Eli Whitney from Helmet House let me know that Russ Collins passed away. Russ was such a NHRA legend! He was such a colorful personality and was always fun to watch. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. – GT
From the NHRA:
Russ Collins, one of the leading motorcycle drag racers and drag bike builders of the 1960s and ‘70s, has died after a brave battle with cancer. He was 74.
Collins made scores of fans and earned the admiration of his fellow racers with a series of twin- and even triple-engine motorcycles that Collins rode. He was the first motorcyclist to break the seven-second barrier and a run he made in 1977 set a record that would stand for 11 years.
At 18, Collins bought his first motorcycle, a dilapidated 500cc Triumph, that he rebuilt and started riding on the street and, eventually, at dragstrips in his native New Jersey. He moved to California in 1964 and went to work in the burgeoning motorcycle business as service manager and mechanic at various shops in Los Angeles and quickly got into the Southern California drag racing scene. Collins’ first landmark bike was Honda’s revolutionary CB750 that he modified and on which he quickly began to set records. His homebuilt special exhaust system was the envy of Honda owners, and before long, he opened RC Engineering.
In 1971, he built a supercharged, fuel-injected Honda 750 he named the Assassin that he ultimately raced in Top Fuel but was at a huge displacement disadvantage compared to the big Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs. After experimenting with some double-engine designs, in 1973, Collins built a revolutionary, three-engine, Honda-based bike he dubbed Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe — named in honor of the famous railroad line of the late 1800s — that set numerous records. Collins rode it to the first seven-second quarter-mile turned on a motorcycle at the 1973 NHRA Supernationals in Ontario, Calif.
The bike was so powerful and heavy that it proved to be very hard to control, and in 1976, the bike was destroyed in an accident that landed Collins in the hospital, and while recuperating, he dreamed up his next monster creation — The Sorcerer, featuring dual Honda 1,000cc engines. This bike ran a record-setting 7.30, 199.55-mph run that stood for 11 years.
Collins continued to race motorcycles until the early 1980s, when he turned to drag racing Top Fuel cars for Bill Miller from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s.
Collins was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
Collins is survived by his wife of 33 years, Deanie; sons Russell Jr. and David; daughters Tracy and Debbie; nine grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
Services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Wounded Warriors.