SPRINGS – 1954 125Mile National 5th.
CANADA – British Columbia. Half Mile Championship.
Most of Gene’s racing was on the West Coast due to the isolation of the Pacific Northwest and holding a fulltime job. However, in 1952 Alzina sent him to race some East Coast tracks accompanied by Al Gunter. Thiessen gained a 2nd place in the Expert 5 Mile race in Syracuse and a 6th place in the Langhorn 100 Mile National.
Gene retired from racing at the end of the 1958 season. He continued in the motorcycle industry as a Yamaha dealer (dealer number 410) and Honda (#1561).
For more information click on the following link https://www.worldofspeed.org/archive-blog-1/2019/3/19/bsa-racer-gene-thiessen
Click on the last photo to see the entire archive.
[img]http://[/img]jpg[/img][img]http://[/img]

Gene Thiessen National at Meadow.jpg Thissen 53 Daytona.jpg

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Thanks for the sad info and for the info regarding Gene.
Our condolences goes to the family.
He lived a long life and made a good impact in BSA racing history.


Morgan Johansson
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The little Goldie that beat the Harleys on the Mile Track. This was Gene's '54 Daytona bike that he converted for the mile tracks
[img]http://[/img]

Gene Theissen.jpg
Last edited by BritTwit; 07/16/21 10:10 pm.

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Back in the early '70's when I was going to college in Eugene I ventured out old Hwy 99 to see this famous BSA that was sitting in a Honda shop showroom. It was one of his Salt Flat twins in pristine condition. I'll never forget seeing that and have been a BSA fan ever since.

One of the best of the NW dirt track racing legends. Sorry I missed the chance to go with you to Eugene and see him a couple of years ago. My best to the family.


Bill B...


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Gene's daughter sent me some photos Gene had stashed in a file. This is him with what I believe is his 1955 factory ride.
[img]http://[/img]

Dad's Photos.11.jpg

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Gene may not be well known to many vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, but he played a critical role in establishing BSA in the USA in the late 40s and early 50’s, when US sales were so important to their economic survival post- WW2 and establishing the Gold Star in the US.

He on the West Coast, along with Tommy McDermott on the East Coast were the riders first adopted and sponsored once BSA had appointed US distributors. It was their early racing successes that promoted BSA as a brand in a market where BSA were not well known, but that became BSA’s biggest market by the mid 50’s. It is not inaccurate to say that without Gene and the riders like Al Gunter and Dick Mann who were initially put under Gene’s wing by West Coast Distributor Hap Alzina, BSA may not have survived though the 1950s.

His racing career lasted from 1948 to 1958 and was only ever on a BSA. Because Gene lived in Oregon, his location and the enormous trips required to attend the major races on the West and East Coast and his trips to Daytona (going from the top left to bottom right of the continent) had to be undertaken as his work vacation.

His first time at Daytona was in 1948 as an Amateur, placing 33rd out of 119 with a punctured lung and broken ribs received from a crash earlier in the race. Subsequent Daytona outings resulted in 6 top 20 placings.

In 1954 when BSA won the first 5 places, Gene came 17th on a bike with a damaged frame that wouldn’t stay in a straight line. However, Cycle World magazine recognised the magnitude of Gene’s struggle when they reckoned his was the best ride of the race and reported that “It couldn’t be kept in a straight line … but he rode it the full distance like a man riding a rattlesnake!” - and nominated him for a medal.

Of particular significance for Gold Stars however, I am going to suggest that if you had to choose one event that established Goldies in US dirt-track racing, I would nominate Gene’s win at the Portland National in ’54. While Daytona had shown the Gold Star had long-distance reliability, most US races were on relatively short dirt tracks where torque and acceleration were the qualities needed, both of which the Indian and Harley v-twins had in spades but after the Portland National, you start to see US racers riding Gold Stars. For years, the UK National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham had a picture of Gene Thiessen on his national championship Gold Star in the entrance - and I'm sure many people had no idea who he was.

BSA held Thiessen in high esteem and offered him a position in the UK as one of BSA’s factory riders, to race alongside people like Bill Nicholson, Jeff Draper and Fred Rist but with a full-time job and family, Gene declined and stayed in the US.

Gene hung-up his racing leathers after the San Jose mile in 1958. He’d finished 9th in the National tables that year and with the constant travelling of thousands of miles to attend events he was getting older and was tired of managing all the travelling with a full-time job and family and quit.

I came to know Gene through my work first researching, then restoring a couple of 1954 BSA Daytona Bikes. Initially corresponding by letter and phone calls, I had the great pleasure to meet Gene in 2004 when the completed bikes were displayed at Daytona with as many of the original riders in attendance for a 50th anniversary party. 50 years after the event, some riders’ memories were not so clear on the kind of details a restorer wants to know about, but Gene’s was pin sharp - I still have all the notes I took from our chats and they’re still a source of information about BSAs in the USA that I refer to often.

He was quietly, modestly, a great rider who only ever raced BSAs, a great part of BSAs history – and a lovely man.

Gene Thiessen beside Gold Star #1.jpg

Myles Raymond, Glasgow, Scotland.

1934 BSA R35-4 DeLuxe, 1949 ZB32 Clubman Gold Star, 1955 BSA A7ss, 1961 DBD34 Clubman Gold Star and others.
"A tidy workshop is a shop where no work is ever done" - my Dad.
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Q
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a few more pics
[Linked Image from a7a10.net]
[Linked Image from images.squarespace-cdn.com]
[Linked Image from images.squarespace-cdn.com]
[Linked Image from images.squarespace-cdn.com]

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Originally Posted by Myles Raymond
He on the West Coast, along with Tommy McDermott on the East Coast were the riders first adopted and sponsored once BSA had appointed US distributors. It was their early racing successes that promoted BSA as a brand in a market where BSA were not well known, but that became BSA’s biggest market by the mid 50’s. It is not inaccurate to say that without Gene and the riders like Al Gunter and Dick Mann who were initially put under Gene’s wing by West Coast Distributor Hap Alzina, BSA may not have survived though the 1950s.

.



While I whole heartedly agree with Miles with most of his information, I will take exception to this bit. If you look at the last picture in Quinten's post you will see three BSA Daytona riders for the '49 race. #57 is Hubert Simon who rode for the BSA factory at Daytona for four years starting in '48 and a best place finish of 11th in the '50 race. While Hubert wasn't the full time racer like Gene he did race locally and own a BSA dealership, (read his tee shirt), in Portland along with his partner AMA Hall of Famer Roy Burke. Allied Motors in Portland was at one time Hap Alzina's biggest BSA dealer and more Gold Stars were sold out of their shop than any other shop West of the Mississippi. I now own #57 and I'm slowly gathering the parts to restore it to Daytona race trim.


Bill B...

Last edited by Boomer; 08/09/21 10:56 pm.

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... and it may not be inaccurate to include Hubert Simon and others too!

But the Obit was for Gene, who never made it into the AMA Hall of Fame.


Myles Raymond, Glasgow, Scotland.

1934 BSA R35-4 DeLuxe, 1949 ZB32 Clubman Gold Star, 1955 BSA A7ss, 1961 DBD34 Clubman Gold Star and others.
"A tidy workshop is a shop where no work is ever done" - my Dad.

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