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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

#4 - Manco Thunderbird Mini Bike

As Advertised! Manco Thunderbird - Made in USA!

It happened again. About the time I had an extra couple hundred laying around, something new caught my eye. I was clicking through the latest offerings on eBay for bike parts, and like I've done a time or two in the past, I started looking at stuff I had in days gone stuff.

And often, "cool stuff" is defined as something with an engine. So this time, I was looking at old go-karts, which I raced for a little while as a kid. I had an Acer Racer with a Power Products engine back in the day, and every so often I look to see if one of those things has been offered on eBay. And though I didn't see any, I did notice a couple old mini-bikes, which I didn't have, but I always wanted one.

So mixed in with all the rusty Rupps, a guy in Pennsylvania had a Manco Thunderbird for sale with no reserve price, labeled as "vintage", and the last bid was pretty low. So with no further motivation than "I always wanted one", I bid on the thing, and low and behold, I won the auction.

So off to Pennsylvania to claim my prize!

I was pleasantly surprised to see the condition of the bike, especially for something with a vintage label, but it turns out that label was a bit of a stretch. The bike was probably made around 2000, and you can still actually buy a Manco Thunderbird B-Model, though the new ones are a little different. So I guess mine is vintage since it's an older model, and also assuming you're 15 years old like the seller!

Before loading this beast into the Hummer, I wanted a test ride, so off I went, tearing down the residential side street at the blinding pace of about 35MPH. Now that might seem slow, but when you don't yet know where the brake is, and not really sure the damn thing even has one, 35 starts looking pretty damn quick.

Safe Return After a Blast Down the Road

But I found the brake, got it turned around, and headed back to load it up. There really isn't much else to check out on a mini-bike. It either runs or it doesn't. Moves and stops or it doesn't. And the tires have air in them or not. Wait, there was one switch...the on/off. And that seemed to work just fine, and as I found out later, that bike damn sure won't start until you turn the switch on. Even after pulling on the recoil starter about 10 times!

It Fits, and Standing Up Too!

On the way back, I stopped at the Harley factory in York, PA, where #4 was promptly unloaded and driven 'round the parking lot amongst all the Harley peeps. Smiles all around as we made a few laps through the people attending the York HD plant's Open House.

Chip-Man in the HD Parking Lot

After getting it home...Wait! that's an entirely separate story that I won't get into right now, but suffice it to say that the mini-bike made it to the garage but the Hummer didn't.

Anyway, when I finally got the mini-bike to the garage and inspected it closely, I noticed that several of the nuts and bolts looked like some kid did the maintenance with vise grips and a crescent wrench, and you know what? I'll bet that's right! I know because I did the same damn thing as a kid. It also needs a new fuel line with a cut-off valve. But that's about it. Tires are new, no breaks in the frame, and it runs just fine.

Fine, for now, anyway. I've got my eye on a 10HP racing go-kart engine that should make this little sucker fly!

So now I have a mini-bike, with no use for it whatever, but it's still pretty cool. The bike was christened with the name "#4". #4, of course, is because that's my 4th bike. It's now tucked away in the garage with my Harleys. Maybe one day it'll grow up?

The Fleet, without Big Blue

Had to Get a Number Plate with a "4"! Not as easy as it sounded!

If not, I'll always have a little toy to toss in the truck when I go up to the mountains, or maybe to some event where little bikes are allowed. Then I can be one of those annoying people running all around, stirring up dust, and making lawn-mower sounds early in the morning or late at night.....


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