August 15, 2012 - Pebble Beach, CA
: The Triumph-powered Gyronaut X-1, will be on public display for the first time since it last ran for the motorcycle land-speed record in 1970. Powered by two Triumph Bonneville engines, the Gyronaut X-1, set the world's record for motorcycles at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in 1966, and held the record for four years, by achieving an average speed of over 245 miles per hour. It was the last of all the Triumph-powered motorcycles to hold the title as the "World's Fastest," a reign Triumph held from 1956 through 1970.
The design team responsible for the record-breaking Gyronaut reads like a "Who's Who" list for the automotive industry. The Gyronaut's body was designed by Automobile Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Citation recipient, Alex Tremulis, who was a chief stylist for Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, Briggs-Le Baron (the 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt was his design), American Bantam, Crosley, Kaiser-Frazer, Ford, and most notably, the Tucker Corporation for his contribution to the Tucker '48. To build the sleek aero-dynamic body, Tremulis commissioned the assistance of an old Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg colleague, Vince Gardner, best known for his award-winning sports car, the 1947 Studebaker Vince Gardner Special, which is also on display at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
The chassis, made from all chromoly tubing, was welded together by Motor Sports Hall of Fame inductees and legendary drag racing chassis builders, Ron and Gene Logghe of Logghe Stamping. Also lending their expertise in building record-setting speed machines, champion drag racers, Maynard Rupp, Roy Steffey, and John Marsh became part of the team.
Both engines, supplied by Triumph, were fitted with Sonny Routt's big-bore 820cc Bonneville kits and included a host of other speed shop components that typified the 1960s performance upgrades. The auto industry dream team had created an engineering masterpiece, and on January 22, 1965, the Gyronaut was the first motorcycle to win the coveted P. A. Sturtevant Engineering Achievement Award at the Annual Detroit Autorama.
During the Gyronaut's last run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1970, the front suspension disintegrated, causing it to uncontrollably tumble at speeds of 264mph. The crash left the Gyronaut's driver, Bob Leppan, seriously injured, but alive. Since its crash in 1970, Leppan has made partial restorations to the chassis, but the fiberglass body and both engines are still in original condition. The complete restoration process, scheduled for later this year, will be part of a full-length documentary of the Gyronaut story helmed by Curt Wallin and John Greene, the director/producers of the award-winning "Boys of Bonneville: Racing on a Ribbon of Salt."
The Gyronaut X-1 is on public display as part of MidAmerica Auction's Antique Motorcycle MarketPlace and Online Auction at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance August 17-19, 2012 amidst an eclectic collection of 100 rare antique motorcycles including headliners such as a 1940 Indian 4 Cylinder and a 1938 Triumph Speed Twin owned by the world-renown actor and motorcycle aficionado, Steve McQueen, six 1963-1967 Triumph Bonneville T120 TT Specials, a 1968 Honda CL77 Scrambler owned by the late Jim Morrison of the Doors, 1916 Harley Davidson 8-Valve Racer, 1953 Vincent Black Shadow Series C, 1939 Brough Superior 1150 V-Twin, and a 1912 Wagner Belt Drive Single. The auction will also be available online at www.MidAmericaAuctionsBid.com to those collectors that cannot personally attend.
While the Gyronaut is not for sale, the restoration team is seeking sponsors who would like to contribute to its historic preservation and plans to return to Bonneville. Steve and Sandra Tremulis will be onsite at the Concours, to discuss the Gyronaut X-1 Restoration Project. A trailer of the upcoming documentary and filmed footage of the Gyronaut X-1 is available on the project's website at www.gyronautx1.com.