What were you riding when you were 13 years old? In 1953, Californian kid Bobby Sirkegian was racing in the equivalent of the NHRA Nationals, so I’m surprised he’s not a household name in motorcycling circles. Bobby used to campaign this Triumph Thunderbird dragbike, “Pretty Boy II”: as a teenager he was a successful drag racer, before taking the flat tracks by storm and becoming the 1957 AMA Novice Champion. By 1960, though, Bobby’s track career was over—curtailed by his father’s untimely passing, and the need to look after the family motorcycle business. Today Sirkegian (below) is 71, but he’s held on to his racebikes all these years. “Pretty Boy II” is a 1952 Triumph Thunderbird 650 dragster, restored by Bobby himself, and it’s going on the auction block this coming weekend.
The Thunderbird got its speed from a hopped-up motor put together by ace wrench man Fred Ford, who gave the top end oversize valves, S&W springs and a flow-benched cylinder head. A lightened valvetrain with special Iskenderian cams also played a part, as did high-compression pistons and a custom twin-carb setup. (Remote-mounted floatbowls helped combat fuel starvation at high rpm.) This is the actual bike that Bobby rode in 1953 in Pomona—when he was just 13 years old—in the first sanctioned drag race championships. Sirkegian won both the 500 and 650cc classes, and repeated the feat in ’54. Eventually there were three “Pretty Boys”; #1 and #2 ran on gas, while #3 inhaled a potent nitromethane mix. Before he quit drag racing, Bobby had amassed more than 200 wins, from California to Kansas City. I guess that’s what you call a track record.