It was tremendously surprising for many to see the final Top Fuel Motorcycle of drag racing legend, the late Elmer Trett hit the auction block this past weekend. It is the same bike Trett came off of and lost his life in a racing accident at the 1996 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind.
It would be the equivalent of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s final race car that he fatally crashed at the 2001 Daytona 500 going up for auction.
For many, just like with Trett’s motorcycle, it’s a deeply emotional, priceless piece.
Along with sentimental value, the bike was quite historical as Trett obliterated the world records with the machine with a 6.06 at 237 mph. By all accounts he was far ahead of his competition.
Trett meant a great deal to so many. At the 2016 IDBL WPGC Bike Fest at Maryland International Raceway we dedicated the entire Top Fuel Race to Trett and all the teams wore Elmer t-shirts and we had Portable Shade make a special banner.
For a man to still be this respected, loved and revered 20 years after his death speaks to how great he was.
Much can change in 27 years and the convoluted story of how Trett’s bike ended up on the auction block is a vivid reminder of how time waits for none of us. It’s also a reminder of the importance of a well-written contract.
After Trett’s untimely death the motorcycle’s yellow bodywork was cut into pieces and given as keepsakes to special sponsors, friends and those meaningful to Trett’s to race program.
The bike was eventually patched back together for display purposes and posterity. The chassis was likely twisted during the accident and some of the imperative internal components were left out. The purple body Trett campaigned the year prior was used to finish the historical show bike.
As Trett protege Larry “Spiderman” McBride, who has never made a pass without an Elmer Trett shirt on since his mentor’s death said, “It is a bike to remember Elmer by. It was never meant to run again.”
The motorcycle was initially on loan by the family to motorsports memorabilia bar “Race Rock” on Freemont Street in Las Vegas, before the establishment ultimately closed for good in 2001.
That’s when John Parham, founder of successful motorcycle accessory company J&P Cycles and owner of the National Motorcycle Museum in his hometown of Anamosa, Iowa bought the legendary race bike off the Trett family for $50,000, according to Parham’s wife Jill.
Trett’s daughter Gina says along with the sale came a personal promise from Parham to never sell the bike.
Unfortunately, after battling health complications, that included a lung transplant, Parham passed away in 2017.
His widow Jill kept the museum going for the past six-years, but exhausted and overwhelmed, she decided it was time to retire and Mecum Auctions was brought in to liquidate everything. Even the building is for sale.
Jill Parham says she offered to sell the bike back to the family for what her husband paid for it, but the conversation between the Trett family and the museum seemed to break down in what was clearly an emotionally-charged, unenviable situation that involved both families losing a loved one and verbal promises that were never put into writing.
Gina says the bike was never offered to her.
“Had she offered that to us, we would have taken that offer,” Lang said. “We were open to discussion. There was no discussion.”
This lead to Trett’s daughter Gina and her husband, Top Fuel Motorcycle legend Tony “The Tiger” Lang, who was in the other lane when his father-in-law fell to his death in Indy, to show up on-site in an attempt to win the motorcycle back.
The extremely high value of the rare race bike, the desire of the family to keep it, and the emotional significance of the piece made for a difficult scenario when “Mountain Magic 4” hit the auction block this past Saturday.
As you will see in the video the motorcycle ascended at a rapid pace and the family was quickly priced out.
That’s when Sid Chantland, 59, of Montrose, Minnseota came with a starting bid around $52,000, ultimately winning the auction for $60,000.
“I was not going to bid against the family at all. I wanted to make sure they were done bidding,” Chantland said. “I did not want to see anyone else get it. I heard of interest from a phone bidder in California and others on the internet and I did not want to see it slip away.”
With all of the fees incurred Chantland paid about $72,000 to get the motorcycle home.
Chantland is a longtime drag racing enthusiast. His father, Bob Chantland, used to race a Top Fuel twin-engine Triumph and helped drag bike legend Borris Murray, who ran Chantland Sr.’s aluminum cylinders.
Chantland never got the chance to meet to Trett but was always an admirer of his talent and what he did for the sport.
“The workmanship of his motorcycle is just amazing and impeccable,” Chantland said.
As for the plans for the bike, Chantland says he will honor the Trett family’s wish to never take the motorcycle down the track again.
Fans of Trett will be pleased that the opportunity to see the bike in public may still exist.
As a collector who owns about a dozen vintage drag bikes, mostly nostalgia 4-inch slick bikes and someone who attended the vintage drag racing meet in Bowling Green, Ky., Chantland says he would like to start the motorcycle up again as a tribute to Trett, if he got the family’s approval.
“I would only do that if the family approved,” Chantland said. “It would be great to be able to cackle it.”
Cycledrag will keep you posted on the future of the legendary drag bike.
To take advantage of some amazing discounts at Brock’s Performance, click – http://brocksperformance.com?aff=12
USE cycledrag5 coupon code.