Small-bore but not boring By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Jimmy White’s Tecate 200 Replica, represents the beginning of professional three-wheeler racing in America. This was the first Premier class in ATV racing and became the land of 250cc two-strokes. First, Honda and later Kawasaki, and then Yamaha joining in.
Suzuki stayed out of the 250cc class until it invented the Quadracer. A 200cc class was mostly a 200cc four-stroke class. Later, though, a few 200cc two-strokes began to be involved.
One of the big players at the time, was Kawasaki’s, Jimmy White. There has been a lot of interest in a closer look, at this rare race machine, with many ultra-rare, almost non-existent parts.
While this is not one of White’s personal race bikes, it is somewhat of a replica, commissioned by a customer of Mike Palmgren of Vintage Motorsports-Tim Pappas, who owns Black Swan Racing , which was started by team owner and co-driver Tim Pappas, (www.blackswanracing.co).
A few years after it was completed, for the gentleman in New Jersey, the machine was for sale. It soon became part of the Tim Pappas collection. This Tecate 200 was not intended to be an absolute replica of Jimmy White’s race Tecate 200. All of the parts were highly desirable in the era, but some are different than those White raced with.
BUILDING THE PERFECT REPLICA
“We wanted to build a replica of the bike that White would have raced himself,” said Palmgren. “So we used a lot of the parts from Jimmy White’s Tecate, and other correct parts from the era. Jimmy provided a lot of inside tips and tricks,”.
“I had DWT make a run of polished-aluminum front wheels and found a NOS (new, old stock) factory Dunlop front tire. I then mounted NOS period-correct Hoosier rear tires. Without some of the parts from White’s garage, it would have been quite difficult to assemble this replica,” added Palmgren.
White’s race Tecate for the 200cc class was based on a 250cc Tecate engine,. This was rather than using one of the company’s 175cc or 200cc enduro bike engines, mounted to a Tecate frame.
At the time, Klemm Research (www.klemmvintage.com) was doing a lot of work for Kawasaki Team Green. Harry Klemm developed a 200cc kit that reduced the bore of the Tecate to make it legal in the 200cc class. White was sponsored by pipe builder, Darryl Bassani,( www.bassani.com ),
Soon after, Kawasaki bought the Klemm 200cc kits, and made them available to Jimmy White to build a 200cc racer with.
Jimmy White did run a special, hand-made Bassani cone pipe, built especially for the Tecate 200. Those pipes should be impossible to find, but White still had one hanging in his garage, over three decades from the last time he used one.
Palmgren metal-finished the pipe to like-new condition. He then used a torch to “blue” the welds again, like they would have been, when the pipe was new. It also has an extremely rare, complete intake system from the Uni air-filter folks. It is described as “unobtainable.”
Kawasaki racers, including White, were very successful on the 200cc Tecate race trikes. Many of the three-wheeler racetracks of the era, were more TT-style. That meant they were TT-style flat tracks, with sharp right and left turns, and perhaps a few rolling jumps threw in.
Riders could get very sideways in the turn. Sometimes so sideways, that the fork tubes were hitting the fuel tanks! This limited the ability to turn as tight as needed. Cal-Fab made only four or five, hand-formed aluminum tanks. They were specifically shaped for this specialized form of TT racing.
As you can imagine, not many of the tanks remain, Palmgren had to pay dearly for it, but this trike has one.
RARER THAN RARE?
At the time, a brilliant fabricator, the late Kelvin Franks, built a very few hand-made, exotic vehicles to race with.
Franks made his own ultra-limited, 200cc, two-stroke three-wheeler pipes. He also made Tecate triple clamps and swingarms for retail sale. Jimmy White didn’t run Frank’s parts, but he probably wanted to.
The fact that people spend the time to complete restorations of this magnitude, says a lot about the passion that people have for off-road riding.
Rolling history like this replica is not easy to obtain. Even if they are not ridden, they require time, energy, and lots of money. That makes us grateful for those intrepid souls, who are willing and able, to step up and preserve the history of the sport.
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