Its hard to put into words why, even after every breakdown or snag I face, I'm still so passionate about working on vintage motorcycles. Sure, there are times I want to put my hands up and say "That's it! I'm out!" but I somehow manage to power through the sisyphean task of keeping them on the road. Even when I have the funds in my pocket to go out and finally buy a brand new machine with a warranty, modern suspension, brakes and a starter button (rather than a kicker pedal), I end up walking into Sixth Street Specials and put the money towards some decades old part I so desperately need.
I suppose part of me feels that I'm preserving history. I often wonder about the people who owned these motorcycles before me and what their experiences were like forty or fifty years ago. Every scratch in the paint tells a story and with every mile, somebody infused their own DNA into the bike. I'm sure they hoped, as I do now, that long after they're gone, someone maybe not born yet, is riding and enjoying their bikes.
One such man was Theo Ozen. Theo, who briefly served as president of an El Mirage racing club called the Rod Riders in 1968 - 1969, was a regular at the salt flats at Bonneville from the late 60's through the 80's. Riding his "Nitro Express" a highly modified 1948 Triumph rigid motorcycle powered by a 1961 Bonneville motor, Theo set speed records and traveled over 140 mph. Ozen disappeared from Bonneville after a serious automobile racing accident.
The Salt Ghost: Return of the Nitro Express picks up the pieces of this story when in 2011, Wes White of Four Aces Cycle and Tyler Malinky of Lowbrow Customs combined forces to resurrect the Nitro Express. Wes and Tyler take the viewer along for the ride as they get the bike back in working order, meet with tech inspectors from the Southern California Timing Association, and finally to Bonneville to once again race the Nitro Express. Along the way, Wes and Tyler not only delve into the bike but into Theo Ozen himself, who's soul seems to permeate the bike. They speak with Ozen's racing partner, Fritz Kott as well as other racers that knew him in order to put the pieces together.
The film becomes so much more than a mere motorcycle documentary as The Nitro Express is transformed into a conduit of the camaraderie of racers. From Theo Ozen and Fritz Kott to Wes White and Tyler Malinky the torch has been passed as the bike flies down the salt. I know in my heart, many years from now, thanks to Wes and Tyler's efforts in preserving the bike, perhaps another pair of close friends will acquire the Nitro Express and it will continue making appearances on the salt flats.
Get your copy of The Salt Ghost: Return of the Nitro Express here.
Click here for more details on the Nitro Express.