THE GO DEVIL
THE MINI BIKE FROM HELL
By Matt Cuddy
In 1968, I was 10 years old, and that summer I was recovering from a wreck involving a Briggs & Stratton bolted to an upside down tricycle. My Grandfather had welded up some sprockets for the contraption, and we were both thrilled and disappointed when the tricycle failed at speed, and left me the human scab (the first of many such occasions). My Grandfather felt bad about it, and I’m sure he wanted to make it up to me somehow.
There was a place named “The Akron” that sold everything from scaffolding to hot dogs. I was in there with Gramps looking for lawn furniture, and lo, between the ice chests, lawn chairs and the umbrellas was a folded up mini-bike, about the side of a fat suitcase. Next to it was an un-folded one, on a three foot tall rotating display, with the name GO DEVIL written in red on the advertisement placard behind it, a red devil with a pitchfork for the logo.
We were both transfixed by this “portable” mini-bike on its spinning display, that came with its own naugahide tote-bag, (that you put the folded mini-bike into). Made in Japan by Fuji Industries, it had Honda-Like build quality, and didn’t possess the rough edges of a US Built Mini-Bike, like the Taco 99, or CAT400. Fat little 8 inch aluminum wheels with Yokohama tires graced the rear swing-arm suspension, and rigid front forks, raked out to 30 degrees for stability.
The Go Devil was done up in fire engine red paint, with a white seat and red piping. The sanitary motor compartment housed a 50cc Fuji two stroke, with a torque converter, going to a number 28 chain on the right side of the bike. It was built like a scooter, with floorboards, and held together with a hinged joint and aluminum rod, connected with a heim joint at the frame, and screwed coupling at the forks. The handlebars were tilted at up an angle, like a speedway bike.
One painted green. With a trick seat.
Wow, both my Grandpa and I were impressed. It cost $100.00, and in the recession of 1968, that was big bucks. So we bought some lawn furniture, and I pretty much forgot about the Go Devil, Gramps would never fork over the $100.00. Oh well…
The next day, I was goofing around in the garage with my 3 speed, and my Mom came out. I asked her where Grandpa was. “Oh, he’s gone over to the Akron for something, he’ll be right back”. I didn’t think anything about it, and went back to wrenching on my Schwinn.
The low rumble of a ’68 GTO signaled my Grandfather’s return, and I glanced up as the green GTO backed into the garage. My Grandfather walked around the front of the car, and went back to the trunk. “Hey Matt, come here” motioned Gramps, as I noticed the glint of white naugahide from the open trunk. Gramps had done it! He’d bought a Go Devil!
Of course I was thrilled. No more home built contraptions with lawnmower engines for me! I’ve got a real mini bike now! So we mixed up a 20.1 batch of Bardhall VBA in a green gas can (that I still have) and cranked up that Go Devil. My Grandfather tried it first, and it hauled his 6 foot 200 lb frame up a pretty steep hill with no problem. The Go Devil had some balls. I rode it for the rest of that day; you couldn’t pry me off it.
That next afternoon I made the flat track mini-bike race at SIlverlake playground to show off my new toy. The track had first been for bicycles, but after we graduated to mini-bikes, it was now as hot as Ascot, with five or six mini bikes racing until dark, sometimes for money. It was an all out race around some small play buildings built for pre-schoolers. The track was hard sand, and perfect for hanging out a big slide.
My mini-bike buddies took one look at the Go Devil, its scooter design, and busted out laughing. Dan Olson, one of the faster kids with a Taco 99 and a hopped up 5 hp Briggs (with a jackshaft and two clutches), remarked the Go Devil looked like a girls bike. He would soon be laughing out the other side of his face.
We lined up at the start, the 4 strokes champing at the bit, motors straining against their centrifugal clutches. The smell of Francisco Race Gas filled the air, as the riders leaned over the front of their machines. The banner dropped! Olson got the hole shot as usual, his father had dumped hundreds of dollars into his Briggs & Stratton that ran on alcohol and had a 19 mm DelOrto carb. The rest of us fell in behind, and made our way to the first turn. The first turn narrowed and went around a small tree, so riders had to jockey for position, else hit the tree, or the chain-link fence that encircled the Silverlake reservoir.
The Go Devil, having a torque converter and that Fuji motor would sling-shot out of the corners, and soon made quick work of Dan Olson and his previously un-beatable Taco. When I started lapping the other mini-bikes, the race was called early, as my competition had suddenly become demoralized. Girls Bike indeed. I did a victory wheelie up Silverlake Blvd. as my once victorious competitors moped home. The Go Devil had arrived!
With its two stroke motor, torque converter, and the chain being on the right, it was a natural slider. The enclosed rear wheel allowed me to slam other mini bikes out of the way in a corner, and not have any effect on the little red beasty. It was respected, and feared.
The Go Devil introduced me to Bean Oil, ring jobs and cleaning air filters. It went everywhere, and even towed a broken down Honda SL90 out of Alamo Mountain on single track for about 15 miles, and didn’t miss a beat. I had the mini-bike for seven years, and after the motor finally lunched (ate a piston) my buddy Rick and I put a 250 Villiers Starmaker motor in it. That was scary. It disappeared when I went in the Navy at 17; someone stole it out of my Mom’s house.
But I’ve got another one in the garage, ready for restoration. I’m taking my time, because I want it perfect.
Just like 1968.