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Here are a few stories, these change from time-to time, so come on back soon. There are also many stories to read in the Mustang News that is sent out to all MMCOA members. Join Today!

Take a Ride In My Boot & Other Tales...
By Jim Cavanaugh, Mustang Motorcycles Production Manager

Walt Fulton held the distinction of being the fastest man on a Mustang, breaking the speed record at the dry lakes, many years ago and other racing victories at other events against the larger bikes. But I hold the distinction of building and testing the most Mustangs ever! Over a decade of daily duty, trying to beat the clock, my worst enemy, producing ten units and testing and crating them. Looking back, I now realize that after building and testing thousands of mighty Mustangs, I never really was seriously injured. I was damn good or damn lucky or both! In those days of the 1950 era, Workman’s Comprehension insurance was in effect but much different than present days. At the Colorado plant, I suppose we had in excess of one hundred employees in all the departments combined. Too often injuries would occur and while there was a first aid station, it was only staffed by someone who only had very little first aid training, maybe none at all. Only very serious injuries were referred to outside professional medical care. Health or medical insurance was not invented yet and accident and or life insurance, was unheard of in the work place. OSHA of course was not in effect at the time that’s just the way it was!

At the Colorado Blvd. plant, the main parking lot was large but not enough space to fully test the bikes in third gear. The Mitchell Camera parking lot next door was much larger and was adjacent to the Gladden Products parking lot and together, we had enough space to fully test the bikes without entering the surface streets. The Mitchell Camera parking lot had a service road making it ideal to avoid any moving cars but the Gladden parking lot had no protection from moving cars.

The most serious incident at the Colorado operation was one day I was testing a Pony model. After testing the lights and other static items, off I go, riding toward the Mitchell lot, did the usual tests and was heading for the Gladden lot and I was in third gear, starting my usual slowing and when I applied the rear brake, I felt a “pop” and all of a sudden I felt as if the bike was going much faster. NO BRAKES!  No front brake because it was a Pony model! I was going between 20 and 25 mph and I only had two options, crashing into a park car or trying to go between two parked cars and hit the chain link fence. I decided on the latter and I hit that fence head on! Thankfully, the chain link was forgiving and absorbed most of the energy and impact. I flew over the handle bars and hit the fence but was not seriously injured but the Pony required a new front fork! What happened? I noticed the brake rod snapped in two pieces right at the bend. This is weird. I went inside to look at the inventory and discovered it was a brand new run of brake rods. I took one and placed it in a bench vise and took a hammer and gave it a good whack! It broke like a pretzel stick! I destroyed all of them on hand and removed all of them from bikes in process. I was upset!
The drawing of the brake rod requires baking after cad plating to prevent hydrogen imbrittlement, causing this condition. The baking process must be done within 30 minute of the plating process and it was either done too late or not done at all.

The only other close calls I remember, is testing the three wheeled Deliverycycles. The rear axles were built months in advance of their installation. Usually we built these rear axle assemblies as a fill in job while waiting for other critical parts from overseas or labor strikes, shutting down production. On rare occasions, while testing, making a sharp right or left turn, a rear wheel would lift high off the ground and it would happen so fast, it was frightening! To recover I would have to straighten out the turn quickly and just steer straight ahead. This was caused by the lubricating grease applied to the moving parts becoming hard and sticky after sitting in stock for a long period of time, thus the differential would not differentiate. The fix was easy but the thrill lasted much longer!

From time to time, minor and even major repairs had to be made quickly as the result of testing. I still have burn scars on my arms from the hot exhaust pipes. The upswept pipe caused me the most injury. Reaching in front or behind to adjust or replace a part in a hurry caused 1st and 2nd degree burns too often. Little could be done to ease the pain.
Other wild rides was when an oil pump failed and suddenly the engine locked up! Wow! The wheel would just slide uncontrollably. Depending on the speed, ground surface and your sense of balance, determined if you stayed upright or not. Other conditions caused almost the same dangerous effect. A sudden flat tire would be scary! Usually, the wire wheel models were prone to do this when a spoke would protrude through the spoke nipple enough to puncture the rim liner and the inner tube! One of my biggest pet peeves is when the rear chain would come off un-expectedly and totally lock up the rear wheel. Human error, whereby, the retaining clip was not installed or not installed properly, almost putting me in orbit! The Model 6 Colt was manufactured at the Colorado plant and I don’t remember any serious or dangerous events. But not many were made.

Testing the bikes made at the Concord Avenue plant presented different risks and dangers! The parking lot was not suitable because it was extremely small compared to the Colorado parking lot. This required me to test all the bikes on surface streets, mixing it up with street traffic, sometimes heavy at times. I would try to vary my route so neighbors would not complain of noise in this mostly residential neighborhood. Usually, I just rode around the block, about a mile totally. The main problem was I was all by myself. If I fell or got injured, I was on my own or at the mercy of others unknown to me. While this never happened, it was a concern. However, on rare occasions, I did have break downs and either had to push the test bike back to the plant or abandon it and walk back to the plant and retrieve it with the truck.

Riding in traffic and trying to listen and pay attention to the job of trying to find faults and noises was difficult at best. As you know, the bike is small and too often not seen by some drivers of autos. I had to obey all traffic laws, be polite to others and be legal in all respects. We had a special manufactures license plate that had to be exhibited at all times while testing on the public streets. From time to time I would be stopped by the police and just questioned about my activity but never ticketed. But the risk was, if I was written a ticket, I was on my own and would have to pay the fine with the offense going on my driving record.

Another hazard was dogs! I lived close to the plant and many times I would just jump on a bike and continue the test, going home for lunch. We had this one mean, medium sized dog on our street that when  he was loose, would come darting out suddenly, and come after me with knurled teeth and growling loudly. He was a fast runner and I would almost be home, slowing down when this would occur. All I could do was try to kick the dog but I usually missed. A few times I scored a kick and he would run off yipping. There were other times dogs would run after me unexpectedly during routine testing near the plant. It just depended if they were loose at the time but it was always a scare!

I was always concerned about starting a fire! I would try to always start the engines outdoors except when it was raining, not often in California.
Sometimes if the timing happened to be off or the no valve clearance, the engine would backfire and a carburetor would catch fire. I would be ready for this and just keep kicking the engine over and over until the flames were digested through the intake air filter.
I do remember I seriously injured my right ankle. I was starting a new unit and the engine was a bit tight and hard to kick over. This caused me to really put all the weight I could on the kick starter. Suddenly, my leg came crashing down hard and stopped by the foot peg. It felt like I broke my angle. I tried walking it off and it really hurt. I still had about five bikes to test. This is when I learned to start the bikes with my left leg, standing along side the bike on the right. I was in severe pain for several weeks and it was a long time before I tried to start the bikes with my right leg. I probably injured fractured an angle bone and should have had it examined by a doctor. The cause of this one and only kick starter failure was the kick starter ratchet on the main shaft was very brittle and broke into two pieces while I was in motion! 

Looking back, I realize it could have been much worse, getting seriously injured or even killed but at the time, I didn’t think about it. My thoughts were on the next Mustang to ride!

Did you like your ride?

For what it's worth, Jim (Jimbo) Cavanaugh

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