WHEN LEGENDS LEAVE US
EC Birt 1940-2012
By Matt Cuddy
One of the most knowledgeable tuners of two-stroke machines has passed away. EC Birt, who had more hands-on experience on the inner working of competition engines then about anyone else, passed away on March 7th, 2012. He leaves behind a family of sons, grandkids, great grand kids and friends who knew him as one of the greatest mechanics on a two cycle motorcycle who ever lived.Some say the greatest generation were the people who fought and died in World War Two. For me, the greatest generation were all those guys born around 1940 who came of age in the late fifties, and built hot rods, dragsters and the pre-dirt bikers who tried to keep a BSA A-10 alive at anything over six thousand rpm. That’s when I was born, 1958, and by the time 1970 rolled around, I was twelve, and firmly entrenched in all things mechanical.I lived with my Grandparents, my mom and Uncle Richard. Richard was a hot rodder and tinkerer of engines par excellance. Rich started off in the middle fifties on English cars and motorcycles, and how to keep them alive, after modifying them to the ragged edge.Of course when you go hammer and tongs on an engine and make a few big mistakes, you seek the gurus of speed, like EC Birt, for knowledge and ideas on how to “do it right.” Such was the case when my Uncle ditched his BSA for a new 1969 AT1MX. Now the AT1 MX was a neat little motorcycle, but when put up against his riding buddies 650 Triumphs and BSAs, it was sorely lacking in the power department (even though it could keep up with, and in some situations beat a 650).My Uncle Rich had already tweaked the little AT1 to the edge with a stretched and lowered frame, a 175 top end and about every go-fast accessory the industry had to offer for small Yamahas. Still, it needed something extra to put those big double knockers in their place. That’s when he discovered Precision Cycle in Lawndale, CA, and it proprietor, EC Birt.That was 1972, and the dirt bike industry was going great guns. It seemed everybody had a dirt bike, and all were modifying the crap out of their bikes, in the search of that most elusive of properties, speed and reliability. EC had the answer for my Uncle, a 200cc cylinder, ported to insanity, along with a hand-built through the frame expansion chamber that was a work of art. A 30mm Mikuni, and Pacer head rounded out the package, and in the alley next to Precision Cycle, the little AT1 moved out like a road racer, and sounded like some factory built hi-bucks racer.I still remember meeting EC, funny hat and all, after he and my Uncle discussed the finer points of the modifications EC had just made to the once timid AT1. I was only twelve at the time, and bought a pre-packaged race cut rotary valve for my JT1MX Mini-Enduro, and some new carb jets that went along with it. EC was into everything Yamaha at that time it seemed, and knew his way around a Fordham porting tool like no one else.
Fast forward to 2009. Rick Sieman and I had just re-vampedsuperhunky.com into a common sense anti-exploding four stroke site for luddites who still worshiped at the altar of the two stroke. I said to Rick, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get EC Birt to write for the website, on things only he knows about, for the self tuners out there who are regulars on our website?" Rick agreed, and an email was quickly sent off to EC, who was jazzed at the opportunity to have his own column on the website, called “Ask EC”.It was one of the most viewed columns on the site, and we got big hits because of EC and his extensive knowledge on about everything that made a competition engine run better and last longer. A true self taught genius.But like all good things there is a beginning and an end, and the entire staff of superhunky.com benefited from the association with EC and his particular brand of knowledge.We can only pray that someday we will meet EC again, in that place where we have gone, where he’ll be schooling Danny Chandler on porting tricks for his Maico, and grinding ports in God’s own engine.Gods speed EC, you will be missed.