BUGWING

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Although the idea for building a trike first occurred to me in 1995 when I saw a Tri-Magnum at the 20th Annual Christian Motorcyclistís Association rally in Hatfield, Arkansas, in 1995, it took several years for anything to finally start happening in terms of action.  Iíd think of different configurations for doing a trike while I would ride on the motorcycle to and from rallies and other events, but nothing really jumped out at me until I had the idea of cutting up a VW Bug body and using it.   Iíve owned a number of VW Bugs over the years, and, when I thought of that, I had my idea for a trike body that would be to my liking. However, I didnít actually get started in any way until 1998.  A number of people have questioned the 3-wheel configuration, with two wheels up front, so, in addition to the Tri-Magnum site I linked to above, here is another page from his site dealing with 3-wheel vehicle handling characteristics, a diagram to go with it, and some other pages for additional reading about 3-wheel vehicles.  These pages may address some questions you have.  However, you have to be able to "think outside the crock pot," (Rosenberg, 2002), or, as Apple computer puts it, to:

Anyway, while out for lunch one day in October, 1998,  driving around aimlessly, I noticed an old 1965 VW Bug with weeds growing around it outside the fence of the back yard of a house .  I approached the guy who owned it, asked if heíd consider selling it, and purchased it for $100.00.  With the help of a friend who owns a trailer, it was moved 25 miles to the town where I live, it was ìparkedî  outside my fatherís shop,  and I got started.

Iíd never done anything like what I was about to attempt and I had never removed a VW Bug from its floor pan, although I had the understanding from somewhere it was just held in place by some bolts somewhere underneath.  I removed the seats, steering column, and other pieces, and got started.  I had no idea how much to try cutting out of the body for the idea I had in mind, so I started by snapping a chalk line down the middle of the body from front to back.

After that, I engaged in numerous high-level mathematical calculations and computer-aided design work in order to make a determination how much to cut out of it. I simulated different configurations on the computer and subjected them to virtual wind tunnel and other testing,  following which I put that all aside and just used a metal 12î ruler after I eye-balled it and decided to mark off 9 1/2î on both sides of the center line since it looked about right to me.  I made marks every few inches on both sides of the center line, connected those marks with my ruler, and got started cutting.  I decided using a torch was probably not the best way to cut it apart, so I rented a Sawzall, bought a couple of blades specially designed for cutting the roof and other parts out of VW Bug bodies, and got started cutting.  Initially, I cut the 19î wide section out of the roof, and, since I thought that went fairly well, I moved on and started cutting a section out of the back end.  That was a little more difficult, but not that bad, so I tackled the front end under the bonnet. That was the most difficult part of the cutting, but really not that bad after further computer-aided design work, numerous mathematical calculations, and scientific eye-balling.  It wasn't very long before I got the thing pretty well ventilated and all I had remaining was the two sides of the body resting on the floor pan.   I found the bolts holding the body in place, removed them, and then removed the sides of the VW body from the floor pan, placing them together beside the pan itself.  From the front it then looked like this, and, from the rear, it looked like this.  The photo of the rear end was made in the dark, cool evening, October 28, 1998.

After that, things went into a stall.  I didn't have the knowledge or equipment to do a frame or much else for it, nor did I know anyone who did.  I somehow found out about and talked with Phil Jackson at Jackson Motorsports, one of the guys who eventually did work for me on the project, but I did not have the money to proceed, either.  It was then placed in the corner of my father's shop lot where it sat for the next 3 years and two months, while skeptics scoffed and said it would never be done!!  I visited it periodically, promised it the skeptics and naysayers would be silenced, and it believed me.  In the meantime, satellites orbited overhead making photos of it, puzzling intelligence-gathering agencies around the world.

Three years after I cut the body apart I sold my vast real estate holdings (one lot) outside Winter Park, CO, since my knees hurt and I was sure I'd never ski again,.  I had the money to proceed with the project........or so I thought.  Mike, of Newkirk Racing noted above, had been holding out for three years on providing information to me about someone who could build a frame since he is so used to getting all the attention doing burnouts and running up to 87 miles per hour in his funny car, but his wife wife, with whom I work,  slipped one day and said something that suggested to me that's what he was up to.  Slick as I am, I picked right up on that and I was able to pry the information out of her.  She told me about Jim at NR Race Cars, only 4.5 miles south of me all those years!!

I called Jim one day, told him Mike had told me about him, and asked if I could come talk to him about a project I had in mind.  He said yes, but, since I had no photos with me when I went to his shop, I tried drawing sketches of my idea on little pieces of paper.  Jim probably wouldn't admit this, but he looked at me like I'd fallen out of a tall tree.  I could see he wasn't getting it, even though he is sharp, so I went back into town, printed out a few digital shots seen above, and I returned to his shop.  His facial expressions changed even more at that time, although they're hard to describe.  He said he wanted to talk to Phil at Jackson Motorsports since they work together on some things (and maybe because I was talking about a VW front end under it), and he'd get back with me.  He talked with Phil, the three of us had a meeting,  and they said they'd take it on.  Both of them had strange expressions on their faces during that meeting, but I tried not to let it bother me.

A couple of days before this photo was made on December 29, 2001, Jim moved the body from my father's shop lot to his shop, and got started.

January 5, 2002

I took a 1981 Gold Wing to him I had purchased from a cousin who bought it new in 1981, but had only put 1544 miles on it.  One of the guys from the local Honda shop came out and he and Jim dropped the fork out of it.  I stepped out of my supervisory position and away from some computer calculations long enough for a photo of myself with the bike.  I also allowed myself to be photographed with the body of the VW up on some stands, and did a photo of the bike alone.

January 9, 2002

When I returned to Jim's shop on this date, he had the body and the bike up on his jig so things could be aligned and the frame work could really begin.  He's an artist with a TIG welder and had stitched the body halves back together already. He had also cut the sections out that had been under the doors, and replaced them with rectangular steel.  I did several photos of the bike and VW body on the jig, another of which is shown here.  A close-up shot of the steering neck of the bike is here.

January 15, 2002

The photos done on this date show the front end on it for the first time, and show the roll cage, which is part of the frame, completed.  A front view shows the same thing, along with a side view.  This shot shows the interior of the frame/cage, and where the bike steering neck is held in place.  The bike is also attached at the lower part of the frame with a bar that extends to each side of the bike so it is held in three places.  This shot shows a closer view of the front of the frame, I allowed myself to be photographed again with the body/frame, and, finally, Jim's helper, Nari, is shown grinding.

January 19, 2002

One photo done on this date shows the frame completed.

January 21, 2002

A number of photos were made on this date.  Here it is sitting on the floor with the bike attached inside for the first time.  On "several" occasions I asked Jim to do some things not discussed during our first meeting, and, here he is doing some welding on one of those things. There was a lot more to this project than I could ever have guessed since I had never started anything like it before.  The photos done on this date include: (1)  a close up of the bike in the frame, (2)  Jim working on the instrument cluster, (3)  Nari, Jim's helper, using a plasma cutter to cut part of the dash out, (4)  me sitting on some blocks inside the body, (5)  the old 1965 VW front end in a vise, (6)  the new aluminum front end, (7)  Phil, of Jackson Motorsports, working on the front end, (8)  the front wheels and tires, (9) the front end being put on it for the first time, and, (10) Phil, Jim, of NR Race Cars, and Nari.
 

January 22, 2002

Front view of the front end, view of the cage and front end, and a full shot from the rear and side.
 

March 5, 2002

On this date I received some artwork from Barlow, a friend in Louisiana who is a Studebaker freak and has been involved with a 1000hp Avanti running at Bonneville.  He designed this emblem/logo for the BugWing.  After he worked on it for some time I approached him again and asked if he'd do some more artwork for me.  He said no.
 

March 11, 2002

Projects take a while to complete, so these photos were done on this date and include: (1)  a shot of the dune buggy gas tank mounted where the motorcycle seat used to be, (2)  the interior, with the seat and steering wheel, (3)  a shot of the front end with disc brakes and shocks in place, (4)  the body on stands in Phil's shop, (5)  me in the body on the stands, (6)  a close up of the gear shift and valve in the brake system, (7)  the pedals and front end done from the interior, (8)  a shot done in the interior showing the pedals and rack and pinion steering, (9)  and a close up of the gear shift lever and cable.

March 17, 2002

I took my parents to see it for the first time, and did another shot of it from the front end.

March 27, 2002

Here's where my feet go, a shot of the floor welded into place, and a shot of the interior of the cage, done through the back window and looking toward the front.

March 28, 2002

Interior and exterior of where the pedals are mounted and where my feet will rest.

March 30, 2002

Photos done on this date include, (1)  the start of the firewall, (2)  bike out of it and back on stands so work can be done on the firewall, (3)  the bonnet after the initial body work on it, (4)  doors after they had been bead blasted to remove paint, (5)  the new rear fenders with primer on them, (6)  and the new front fenders before being primered.

April 1, 2002

All the remaining work was completed last night, the body was painted and the flames were also painted on, it was wired and the lights were installed, and, today it hit the road for the first time for a 300 mile round trip!!  It was a real kick!!  After taking it out for the first time, reality set in and I decided some additional work needed to be done.  Here are the photos that document those changes: (1)  the firewall was changed (2)  and the dash, with instruments, is shown.

April 8, 2002

The body is shown after the first coat of paint put on it during the late evening hours of March 31 was bead blasted off, here's a shot from the front if it after it was bead blasted, and here is a shot from the rear of it showing body work that had been done on the roof of it.

April 22, 2002

Here is a shot of the body partly primered on this date.

May 3, 2002

After it was retrieved from a guy's body shop where things did not go well, it was returned to Jim's shop where some additional work was done.  Some of that included the need to cut holes in the rear fenders for the exhaust pipes.  After some of the necessary work was completed in Jim's shop, it was moved to Phil's shop again where we pondered some things it needed, and Jim is shown deep in thought.  While in Phil's shop that night, I also did a shot from the side, and a shot from the rear.

June 3, 2002

Jim needed a break from the project so he flew half way around the world and the BugWing rusted while he was taking a much-needed break.  After he returned, he got back on it and cut the holes for the exhaust pipes, and I did shots of the front with the bumper and fenders he had constructed to cover the front wheels, another shot of the same thing from a slightly different angle showing how the fenders on the body had to be trimmed about 4 inches, a shot from its right side, a shot of the small fenders over the wheels, and a shot of Nari making a piece that will provide additional support for the rear fenders.

June 5, 2002

It was all moved to John Smith's Auto Body Shop.

June 17, 2002

On this date the following photos were made: (1) the interior had been painted and the body had been masked off in preparation for undercoating, (2)  the fenders had been painted, (3)  and the fenders and other pieces are shown in the paint booth.  The color selected after months of questions about what I was going to do was a Sherwin-Williams custom car color known as Violet Pearl.  The actual color does not show well in these photos, although the single shot of the fender comes the closest to it of any I've done so far.

June 21, 2002

The undercoating had been completed, and I did a shot of the interior.  I also picked up the bonnet, fenders, and other pieces that had been painted, and had them in the van.

July 1, 2002

Painting of the exterior of the body has been completed!!  Here's a shot of the interior of one of the doors, and here's what it looks like with the doors and paint on it, although the front end, bonnet, and fenders have been scuffed up a bit in preparation for the flames being painted on.  Finally, here is a side shot.

July 13, 2002

Our CMA chapter did a ride to KPRD Radio in Hays, KS, today, and, when I returned to Great Bend, I thought I'd stop by Mark's Custom Signs and see if there was anything going on there.  As I rode into the parking lot the door to the shop was going up and Mark was just preparing to work on it. He had done some work a few days ago to prepare it, so he started by drawing lines for the flames on the substance he had sprayed over the bonnet, fenders, and doors.  After that, he used a knife to remove that substance where he would be painting the flames, and then masked and cut the masking for the fenders that fit over the front wheels.  Following that, he shot silver on it, and then outlined that in purple on the fenders and body.  I allowed myself to be photographed in front of it, and then one final shot of Mark peeling that masking substance off.

July 19, 2002

A little more progress.  (1)  a photo of the flames after Mark outlined them with striping, and (2)  a photo of the logo Barlow designed for it, after Mark painted it on each side of the body between the side windows and the rear window.  It's supposed to be clear coated on the 21st or 22nd, and, after that, it's ready to be assembled.  I'm not sure if it's going to make it to Sturgis, or not.......

July 31, 2002

A series of glitches and delays have combined to make it impossible to take it to Sturgis this year.  However, some work is going to be done while I'm gone......

August 10, 2002

The last entry was done just to throw you off.  Here it is by my tent in the campground in Sturgis, in front of Sturgis Harley-Davidson, on Main Street in Sturgis, by the Corbin Merlin three-wheeler, in front of the Ansley, Nebraska, post office where I stopped to mail some postcards while on the way home, and in front of a convenience store after I made it back into Kansas and needed fuel one last time.

August 30, 2002

Things are moving slowly.  Here's the front end after a little more flame work was done, and here's what I had painted on each of the doors.  A friend, Curt, used that term several times in reference to me in a Bikers of Central Kansas newsletter, and, liking it a bit more than the fairly commonly applied word "weird" (I seem normal to me), I appropriated it.  Here's the interior with the pedals and cables back in it, here's the front end getting the tie rods, brakes lines, etc., attached, and here's the seat that was re-upholstered with a fabric insert that does a pretty good job of matching some color in the flames.  It got a new rear tire this week, but I saw no need to photograph that and show you.

September 4, 2002

I took the afternoon off and went out to Phil's shop. Steve, from The Auto Body Shop, came out and put pieces of the doors back in so they could be opened from the insides, Phil did some more work on the front end, and the instruments and controls from the handle bars of the bike were put in.  Brake fluid was put in the system and the brakes were bled.

September 6, 2002

Well, the plan was to actually take it for a test run this evening.  Phil got the wiring done to the point it could have happened, but, when I went out to do it, I smelled fuel when I walked into his shop.  One of the carburetors was dumping fuel on the motor.  They were rebuilt last December, but the thing has been under construction since then and had not been started again until this evening. It was not possible to correct the problem this evening, so the test run was off.  While there, though, I shot the interior with the seat, aluminum door panels, and instruments in place, did a shot of the panel on one door, a shot of the Lexan window behind the seat, a shot from the front without the fenders in place, and a close up of the front end with the boots in place on the rack and pinion and the anti-sway bar on it.

September 16, 2002

The day didn't start out too good. A dog woke me up at 3: 28am and, while awake, I thought for a couple of hours about different methods that could be used to "discipline" it. I finally went back to sleep for a short time before getting up, late, since I didn't hear the alarm clock.  I went to work, but stayed only until noon and took the rest of the day off since I couldn't think.  About 2:00pm I went to see what was happening with the BugWing and found Phil had taken the carburetors off.  The guy who worked them over last December looked at them one day last week, but had not returned to take care of the problem and Phil had not heard from him.  Neither had I.  Phil found a squished O-ring in one spot, and two other O-rings were not where they were supposed to be.  He got that corrected, put the carburetors back on it, and we fired it up.  No fuel leak!!

Shortly after 7:00pm, I took it for its first test run while Phil followed and video taped.  The clutch needs a minor adjustment, but it ran well and had no problem getting down the road.   The steering is quick, in that it feels like a go-cart the way it responds.  It handled well through some curves, and I deliberately went through some a little quick to test how it handled while my wife and Phil followed me in a car doing some more video taping.  It felt solid to me while going through them.  A friend who owned a Tri-Magnum said he could get the rear end to skip a little if he hit curves real hard. After about 12 miles of testing it, I pulled back in and put it in Phil's shop so the fenders can be put on, the wiring can be completed, the speedomenter and tach can be hooked up, and I can get a different seat so I can get a couple of inches further back away from the wheel.  I'm going to have the seat dropped an inch or two, as well.

The day ended better than it began.   My wife treated me to a banana split and we met a couple of really nice high school guys, Michael and Jason,  in Braums who looked at the video tape of the test run.  Anyone have a dog collar that "tingles" so I could rent it and discipline a dog?

September 18, 2002

I just returned from Phil's shop.  He put the fenders on it and headlights in it, so I did shots from the front, the rear, and the side.  Also, I tried out a different seat since a glitch is not going to permit me to use the one I selected originally.  The seat that will be ordered is like the one shown, and is made of aluminum.  Since it isn't as thick as the other one, it will allow me to move back further away from the steering wheel. The last part of the wiring will be done soon, the taillights will be put on the fenders, and the bulbs will be put in the headlights.  After that, it will be ready for inspection and a license plate.

September 24, 2002

It's legal!!!  The highway patrolman who inspects vehicles did his inspection today and issued an ID number.  After that, I got the license plate and put it on.  Following that, I put some more trim on, Phil did some more wiring, and we're waiting for the new seat to arrive so it can be put in place.  On the 28th, it will have glass put in the front and I'll take it to our CMA chapter meeting that evening for its first time out on the street to go anywhere.  Watch for updates!!

September 25, 2002

I went out to check for the fit and placement of the new aluminum seat.  It's going to require some modification by bending or cutting some off, but it will be put in place and modifications will be made later.  Phil got the running boards on it and finished a little bit of wiring today. I did a shot of it from the side at a distance, due to popular demand from another triker, and did a shot of the new seat beside it.

September 26, 2002

Well, I picked it up from Phil's shop late this afternoon and headed into town to the gas station.  After that, I took it to E & E Glass so a window can be cut and put in the front tomorrow morning.  After that, it will have the front end aligned.  I may head to a car and bike show in Northwest Kansas first thing Saturday morning.....

September 27, 2002

I took it to Becker Tire this afternoon to have the front end aligned.  It was put on the rack and Bob got it all hooked up.  He changed nothing and left it the way it was when Phil did what he thought was close to being aligned in his shop while he assembled the front end!

The plan was to take it to our Christian Motorcyclist's Association chapter meeting this evening.  I got close.  While I had it parked about a block and a half away just before the meeting, I locked both doors trying them out.  I had never done that before with the new handles, and, when I went to open it, neither door would open.  One of the ladies in our group happened by and saw me with it, so gave me a ride to the meeting.  After the meeting, those who could stay around walked to it, at which time I got a mop and reached in through a window open about 2 inches.  I flipped the handle on the wing, and one of the other ladies in our group reached in to open a door.  After that, a "blessing of the trike" was done by our chapter Chaplain, and a group shot of those there was done.

Following that, we all went to Braum's for ice cream and someone mentioned I had a birthday earlier this month.  I was called to the cash register where a very nice young lady who works there announced it to the world and Happy Birthday was belted out by people in the store.  Following that, we went to the parking lot where three of the  really nice Braum's employees and the manager posed for a photo.  I've never seen employees and management of any store who could even come close to those people for service and friendliness, and that has been my experience there consistently!! It was a really good evening!!

September 28, 2002

I decided to make the first road trip to the Northwest Kansas Bike and Car Show in Goodland, KS, and got on the road about 8:30am.  I made one fuel stop in Wakeeney and thought I'd have enough fuel to make it to Goodland.  That did not happen.  I ran out of fuel about 20 miles out on I-70, and, after a short time, a guy from Hoxie came along on his Harley and picked me up (e-mail your name, please....I checked out). Fortunately, it came to a stop only about two miles from a gas station in nowhere so he took me in, I borrowed a can and funnel from a guy there, and he gave me a ride back out to put fuel in it.  After that, I went on to Goodland and parked it on Main Street for the show.  I got to talk to a LOT of people that afternoon.  After the meal and awards were presented that evening, I got back in it and headed home.  I pulled back in at 12:45am.

September 29, 2002

Bright and early this morning, I got up and prepared to go to Sawyer, KS, where our CMA chapter known as Rapture Riders did a visit at the Christian Church. We were joined by really good friends who are members of the Gabriel's Thunder CMA chapter out of the Pratt and Medicine Lodge area.  Two of us from each chapter spoke and told the congregation about the purpose of CMA and activities of our chapters, and one person from each chapter provided personal testimonies.  After that, the congregation fed us really well.

I planned to head back to Great Bend after visiting with others from the chapters, and with the Pastor and his wife who are really good friends of mine, and but I was invited to go to Medicine Lodge where a young man was going to be baptized.  I was one of several people who got to talk and pray with him at our last Biker's Weekend in May, so I went.

We went to a farm SE of Medicine Lodge where a cow tank was set up and 5 young people were waiting to be baptized.  Some songs were sung and the pastor spoke while people stood around the tank. While that was taking place I thought of the time about 1960 when I was baptized in a cow tank outside the church one Sunday morning, and I thought about drifting away after high school and making a mess of things during the next 21 years.  I also thought about the fact I did an about-face spiritually on September 22, 1985, and the fact I'd thought several times since then about being baptized again.  The pastor in my home church talked about that recently and it got me to thinking again about doing that, but I had not talked to him yet about doing so.

While standing there with all that was happening and those memories and thoughts going through my head, I wondered if the pastor would baptize me, too. When he suddenly broke into "Amazing Grace" after speaking, I thought about the fact that same thing happened at the end of the service on September 22, 1985, just before I walked down that aisle and returned to the Lord after all those years.  That did it.  I walked over by the shed where the pastor was speaking and asked him if I could be included.  He asked me a question, I responded, and then he had me address the group.  I provided a short personal testimony, following which I took my vest and boots off and watched the young people be baptized.  After that, I got into the tank and the pastor asked the young man I got to talk and pray with last May to assist in my baptism.

Following that, I stayed around and talked to some people for a while, but then headed back home in the BugWing in soggy clothes.  What a weekend!

Well, the BugWing is on the road now.  That's going to be it for this page since it's getting a bit long.   I'll do a Travelogue page to track the movement of the BugWing and provide a bit of a rundown of encounters I have on the road.........
 
 

Special thanks to:

NR Race Cars

Jackson Motorsports

The Auto Body Shop 

Mark's Custom Signs

Great Bend, KS

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