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Remembering Motorcycle Drag Racer Clem Johnson, creator of “The Barn Job”

Clem Johnson Dragbike Racer
Comments (25)
  1. David Althen says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a true legend of the sport of Drag Racing

  2. Mike Michaelsen says:

    A very nice tribute, well done.

  3. Dave Wallace Jr. says:

    NICE TRIBUTE,
    thank you,
    DW

  4. Noel Grise says:

    I remember reading about Clem and the Barn Job in Hot Rod Magazine many years ago and actually saw it run several times at Lions. To me Clem was to drag racing what Burt Munro was to land speed racing. They both took older bikes and did spectacular things with them.

  5. Gordon Kateley says:

    Great job Tom, on this history of Clem and “The Barn Job”. Clem bored my DC Linkert carb that I setup for Nitro, and helped me by riding my 55″ fuel Sportster at the Lions All Bike Meet in the fall of 1968. His first pass was 10.02 @ 145.39 which would have qualified for Top Fuel Bike class, except the trans broke on the second pass. He was always fun to talk to and very helpful to me in my early days of Drag Racing. I asked him to pose for pictures many times over the years and he always refused.. said he didn’t like to pose ?? I’ll always have fond memories of the man and his machine.. thanks again Gordon

  6. Marty Strode says:

    Back in 1966,Clem brought the “Barn Job” to the Woodburn Dragstrip here in Oregon. He put on one hell of a show, smoking the rear tire for at least half track and feathering the throttle for traction. If memory serves he was in the mid-9’s at 159 mph. Thank you for history lesson.

  7. Dana Winters says:

    Seen Clem at Lions & Fremont. Always one of my favorite drag bikes. Totally awesome !!!

  8. Jim Jones says:

    I always admired Clem and his Barn Job.
    I loved to watch when it was him matched up aginst Joe Smith or Boris Murrey for the money. That was some great racing.
    I ran a jr. Fuel triumph. The only time I won was when someone in top fuel broke:~)
    I mostly ran at the beach.
    Mostly ran @ the beach.

  9. Bob Murray says:

    I first saw Clem and the Barn Job in the late 50s at Fontana Raceway, before Mickey Tompson took it over. I fell inlove with motorcycles, especialy Vincent Shadows, and Rapides. I’ll be 71 in 3 wks. Still rideing, but the only Vincents are in my dreams, and memorys of Clem Johnson and the Barn Job. RIP

  10. Larry Skagen says:

    I met Clem at Lyons in the 60s, his Vincent was amazing. I ran a 650 Triumph, was 16 years old and pieced it together, got some Nitro and ran 12.59, 107 MPH before I blew the engine. Those were the days. RIP Clem.

  11. Johnathan Owen says:

    Reading this and seeing this article is just a magnificent piece of workmanship and worthiness as friends could ever be till the clock stops and daisies start to grow. For my grandpa Ralph and Clem it was a friendship bond for life. As mentioned in this article Clem was not one to take a picture. While standing outside waiting to take a family picture, in front of our grandparent’s house in Carson, California. I laughed out loud as a kid at this picture, while recalling, Clem trying to inch away, from zero to 150 mph to walk away from once again another picture. But not so fast grandma Mary said “Clem you will take this picture” Clem walking back with his head down says “alright I guess,” and lets out this distinctive laugh, which I can hear him to this day.
    Seeing and believing are two remarkable and amazing aspects of life in general to truly see. An up-close friendship these two both shared is truly a “Notebook” memory these two gentlemen shared. I like echo out high above Mount Everest to Mount Rushmore to thank my Tia Silvia and Tio Glenn for taking care of Clem Johnson until the time clock ticked no more, to this wonderful kindhearted gentleman expired at 82 years old. I like to thank Clem, and my grandpa Ralph and many others of importance for your pioneering time in the motorcycle world. You are truly the backbone of today’s generation of where rubber meets the road!
    Clem Johnson you will be remembered across the globe for your engineering aspects, and machinist capabilities. You have inspired many of motorcycle enthusiasts to take up the need for speed and to break records still to come.

    1. Bill Clarkson says:

      Hello Johnathan,
      I worked with Clem in Covina at Pall Corp and I drag raced VWs in late 67-72. We used to go to the pistol range once a week indoors. What fun we had working and talking over engine design, guns etc. I would like talking with you on the phone. Were you the rider he spoke of?
      Bill

      1. Glenn owen says:

        I’ll talk to you on the phone mr bill I’m Ralph’s son 1-310-678-7755

      2. james says:

        Great tribute I saw this bike run when I was a kid at original irwindale either 1 shift or none at all 8.58 172 mph

  12. tim yarnall says:

    These types of stories can’t be made up. I grew up in the 50’s and 60s, joe hemmis was a 5x national hill climbe, a neighbor, a lifetime family friend, and helped run their triumph shop on the side. His full time job was a railroader. Those were the golden age of biking. They made a movie about these guys; On Any Sunday. God bless these guys. Lifetime friendships that couldn’t be broken.

  13. Mark Simiola says:

    What a great tribute to a real pioneer. This is so inspiring for those of us who enjoy creating our own path. More than anything however Clem’s story, written by and contributed to, by his friends and those whose paths crossed with Clem is a lesson in respect, loyalty and true friendship. Thank you to Clem and all of the men mentioned in this story for giving the rest of us something to aspire to that has real value in our lives if we are fortunate enough to realize the importance of it.

  14. Mike White says:

    As Member and Owner of Vincent,s since 1960 and Friend of Vaughn Green of San Bruno California who introduced me to the Name Of this great man let me say I,m honored to have been aware of his existence and the contribution he made for and to the Vincent World

  15. patti. lamb says:

    My brother, Bob Baker, bought the Barn Job from Clam. He then raced it for a while, mostly at Pomona and Colton. Other brother, Ronny, raced Triumphs for Don McEvoy. I was Pit Crew. Lol.

  16. Greg Brashear says:

    Clem is an inspiration to us all. And by us, I mean all of us “barn jobs” out there! My cousins and I nursed a sportster to 3 national records in the idba in the late 1970’s and early 80’s and those were some of my fondest memories. I am 54 now and we went to Suzuki in later years, but I will never forget the days and nights with all of us smashed into the pickup cab with that ole lay down gas bike in the bed of the truck drinking a beer and going home with those records we set. God bless America!

  17. Greg Brashear says:

    I love to here stories about pioneers like Clem. Its should be an inspiration to our young people no matter what they choose to do.☺

  18. dale wooldridge says:

    me and my dad ted and my good brother roger saw the barn job make a pass at lions drag strip I think in 1969 he did a 149 mph on gas ill never for get it a lot of the dragster was running only 140 mph

  19. dale Wooldridge says: September 20 2016 12:29 me and my dad ted and my good brother roger saw the barn job make a pass at lions drag strip in 1968 he did a 149 mph on gas a lot of the dragster didn’t go that fast !

  20. Thomas E Loughlin Jr says:

    I have never been as moved by a vehicle as I was by hearing and seeing (in that order) It was at my race in Palmdale that this incredible moving THING made its’ last passes…187 mph wheel up for about 700 feet. I am NOT easily impressed after 50 years of carefully watching drag race cars and motocycles from an analytical point of view. This one didn’t just impress me, it flat outblew me away. (and everyone at LACR,
    too.

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