Motobituary - Remembering Those Riders Who Have Moved On

    Many great motorcyclists, racers, and pioneers, have passed on to the great beyond, and like a fourstroke with a bad camshaft, eventually we all will be joining them. Make no mistake about it, these guys ripped up many a race track and were every bit the professional.  This page is dedicated to them.

Gary Nixon (January 25 1941 – August 5 2011) was an American motorcycle racer who, when on Triumph motorcycles, most notably won the A.M.A. Grand National Championship in 1967 and 1968. He was also a former winner of the Daytona 200 motorcycle race on a 500cc Triumph, claiming a victory in the 1967 event.  Nixon was also known for his partnership with legendary tuner Erv Kanemoto when they won the 1973 U.S. National Road Racing Championship for Kawasaki. In 1976 he competed at the international level, laying claim to the Formula 750 world championship until international politics denied him that prize. He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003.  He last resided in Maryland and participated in vintage motorcycle racing as well as testing motorcycles for the locally produced syndicated public TV automotive review program MotorWeek.

Nixon suffered a heart attack on July 29 2011 and died on August 5 from complications. He was 70.


Terrence Steven "Steve" McQueen (March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an American movie actor.  He was nicknamed "The King of Cool." His "anti-hero" persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world.

He was an avid racer of both motorcycles and cars. While he studied acting, he supported himself partly by competing in weekend motorcycle races and bought his first motorcycle with his winnings.

McQueen was an avid motorcycle and racecar enthusiast. When he had the opportunity to drive in a movie, he performed many of his own stunts.

Perhaps the most memorable were the car chase in Bullitt and motorcycle chase in The Great Escape. Although the jump over the fence in The Great Escape was actually done by Bud Ekins for insurance purposes, McQueen did have a considerable amount of screen time riding his 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle. It was difficult to find riders as skilled as McQueen.  At one point, due to clever editing, McQueen is seen in a German uniform chasing himself on another bike.

Together with John Sturges, McQueen planned to make Day of the Champion, a movie about Formula One racing. He was busy with the delayed The Sand Pebbles, though. They had a contract with the German Nürburgring, and after John Frankenheimer shot scenes there for Grand Prix, the reels had to be turned over to Sturges. Frankenheimer was ahead in schedule anyway, and the McQueen/Sturges project was called off.

McQueen considered becoming a professional race car driver. In the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring race, Peter Revson and McQueen (driving with a cast on his left foot from a motorcycle accident two weeks before) won with a Porsche 908/02 in the 3 litre class and missed winning overall by 23 seconds to Mario Andretti/Ignazio Giunti/Nino Vaccarella in a 5 litre Ferrari 512S. The same Porsche 908 was entered by his production company Solar Productions as a camera car for Le Mans in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans later that year. McQueen wanted to drive a Porsche 917 with Jackie Stewart in that race, but his film backers threatened to pull their support if he did. Faced with the choice of driving for 24 hours in the race or driving the entire summer making the film, McQueen opted to do the latter.  Le Mans is considered by some  to be the most historically realistic representation in the history of the race.

McQueen also competed in off-road motorcycle racing. His first off-road motorcycle was a Triumph 500cc that he purchased from friend and stunt man Ekins. McQueen raced in many top off-road races on the West Coast, including the Baja 1000, the Mint 400 and the Elsinore Grand Prix. In 1964, with Ekins on their Triumph TR6 Trophys, he represented the United States in the International Six Days Trial, a form of off-road motorcycling Olympics. He was inducted in the Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1971, Solar Productions funded the now-classic motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday, in which McQueen is featured along with racing legends Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith. Also in 1971, McQueen was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine riding a Husqvarna dirt bike.

McQueen collected classic motorcycles. By the time of his death, his collection included over 100 and was valued in the millions of dollars.


Jim Pomeroy (November 16, 1952 in Sunnyside, Washington - August 6, 2006 in Yakima, Washington) was a professional motocross racer. In 1973, he became the first American rider to win a FIM world championship motocross race when he rode a Bultaco Pursang to victory in the 1973 250cc Spanish motocross Grand Prix. At the time, European riders still dominated the sport of motocross and Americans weren't considered as talented. The news of his victory created a huge wave of excitement in America where motocross was undergoing an explosive growth in popularity. His victory signaled that American motocross riders were ready to compete with the best in the world. He retired from competitive motocross in 1980.

In 1987, Pomeroy was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a crash that left him with permanent damage to his back. Still, his involvement with the sport remained constant as he competed in vintage events conducted motocross schools throughout the Northwest. His extremely outgoing nature and tremendous sense of humor made Jim a most welcome speaker at motocross events worldwide. Pomeroy was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.  He raced with AHRMA till his death after mid-Ohio in 2006.

On August 6, 2006 Pomeroy was killed when his Jeep rolled in a single vehicle accident near Yakima, Washington.

Career Highlights

  • The first American to win an FIM World Championship MX Event (Spain 1973)
  • The first rider to win his debut World GP MX race (Spain 1973)
  • The first American to lead the World MX Championship (Spain 1973)
  • The first rider to win a World MX GP on a Spanish MX bike (Bultaco)
  • The first winner of an indoor Supercross race (Houston, 1974)
  • The first American to lead the Trans-AMA Championship (1975)
  • The first American to win a moto at the U.S. 500cc GP race (Carlsbad 1977)
  • The first non-world champion to win the Trophies des-Nations event (1974)

Motocross Grand Prix Results



Adolf Weil (December 25, 1938 - May 12, 2011) was a German motocross racer. He competed in the FIM 250cc and 500cc Motocross Grand Prix world championships as a rider for the Maico factory racing team during the 1960s and 1970s.

Weil finished second to Håkan Andersson in the 1973 250cc World Championship, and finished in third place three times in the 500cc World Championship.  While he was never able to capture an international title, he won 14 German motocross national championships.  Weil won the 1973 Trans-AMA championship at the age of 34.  He was known as the 'Iron Man' of motocross because he competed for over 20 years in a physically demanding sport that is dominated by younger riders. After retiring from competition in 1977, he ran a motorcycle business with his two sons Frank and Jürgen in his hometown of Solingen, Germany.

Danny "Magoo" Chandler (October 5, 1959 – May 4, 2010) was a professional motocross racer.  He is remembered for his hard-charging, aggressive riding style.

Chandler began his professional motocross career with the Maico factory racing team in 1979. He was nicknamed Magoo by his father at an early age, and the name stuck.  By 1982 he had earned a place in the American Honda factory racing team and claimed the biggest victory of his career when he won the U.S. 500cc Motocross Grand Prix.  In 1982 he also won both races in the Motocross des Nations as well as the Trophee des Nations, becoming the first rider to win both motos of both events in the same year.

After being dropped from the Honda team, Chandler went to Europe to compete in the Motocross World Championships. His career ended when he was left paralyzed after a crash at a supercross race in Paris.  Despite the setback, Chandler began promoting mountain bike races and became involved with D.A.R.E.  Chandler was inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

Chandler died on May 4, 2010 from illnesses related to his paralysis.




Herbert James "Burt" Munro (Bert in his youth) (25 March 1899 – 6 January 1978) was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967.  This record still stands today. Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record.

Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to highly modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle that he had bought that same year. Munro set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. He travelled to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to set world speed records. During his ten visits to the salt flats, he set three speed records, one of which still stands today. His efforts, and success, are the basis of the motion picture The World's Fastest Indian (2005), starring Anthony Hopkins, and an earlier 1971 short documentary film Burt Munro: Offerings to the God of Speed,  both directed by Roger Donaldson.

 Munro was born in 1899 in Invercargill. His twin sister died at birth  and Munro grew up on a farm in Edendale, east of Invercargill.

Munro's interest in speed began at a young age, riding the family's fastest horse across the farm, despite the complaints of his father. Trips via train to the port at Invercargill were a rare source of excitement, and the arrival of cars, motorcycles and aircraft added to Burt's eagerness to join the world outside of his farm. As Munro's family discouraged his endeavours outside of farm life, he became constantly bored with daily routine, and at the outbreak of World War I, he intended to go to war as soon as he was old enough, for a chance to see the world.Munro remained on the family farm until the end of the First World War, when his father sold the farm while Munro worked on the Otira Tunnel construction until recalled to work with his father on a newly purchased farm. After this he became a professional speedway rider, but returned home to the family farm at the start of the Great Depression. Finding work as a motorcycles salesman and mechanic, he still raced motorcycles and rose to the top of the New Zealand motorcycle scene, racing on Oreti Beach and later in Melbourne, Australia.

After World War II, Munro and his wife divorced, after which he gave up work to reside in a lock-up garage.Munro's Indian Scout was very early off the production line, being only the 627th Scout to leave the American factory.  The bike had an original top speed of 55 mph (89 km/h).  But this did not satisfy Munro, so in 1926 he decided to start modifying his beloved Indian.

The biggest two challenges for Munro to overcome while modifying his bike were his lack of money and the fact that he worked full time as a motorcycle salesman.  He would often work overnight on his bikes (he had a 1936 Velocette MSS as well), then he would go to work in the morning, having had no sleep the night before.

Because Munro was a man of modest means, he would often make parts and tools himself instead of having them professionally built. For example, he would cast parts in old tins, make his own barrels, pistons, flywheels, etc. His micrometer (a precision measuring instrument) was an old spoke.

In its final stages, the Indian's displacement was 950 cc (as built it was 600 cc) and was driven by a triple chain drive system.

The "Munro Special," as Munro called his bike, is now owned by a motorcycle enthusiast in New Zealand's South Island, and is on display at E Hayes & Sons, Invercargill. There is also a second motorcycle purported to be the original "Munro Special" in America.

 The Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah, are known worldwide for their many miles of flat, compacted salt, perfect for testing speed machines. During Speed Week, usually in mid-late August, vehicle enthusiasts from around the world gather at Bonneville.Munro travelled to Bonneville ten times, the first time for "sightseeing" purposes. In the nine times he raced at Bonneville,  Munro set three world records, in 1962, 1966 and 1967. He also once qualified at over 200 mph (320 km/h), but that was an unofficial run and was not counted.Following the mis-spelling of his name in an American motorcycling magazine in 1957, Bert Munro changed his name to Burt.


  • In 1962, he set a world record of 288 km/h (178.95 mph) with his engine bored out to 850 cc (52 cubic inches)
  • In 1966, he set a world record of 270.476 km/h (168.066 mph)
  • In 1967, his engine was bored out to 950 cc (58 cubic inches) and he set a class record of 295.453 km/h (183.586 mph). To qualify he made a one-way run of 305.89 km/h (190.07 mph), the fastest-ever officially-recorded speed on an Indian.  The unofficial speed record (officially timed) is 331 km/h (205.67 mph) for a flying mile.
  • In 2006, he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Calvin Rayborn II (February 20, 1940(1940-02-20) – December 29, 1973(1973-12-29) (aged 33)) was a top American motorcycle road racer in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Rayborn began riding motorcycles at an early age. He began his racing career in dirt track events in Southern California and in 1964, he began racing professionally in the A.M.A. Grand National Championship, a series which encompassed events in four distinctive dirt track disciplines plus road racing. Rayborn excelled at road racing, winning his first AMA national at Carlsbad, California in 1966.

His prowess on road courses earned him a place on the Harley Davidson factory racing team. It was with Harley Davidson that he achieved his greatest success, winning two consecutive Daytona 200 victories in 1968 and 1969. He also set two 1970 motorcycle land speed records. He accomplished a tremendous feat when he competed in the Trans-Atlantic Match Races in England in 1972.  The Trans-Atlantic Match Races pitted the best British riders against the top American road racers. On an outdated motorcycle with no experience on British race tracks, Rayborn won three of the six races.

At the end of 1973, it was apparent that the Harley Davidson team couldn't provide him with a competitive motorcycle, so Rayborn accepted an offer to race for the Suzuki factory.  In late 1973, Rayborn travelled to New Zealand to compete in an auto racing event and to test ride a Suzuki. At the Pukekohe Park Raceway outside of Auckland, Rayborn was killed when he crashed after the bike's engine had seized, and his body slammed into a wall close to the track.

Rayborn was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.