Wheels Through Time and Wayne Stanfield have made history...again! On April 4, 2007, Stanfield, a 59-years old and a five-time winner of the Great American Race, and a team assembled by Dale Walksler, curator and founder of the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC, set out to re-break a 24-hour endurance record of 1825 miles in 24-hours at the infamous Talladega Superspeedway.
Aboard a 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, dubbed the "Fred Ham Special", the team would set out to conquer the infamous feat set by Fred "Iron Man" Ham, a California Highway Patrolman, nearly seventy years later to the day. The motorcycle fielded for the run was a purpose-built re-creation of Ham's brand new '37 Harley. The run was the first known attempt to re-break the legendary record.
"Dale and I talked about making a run at Ham's record over 10 years ago and I said sure. It was not until a year ago that I realized he was serious," commented Stanfield.
Well it all came to culmination on Wednesday, April 4th, at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. The thirty-nine year-old 2.8 mile tri-oval was chosen because its size nearly matched that of the track on which Ham set his record at Muroc Dry Lake in Southern California. It was bright, sunny and the track was Wayne's. At just after 4:40 p.m. Stanfield set off, beginning what everyone hoped would be a run for the record books.
From the very start of the run, Stanfield and the Wheels Through Time pit crew had some untimely mishaps. After Stanfield's first laps, the motorcycle came back with signs that something wasn't right. As the pit crew worked at top speed to fix a mysterious carburetor or ignition problem, Stanfield sat patiently, taking advantage of the last few minutes of rest he would see for 24 hours. After nearly 45 minutes of stop time, Stanfield re-boarded the motorcycle and set off, again, towards his chance at making history.
Record breaking is nothing new to Stanfield and Walksler. Their Great American Race record is unparalleled. Wayne has won the cross-country rally five-time and together they became the only competitive motorcycle team in race history and tallied back to back Top 2 finishes, which came in both the 1995 and 1996 races. In 1997, Walksler broke the 1917 Transcontinental record aboard a '17 Henderson Special, leaving L.A. on June 5 and arriving at Time Square in New York City just six days and eleven hours later, shattering the old record by over 30 hours.
But breaking Ham's record would not be so easy. It was not after more than 18 laps on the 2.8-mile Talladega tri-oval that Stanfield rounded back for his second trip to the pits, complaining that the motorcycle was loosing power. It was at this point that crew chief, Dale Walksler, noticed that the motorcycle was near disaster. The problem was a burnt piston on the rear cylinder, which would have ended the run for a less experienced team. The crew immediately got back to work, exchanging the burnt piston and cylinder for better parts off of Walksler's spare bike. The whole piston ordeal lasted only sixty-five minutes, as the motorcycle was back on the track and running like new by 8:30 p.m.
Now, Stanfield and the Knucklehead were really starting make time. Despite the dimly lit track and the icy-cold headwind blowing down the back stretch, Stanfield was turning his best laps of the run by 9:00 p.m. As he shaved second after second off each lap, it was apparent that the motorcycle was finally performing like it should.
However, the unscheduled stop-time, somewhere in the area of 4 1/2 hours by 10 p.m., began to push Ham's record out of reach. But this didn't stop Stanfield and his crew from making a run at it anyway. The motorcycle performed at top-notch throughout the night, as Wayne averaged in the area of 82-87 mph each lap. With only one rear tire change at 3:30 a.m., the '37 began to show its durability, as well as the capability to make it to the 24 hour mark.