Don Emde to the Rescue

"Slidin' Al Gunter," written by Cycle World Technical Editor Kevin Cameron and published in an upcoming issue, benefitted from the encyclopedic knowledge of 1972 Daytona 200 winner Don Emde. Looking for artwork to support the story, I contacted Emde, who e-mailed me the accompanying image of Gunter posing with fellow racer Tony Murphy.

About the photo, thought to have been taken in 1964 or '65 at a race promoted by Floyd Clymer in Dodge City, Kansas, Emde said, "A couple of things that make this photo interesting are the two Japanese mechanics and also the helmet on which Al is leaning. The mechanic on the left is Mack Kambayashi, who was a factory Yamaha mechanic. He worked on the race team in the U.S. until 1971, when BSA hired him; he was my mechanic that year. Later, after BSA cut back, he opened a shop in Brea called Mack's Cycle Center, and my younger brother Dave rode for him. In 1977, they won the AMA 250cc National Championship.

"Back to the helmet: The one on the back of the seat has one of Al's one-way radios installed on it. Note the white 'block' attached to the back of the helmet—that's the radio. His mechanics could talk to him during the races. The radio was Al's invention, and the guys at Bell helped him to hook it up. (Al, by the way, worked with Bell on the first-ever full-face helmet.) The AMA later banned the radio.

"I had no clue what had happened to Mack until Roland Pagan (a former AFM roadracer) bought one of the old Rob North BSA roadracers, which turned out to be 'essentially' my factory bike from 1971; I was 90 percent sure it had the right motor in it, at least. Roland wouldn't give up trying to find anyone and everyone involved at BSA, including me, for information to restore the bike like when I—or better yet, Mike Hailwood—raced it.

"So, one day I get a call from Roland that he located Mack running a Japanese restaurant somewhere down in Newport harbor, a stone's throw from the CW offices. He went to see him to verify some 'MK' stampings on the motor. They called me, and I talked to Mack. That was about two years ago."

Emde also put me in touch with Gunter's son, Albert, a real-estate broker in Apple Valley, California, and a fellow motorcyclist. Gunter put together a box brimming with his father's photos, some of which populate the story. Thumbs-up to both Don and Al for their help.

—Matthew Miles