This past Wednesday, June 3rd, I had the great pleasure of entertaining one of the great motorcycle land speed legends of all time — Denis Manning.
About a week ago, I received a phone call from Denis, who let me know that he be in the area. Denis and I have known each other for about thirty years, and due to our busy schedules, its a rare occasion that we get a chance to get together and catch up on old times. Regarded as one of the world’s premier designers and fabricators of land speed racing motorcycles, over the years Denis has been a part of more motorcycle land speed racing record breaking teams than anyone in history and continues to leave his mark on the sport.
Denis has been into motorcycles since he was a kid. At the age of thirteen, his interest in land speed racing was sparked after attending the Bonneville Land Speed Record Trials. While there, Manning was fortunate enough to see Mickey Thompson, and his four-engine streamliner car, "Challenger", make history with a new land speed record. It was here that Manning developed his love for "going fast", and decided to devote his life to land speed racing.
By the time he was in his early 20s, Manning had developed his first streamliner to compete at the Bonneville Salt flats. Powered by a stock Sportster engine running on gasoline, Denis himself piloted the machine to a speed of over 187 miles per hour, immediately gaining the attention of some of the biggest names in the game.
Soon after his initial success at the Salt Flats, the 24-year old Manning was contacted by Harley-Davidson racing chief, Dick O’Brien, for a new Bonneville project. Teaming up with O’Brien, as well as H-D engine tuner Warner Riley and George Smith of what would later become S&S Cycle, Manning would provide his design expertise and knowledge in an attempt to build a streamliner that would surpass the Don Vesco land speed record of 251.92 mph. Piloted by H-D factory rider and AMA road race champion, Cal Rayborn, the team’s nitro-methane burning 89 cubic inch sportster engine powered streamliner would record a two-way average speed of 265 miles per hour, breaking the old record and claiming its place as the fastest motorcycle in the world.
In 1976, Denis started BUB Enterprises and would begin to provide the motorcycle industry with high-performance exhaust systems. Initially a manufacturer of solely Triumph exhaust systems, Manning had the experience with countless European brands that would allow him to manufacture what was regarded as the "best pipe out there". He would soon expand his business to include systems for Harley-Davidson, and in 2002, Manning teamed up with Gerald Rhinehart of Nascar fame to manufacturer new exhaust for H-D touring bikes that would change the industry. Since, the Rinehart True Duals would become the best selling aftermarket pipes of all time.
In the years following his contribution Harley-Davidson’s land speed record breaking machine in 1970, Manning would combine his experience and expertise in countless land speed record attempts, claiming many along the way. Building for Harley-Davidson, Triumph, and Norton to name a few, since his introduction to the sport, Manning has owned six of the eleven "fastest motorcycles in history".
His 40-plus year experience and knowledge have culminated over the last several years into his most recent land speed racing attempts with the specially constructed BUB "Seven" Streamliner. Powered by Manning’s own design engine — a 3-liter, V-4 turbocharged 16-valve dual overhead cam engine, the "Seven" Streamliner produces over 500 horsepower to the rear wheel and over 400 lb/ft of torque. Constructed out of mostly carbon-fiber, the machine measures 21 feet in length, is only 22 inches wide, and weighs a mere 1600 pounds.
In 2006, Denis and rest of the BUB team teamed up with seven time AMA Flat-track Grand National Champion, Chris Carr, and brought "Seven" to the Bonneville Salt Flats to make history. With Carr behind the controls, "Seven" recorded a new world land speed record of 350.8 mph, conquering a two-day old record which previously had stood for over 16 years.
With the endless goal of always going faster, Manning has his eyes on breaking the current land speed record with another attempt by "Seven" and Chris Carr. With new modifications to the engine, the team has been testing the machine in simulated environments in hopes of achieving success.
For more information on Denis Manning, BUB Enterprises or the "Seven" Streamliner, visit www.BUB.com.