Don Vesco

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Donald A. Vesco
A PB Vesco-Kawasaki05.jpg
Don Vesco with his Silver Bird streamliner at the Bonneville Speedway
Born(1939-04-08)April 8, 1939
DiedDecember 16, 2002(2002-12-16) (aged 63)
OccupationMotorcycle racer and businessperson
Known forMotorcycle land-speed record and wheel-driven land speed record

Don Vesco (April 8, 1939[1] – December 16, 2002[2][3]) was an American businessperson, motorcycle racer, and multiple motorcycle land-speed record and wheel-driven land speed record holder. He set 18 motorcycle and 6 automobile speed records during his life.[3]

His accomplishments recognized by the American Motorcyclist Association include winning the United States motorcycle Grand Prix 500 cc class in 1963, operating a California motorcycle dealership that sponsored up to 60 racers at a time, and setting a number of motorcycle and automobile land speed records.[4]

Speed records[edit]

His motorcycle land speed records were set in 1970 at 251.66 miles per hour (405.01 km/h) in a twin-engined streamliner "Big Red", becoming the first person to ride faster than 250 mph;[5][3] in 1975, when he pushed past the 300-mile-per-hour (480 km/h) milestone for the first time with "Silver Bird"; and in 1978 at 318.598 miles per hour (512.734 km/h) in a twin-turbo powered streamliner "Lightning Bolt", a record that stood for 12 years.[4]

In 2001, just a year before he died of prostate cancer,[2] he set the FIA wheel-driven land speed record of 458.440 miles per hour (737.788 km/h) in a turboshaft powered streamliner called "Turbinator".[4]

Other designs[edit]

Don Vesco on the "Project 200" high-mileage motorcycle designed by Matt Guzzetta

In addition to his own land speed record vehicles, Vesco had a consulting role in other streamlined vehicles. One was Max Lambky's Vincent-engined Lambky Liner streamliner.[6] Another was the "Project 200" streamliner designed by his business partner, Matt Guzzetta, and speed tested by Vesco at El Mirage Dry Lake. Project 200 both competed in the Craig Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge, and in 1983, performed an American coast-to-coast transit without refueling, sponsored by Motorcyclist magazine.[7][8][9][10]

Vesco also designed aftermarket motorcycle accessories including extended range gas tanks for offroad motorcycles sold through Don Vesco Products, which also had a line of motorcycle fairings called "Rabid Transit" designed by Guzzetta.[7][11][12]


Vesco was inducted to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999,[4] and posthumously inducted to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2004.[13]


Vesco's "Big Red" #11 streamliner is part of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum collection. His #14 streamliner, with a fiberglass body molded around a 22-inch aircraft drop tank, powered by twin supercharged Yamaha XS650 SOHC engines, is on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Iowa.[14][15] The "Project 200" fuel efficiency contest streamliner was on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum as of 2011.[7]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b Setright 1979, p. 91.
  2. ^ a b c Glick 2002.
  3. ^ a b c New York Times 2002.
  4. ^ a b c d Don Vesco at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame
  5. ^ Setright 1979, p. 187.
  6. ^ Lambky 2007.
  7. ^ a b c Youngblood 2011.
  8. ^ Renvall 1983.
  9. ^ DeWitt 2008.
  10. ^ Vetter 1982 "He [Matt Guzzetta] learned how to get streamlined working with LSR record holder, Don Vesco."
  11. ^ Belair 1976.
  12. ^ Fisher 1996.
  13. ^ Carruthers 2004.
  14. ^ Youngblood 2008.
  15. ^ National Motorcycle Museum 2013.


Speed records
  • Setright, L.J.K. (1979), The Guinness book of motorcycling facts and feats, Guinness Superlatives, ISBN 978-0-85112-200-7
  • Glick, Shav (December 18, 2002), Obituaries: Don Vesco, 63; Held Speed Records for Cars, Motorcycles
  • "Don Vesco, 63, Record-Setting Motorcyclist", The New York Times, December 20, 2002
  • Carruthers, Paul (2004), Don Vesco Motorcycles – Class of 2004, Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
  • 300 MPH chapter, Bonneville 200 MPH Club, retrieved 2014-09-12
  • Youngblood, Ed (January 12, 2008). "Current news: New at the National Motorcycle Museum (USA)". Ed Youngblood's Moto History. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
  • 1970 Vesco Engineering Yamaha Twin Streamliner, National Motorcycle Museum, c. 2013
Other projects

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]