October, 1970: The remains of the Gyronaut's canopy, tail and bodywork get inventoried to assess the extent of the crash damage. Still with an eye on reclaiming the world record now held by Denis Manning and his Harley-Davidson streamliner, they decided to mildly repair the body in order to create a new Gyronaut by taking molds off the body pieces with the hopes of lengthening the chassis to fit two Triumph Trident engines. The plans fell through, however, when Leppan needed to focus on running his dealership rather than running for the record.
Fast forward 43 years to the night before its departure to be restored. At this point, Bob Leppan had the chassis restored by Jim Lamb and Tony Kulka at Jefferson Motor Service, but the engines and body remained untouched since the early 1970's. Both the canopy and the engine cover were gone and needed to be completely fabricated.
All loaded up and secured in the Horseless Carriage trailer, the Gyronaut is about to embark on a cross-country trek from California to New Jersey to Detroit and finally to the Bonneville Salt Flats where it is planning to be run again for an historic exhibition to celebrate its return home.
The Gyronaut never had it so good during its competition days. Now it gets to relax in the comfort of an enclosed trailer for its journey back in time. Typically towed on an open trailer exposed to wind, rain and road grit, the Gyronaut has earned its retirement from competition and deserves its travel protected from the elements.
Upon arrival at Rob Ida's
, the Gyronaut is immediately greeted by its proposed Bonneville tow vehicle, a 1948 Tucker recreation built by Rob Ida Concepts
for the upcoming movie, Sin City II. With little time before Speed Week 2013, there's no time to waste admiring the view. The old fiberglass and missing pieces need the full attention of the crew tasked with turning the clock back almost half a century.
If you're not familiar with some of the cars to come out of the shop at Rob Ida Concepts, then you've been missing some of the coolest rides ever created. Here's just a few samples of the top quality work that goes on every day at the shop. It's not work, it's passion...
The distinctive profile of the Gyronaut starts to take shape with Sean Tucker shaping the foam into the contours of the Gyronaut's missing pieces. The entire process took place under the protective cover of the next twin-turbo'd Tucker being created. It was absolutely appropriate to have these two beautiful creations over and under during both of their simultaneous builds.
Sean, his brother Mike and Dad John Tucker, Jr. are also keeping the legend of Preston Tucker and his car alive over at Preston Tucker, LLC
. Check them out when you get the chance...
The lengthy process of accurately recreating the missing parts is begun by building the foam profile of the Gyronaut from original drawings, blueprints and vintage photographs. Sean Tucker, one of Preston Tucker's great-grandsons, traveled long distances to help with the project. The complex curves of the Gyronaut's profile really is now taking shape.
The Circle of Life: 67 years ago, Alex Tremulis helped Preston Tucker realize his dream car by styling the most radical car of the time. Here, Preston Tucker's great-grandson, Sean Tucker, helps shape the missing canopy for Alex Tremulis' Gyronaut, now owned by Alex Tremulis' nephew, Steve Tremulis. Add in another of Preston Tucker's great-grandsons (and Sean's twin), Mike, and you've got a story that will be told for generations to come. And where else would all of this take place? None other than under the guidance of Rob Ida at Rob Ida Concepts where his Granddad, Joe, and brothers Frank and Dominic signed up to be a Tucker dealer in Yonkers. That love for all-things-Tucker has carried on through the generations for all three families who now find themselves intertwined in the dreams their forefathers created and in the process making new stories for future generations, young and old, to enjoy time and again. Goosebumps!!!
With the fresh fiberglass laid up and curing, at last the Gyronaut is starting to look more like it did in the middle of the last century. But there's still plenty of work to be done to bring the body back to its former glory. Endless sanding, shaping and fitting is required to obtain a perfect fit for both the old and new body panels.
The engine's air intakes are recreated on the sides of the engine cover. These provide a cool 200MPH breeze over the air-cooled twin-Triumph Bonneville engines that lie beneath.
The canopy gets fitted with the plexiglass windshield that used extremely complex curves to fight wind resistance. One can only imagine the difficulty of wrapping the windshield to fit the various contours of the original flowing design. For the first time in 43 years, the Gyronaut has its canopy back over the driver's seat.
After countless hours of prepping the vintage fiberglass to accept a new coat of Titian Red, Rob Ida suits up to spray the first coats onto the once-bare body parts.
Rob Ida mixing up a quick batch of Sebring Silver to add finishing touches to preserve the rear access panel that still bears the Gyronaut's original pinstriper's signature, "Wild Bill" of Detroit.
All the body pieces now wear the colors of the record-breaking runs of 1966 when the Gyronaut captured the title as "World's Fastest Motorcycle".
While the Gyronaut chassis awaits its reconditioned body parts, what better company to hang out with than a Porsche 550?
Bob Ida, Rob's Dad, looks on as Rob prepares the bellypan for another coat of paint. The teamwork of the father and son is evident in their attention to detail that most builders often miss.
John meticulously works on the edges of the engine cover to ensure a precise fit with both old and new fiberglass. Every piece of the Gyronaut's body received the same attention to detail in making the parts fit to both the chassis and the adjacent body panels.
Ryan fitting the nosecone to the bulkhead. Both the nosecone and the canopy share just a two inch landing on the front bulkhead to conteract the force of a 250 MPH wind. It's the Gyronaut's low coefficient of drag that keeps those forces to a minimum in order to achieve the highest speeds possible.
Arty buffing out the freshly laid paint. Hour upon hour of sanding out the finish with finer and finer sandpaper and then to several buffings brings out the most beautiful colors within the metallic Titian Red and Sebring Silver. By the end, Arty knew every square inch of the Gyronaut's paint and had each one shined to perfection.
Rob sanding the nosecone while ensuring that every bit of the Gyronaut's skin is consistently smooth and blemish free.
In the early 1970's the Gyronaut was entirely stripped of its 1970 colors and stored for the next 40 years. The only paint that was original was the signature that Bill Betz had hand-lettered on the rear access panel. That signature by "Wild Bill" was preserved by Rob Ida using the Sebring Silver to frame Wild Bill's handiwork. Wild Bill is still at it, and he will once again recreate his pinstriping and lettering exactly as he had done it just before the Gyronaut set the record 47 years ago!
Ryan, John and Arty assembling the Gyronaut for the umpteenth time while the Ida Tucker keeps an eye (or three) on their progress...
The Tucker and the Gyronaut side-by-side for some quick photos before more polishing and fitting. Rob's 356A and Triumph Bonneville complete a scene overflowing with awesomeness...
As they will appear on the salt, except with a bit more distance between the two, both Alex Tremulis designs look as timeless today as when they were first created. It's hard to believe that just 17 years separates these two advanced concepts...
The Idas taking a moment to admire the view of their Tucker accompanying the Gyronaut for a quick photo op. No one could take their eyes off the pairing. Perfect from every angle...
John, Rob, Arty, Bob and Ryan stand proud with their masterpiece. Inside, Rob's Triumph Bonneville and two Tuckers wait their turn for a photo op with the streamliner.
Bonnevilles everywhere you look. Rob's Triumph Bonneville alongside the twin-engine streamliner powered by none other than two of the early Triumph Bonneville powerplants. The Gyronaut would be last and fastest in Triumph's reign as World's Fastest Motorcycle, starting in 1956 with the Devil's Arrow/Texas Ceegar, and ending in 1970 with the Gyronaut.
On a side note: Land speed racing history again being attempted by Triumph? The latest attempt as a factory effort to set some speed records at Bonneville, this Castrol/Triumph streamliner may capture the glory as being the World's Fastest once again as the team from Triumph get ready for an assault in 2014. Just imagine old and new together again with the Gyronaut's original sponsors, Castrol and Triumph, behind both efforts. History repeats? Best of luck to Triumph rider, Jason DiSalvo...
Ryan applying the finishing touches just moments before being loaded into the trailer for a road trip to its next destination: Bob Leppan's, where he hasn't seen the Gyronaut wear these colors or have a roof over the rider's head since 1970! But that'll have to wait for the next entry!
So now we've got the Ida's, Tucker's and Tremulis' all striving to share these fantastic stories of family history and the cars and people that created their passions. They're making history as they're saving it. And it will be these future generations who will be carrying the torches so that everyone can see, hear and feel exactly why these dream cars have such a huge impact on the soul. To quote Bogart: I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
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