You know something is bloody dangerous when fellow adrenaline junkies wonder out loud if those other blokes might be a few sandwiches short of a picnic – or as we say in Australia – a few stubbies short of a six-pack. That’s how normal two-wheeled motorcycle racers look at those who compete in any form of sidecar racing, and it’s hard to argue. But when you’re a man who got as much out of life as Bobby Haas, it just seems like a damn good idea, a new challenge and a fun one at that. So, it made perfect sense that his best mate and world-class bike builder, Craig Rodsmith, would be tasked with constructing the three-wheeler to go after a world record. Brilliant as always in smooth polished alloy, their Moto Guzzi marvel is known as Mister Fahrenheit.
Bobby Haas as we all know was ‘The Patron Saint of Custom Bike Builders’ and along with his partner Stacey, they curated the coolest collection of bikes on the planet at the Haas Moto Museum. But as Craig tells us, this commission had a shift mid-course. “The idea for this build started out as a functional museum piece, an idea of Bobby Haas, who was an avid sidecar rider. It could occasionally be ridden by him and his partner Stacey around Dallas, but the idea quickly morphed into something a little more serious. Bobby wanted a sidecar outfit that he could make a land speed world record attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bobby had been bitten by the speed bug!”
In his ’70s at the time, Bobby could have picked a much easier record and challenge to go after, but that was never his way. “I’ve often said of my thrilling decade as a Nat Geo aerial photographer leaning out of open helicopters, and now of my days as a hopelessly addicted biker, that anyone who tells you that the risk is not part-and-parcel of the thrill is not telling you the truth,” Bobby told us back in 2018. This changed everything for Craig as a builder, he wasn’t just crafting his mate a stunning looking bike to serve out on the street, “I was now building something that could potentially put my dear friend in danger.”
It is a sentiment shared by legendary engine builder Chris Mayhew, who has said that building sidecar motors can make you feel a little like a drug dealer, such is their danger. But Craig is one of the best in the business and with a renewed focus he got on with the task. The land speed class they selected is “1000cc Sidecar Pushrod Gas”, with a current record around 128mph (205km/h), add salt and a sidecar and things get silly real quick! So to ensure they had a solid foundation with which to work, Craig built a seriously rigid chassis, based on an early Guzzi loop frame. The connected sidecar platform itself is kept minimal, as no passenger is allowed in a land speed run.
To help increase stability, the sidecar has its own suspension, with Craig ingeniously incorporating a shock below the platform. To assist the bike in the same area, the steering neck has increased rake and trail built in, while a set of modern USD forks and a steering damper help to control the beast when speeds get wild. Over the top of this goes Rodsmith’s signature polished aluminium bodywork. It features that beautiful dustbin fairing and aerodynamic fender to help punch through the air, and a hinged monocoque style tank – seat and tail combination – which is all about going quick over comfort.
“The engine build idea was a collaboration between myself and my friend Joe Walano – also known as the Guzzi Doctor – and he should take the credit for all the drivetrain assembly. It’s pretty fast,” Craig tells us. And what an engine it is that they’ve screwed together, based around an early ’70s round head Guzzi lump. The stock unit started life with a capacity of 850cc but has now been punched out to 977cc to keep them class legal with a new set of cylinders. Inside the balanced rotating assembly sports a lightened flywheel and swings a set of Carrillo rods and forged high-compression Venolia pistons.
To ensure maximum filling of the pots, the heads have been thoroughly ported and kitted out with new Kibblewhite valves and springs, which are opened and closed with a Raceco UK SS 1 cam. Getting the specs of everything right is vital for an engine that’s going to be screaming its lungs out on those long record-making runs. Keeping the fire fed is a pair of big 40mm Dell’Orto carbs with beautiful open stacks, and the ignition for the blaze is controlled by an electronic Dynatec unit. On the other side of the V-Twin, the exhaust is a pair of 1 3/4” stainless pipes that Craig made up, with brilliant side exits to really let you hear the big girl roar.
The transmission is a fresh five-speed that feeds all of that power through the Guzzi shaft drive, its smooth nature may just prove a big tick when out on that slippery salt that seems to have a mind of its own. Originally the rims were 18 inches in diameter, but custom spokes bring them down to 17, as the choice of tyres capable of crazy speeds is much more common in the smaller size.
Sadly, with Bobby’s passing in 2021, he never got the chance to take his sidecar to a speed record, but with his sage-like wisdom, he reminded us, “We all remember Secretariat (the triple crown winner), but very few of us remember who the jockey was. This could be the Secretariat of sidecars, whether Craig or I am the jockey, is much less important than putting Mister Fahrenheit out on the racetrack!”
That was Bobby, always letting the true subject of the story shine through, whether as a businessman, an ace photographer for Nat Geo or as the curator of his incredible collection. If you’ve seen the documentary ‘Leaving Tracks’, you’ll know that because of Covid, Bobby was unable to race his slick sidecar at Bonneville. But as things slowly began to open up, he recommenced the journey of making that record attempt on the salt flats a reality.
Surrounded by Stacey, Craig and all who loved him, the emotional ride, with that famed twinkle in his eye has been brilliantly captured in the forthcoming documentary ‘Racing Mister Fahrenheit’. And we’ll have the trailer and details of the release for you very soon, right here on Pipeburn.