Don Vesco


 Don Vesco service (Dec 18th 2002)
Don's funeral will be held at the El Cajon Mortuary, 684 So. Mollison Ave. (the corner of Mollison and Washington),
El Cajon, CA. on Saturday morning, December 21 at 11 AM. The viewing will be on Friday from 4 to 7 PM
and on Saturday from 10 to 11 AM. In lieu of flowers, Don's family has requested that a donation
be made to Save the Salt, Inc., c/o Mike Waters, 39937 90th St. West, Leona Valley, CA 93551
Also, if you are so inclined, please consider making a tax-deductible donation in Don's memory
to the Prostate Cancer Research Institute, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 885, Los Angeles, CA 90045

News & Updates

12/17/2002 Cycle News
INDUSTRY NEWS - Don Vesco Memorial Information
By Paul Carruthers

Saying Goodbye To Don

The funeral services for land-speed record legend Don Vesco, who died yesterday at the age of 63, will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the El Cajon Mortuary in El Cajon, California.

A viewing will be held on Friday afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m. and again on Saturday from 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. service.

Immediately following the service, Vesco will be buried at the El Cajon Cemetary on Dehesa Road. The El Cajon Mortuary is located at 684 South Mollison Ave. in El Cajon, California.

12/16/2002 Cycle News
INDUSTRY NEWS - Don Vesco, 1939-2002
By Paul Carruthers

The World's Fastest

Don Vesco, the current wheel-driven land speed record holder and a former motorcycle land-speed record holder,
died today at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, after a bout with cancer. Vesco was 63 years old.

Vesco held 18 motorcycle and six automotive records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and he owned
the outright motorcycle land-speed record for 19 years with his 318.598 mph run. He is also the current
wheel-driven land speed record holder with his run of 458.44 mph set earlier this year.

In addition to his speed records, Vesco was also a successful road racer and was the founder
and owner of Don Vesco Yamaha in El Cajon, California, a dealership that also sponsored many a road racer -
including 250cc World Champion Kel Carruthers and former Grand National Champion Gene Romero.

Godspeed, Don.

From Roadracing World

Dave Friedman photo/Don Emde Collection

This just in from Kent Riches of AirTECH:

Land speed legend Don Vesco passed away from cancer 2:20 p.m. today, 12-16-02, in San Diego.

Please let everyone know.

Kent Riches


Don Vesco, 63; Held Speed Records for Cars, Motorcycles
By Shav Glick, Times Staff Writer

Don Vesco, a land-speed record-holder for motorcycles and cars, died Monday in Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego of prostate cancer. He was 63.

Long associated with the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Vesco set 18 motorcycle and six automotive records during a career that began when he was 16. Among his achievements is the current wheel-driven land-speed record of 458.44 mph. The world land-speed record for all cars is 763.085 mph, set in 1997 by Englishman Andy Green in a car powered by two jet engines.

Vesco was 62 when he drove his jet-powered Team Vesco Turbinator to the record Oct. 17, 2001.

Until the time of his death, he was planning to become the first driver to go 500 mph in a wheel-driven vehicle.

"Given the proper salt texture, it could average 500," he said.

Vesco and his brother, Rick, who designed the Turbinator, were instrumental in the "Save the Salt" effort at Bonneville, the longest and straightest such stretch in the country.

Vesco's record has an asterisk, however. His car was powered by a turbine driven by propellers. Fellow Californian Al Teague holds the piston-driven record of 409.986 mph, set in 1991.

In 1970, Vesco was the first person to ride a motorcycle at more than 250 mph, and five years later he broke the 300-mph barrier on his Silver Bird Yamaha, powered by twin Yamaha TZ750 engines. In 1978, he increased the record to 318 mph on a Kawasaki turbo, a standard that stood for 12 years.

Born April 8, 1939, in Loma Linda, Vesco had a passion for speed while growing up in San Diego, watching his father, John, race Model A and Model T Fords on weekends. He was a crewman for his father when John set a class record at Bonneville in 1951.

"Everything we did was a race," Vesco once said. "The first thing I remember is racing tricycles and scooters around the block. You name it, we raced it. From our toys as little kids, racing was always a part of my life."

He was also fascinated by what makes vehicles go faster.

As a third-grader, he was tearing apart model airplane engines and making them faster.

In his first major racing accomplishment, he won the 1963 Motorcycle Grand Prix of the United States, forerunner of the Daytona 200, at Daytona International Speedway. Riding a Yamaha, he averaged 89.405 mph for 124 miles around the 3.1-mile course combining two banks and an infield road.

After breaking all the two-wheel land-speed records, Vesco and his brother decided in the 1980s to tackle four-wheel records in their own custom vehicle. The result was the Turbinator, a car 31 feet long, 3 feet wide and only 2.5 feet tall. It was powered by a turbine engine from a Chinook helicopter.

Vesco said he and his brother once worked for three days without sleep to be ready for Bonneville when the salt was right.

"When you see the sun set and rise and haven't gone anywhere but the shop, and then you see the sun rise again, you know you're in trouble," he said.

Racing against time is also dangerous. Vesco had his share of high-speed spills, but none as bad as one in 1986, when a rear tire blew out while he was traveling about 350 mph.

Witnesses said the car went 30 feet in the air before crashing and rolling over three times. Vesco suffered a broken neck but never lost consciousness.

He made some of his fastest runs after losing an eye when he was hit by a rock while watching a sprint car race in 1996.

Vesco was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, and in April he and his brother were named "Car Guy of the Year" by the automotive industry at its eAuto World Conference.

In a 1975 interview, Vesco said he chased speed because "basically, it's my hobby. Some people play golf, some go fishing and some ride bikes in the desert. I get my enjoyment from the challenge on the salt."

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at El Cajon Mortuary in El Cajon.

IN REMEMBRANCE - Remembering Vesco
By Paul Carruthers

I consider myself fortunate to have known Don Vesco. As a matter of fact, when this 9 year old first came to America in 1970, I think he was the first person I met. Somehow, my father, Kel, and Don had worked something out so that dad could race one of Don’s Yamahas in the 250cc race at Daytona in 1970. Dad won the race, and Don suggested that we come back to race in the AMA series the following year. We did exactly that in 1971, and we’ve been here ever since.

I guess you could say that Don was the main reason we moved here instead of heading directly from Grand Prix racing in Europe back to our home in Australia. After all, that was our plan – until Vesco got involved. I ultimately have Don to thank for the fact that I now have an American wife and two children.

On Saturday, I had that opportunity - though not under the best of circumstances and without ever uttering the words.

Today, Don Vesco died in Mercy Hospital in San Diego from cancer at a young 63. A man who spent his life risking his life, a man who went 458.44 mph just this year, deserves better than to die of cancer at the age of 63, but cancer doesn’t ask who you are or what you do. And I guess he was fortunate to have put in 63 years of doing everything that he wanted to do – the 63 fastest years anyone could ever imagine living.

I still remember staying in a motel on El Cajon Blvd., just a few blocks from Vesco’s shop. The family stayed there until we found an apartment, my father and Don preparing the Yamahas that would bring many a victory to the Carrruthers/Vesco team. I remember the several trips to the desert with Don and his then-wife, Norma. We’d take our motorcycles and our dune buggies, and we’d head to the Southern California desert by El Centro to ride and drive. Those days of riding in the desert are some of the fondest of my childhood. Again, I guess I owe those times to Don.

And prior to that I’d learned to ride a motorcycle – one of Don’s motorcycles, a Yamaha Mini Enduro - on the salt flats at Bonneville as Don and his streamliner went about the business of setting, or attempting to set, land speed records. That land speed stuff was his passion. Is there a more perfect place to teach a kid to ride a motorcycle than on the wide-open Bonneville Salt Flats? Again, Don gets a big thank you.

As an adult, I didn’t see “Uncle Don” as much as I now wish I had. But I’d see him every once in a while, and he never seemed to change from the man I knew in my youth. I’ll always remember the glasses and the crew cut of the first American man I ever knew. Back then he looked like he just stepped off the set of the movie “The Right Stuff,” though that was long before the movie was ever shot. But Vesco definitely had the right stuff, and he was a true pioneer at the Bonneville Salt Flats – a place that he continued to return to right up until last year, when he set that mark of 458.44 mph.

I’ll miss Don. And I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling indebted to him. One last time, thanks Uncle Don. Rest easy.

AMA SuperBike Web SiteDec172002
Vesco: A Name Synonymous With Speed
by dean adams
Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Kel Carruthers leads Cal Rayborn on the Vesco Yamaha TD2 at Daytona, 1971.
image by Dave Friedman/Emde Collection

If there is a name synonymous with speed in motorcycle racing , it is this one: Vesco. Motorcycle racer Don Vesco died yesterday of prostate cancer, the always enthused and cheerful man from Southern California left an indelible mark on motorcycle racing.

The Vesco family has been a constant force in motor racing in Southern California almost since its birth. Consider this: Vesco was 63 when he passed away yesterday afternoon, yet his father, John, was a racer before him. Vesco grew up in So-Cal—living most of his life in the San Diego area—in that magic 1940-59 period when racetracks dotted the landscape and you could still go riding in the Hollywood hills any time you felt the urge. He did hot-rods, dry lake cars and the like, but was drawn to motorcycles and spent most of his life racing two-wheeled machines.

Vesco went to high school with American racing great and future AMA champion and Daytona winner Cal Rayborn. They were great friendly rivals in a time when you could be friends with a fellow and race against him in the AMA national on Sunday, maybe help him work on his bike a few days later. Vesco went on to back Rayborn on several bikes, and was friends with him until Rayborn died.

Vesco was no sugar-daddy, though, solely backing other men's racing like some; he raced, he built, he drove, he rode. He first roadraced in So-Cal, riding a bunch of different bikes (at AFM races at Willow Springs, Riverside, etc); very early on he is most closely associated with a Matchless G50. Later, he hooked up with then fledgling bike manufacturer Yamaha, riding for them here in the US in the early to mid-1960s. He had a long relationship with Yamaha, assisting them in racing, and they in turn supported him when he ran his own efforts, and through his dealership, Don Vesco Yamaha. Vesco also worked closely with Honda, BSA and Bridgestone. Vesco helped riders like Kel Carruthers, the aforementioned Rayborn, Gene Romero and countless others.

Don Vesco & his Yamaha streamliner
image by Dave Friedman/Emde Collection

After roadracing, Vesco doggedly went after Bonneville land speed records. He and Rayborn (Rayborn on a Harley powered streamliner) traded the land speed record back and forth before Vesco went head down blasted a Yamaha TZ750 powered machine to over 300 mph. With his brother designing the streamliners, Vesco was still racing 'liners in recent years, blowing past 450 mph, and with one eye, no less. He built sprint car engines in the 1990s, and while sitting in the stands one night, was hit by a rock flung from a spinning tire, losing the sight in his left eye. He actually raced-roadraced-after this mishap, looking really good and still wicked fast at the BMW Legends races at Daytona. Vesco was active on Team Obsolete's AHRMA vintage bikes within the last few years of his life.

He remained, by all accounts, enthusiastic and genial until his dying day. He was super-easy to spot at the track, what with his signature snow-white hair and beard, which was once so yellow-blond when he roadraced in the 1970s it almost matched Yamaha's then racing colors.

Legends: Dave Aldana, Yvon DuHamel, Jay Springsteen & Don Vesco at Daytona in the early 1990s.
image by Keith Patti

At the top level, men race for a variety of different rationales: a soul-level competitive desire to be the best, for the money and fame, the women, the speed-high, the travel, or any of the litany of reasons some men take part in a very hazardous activity. It's interesting that after they stop being competitive, many of them never race again. Some spend 30 years racing, then step off and never get back on, turning their back on racing for whatever reason. Vesco was one of the men who raced in one form or another for nearly his entire life. And not for the women or the laurels, Vesco raced because it was in his DNA. Building engines, getting ready, driving to the track with no sleep was an activity that was as natural to him as breathing.

If there is an afterlife, and there is some form of transportation in the hereafter, you can bet that right now Don Vesco is working to make his a little faster than the next guy's rig. And probably tomorrow, or maybe the next day, after he gets a little sleep, they're going racing. Because that's what Don Vesco did.

Don, Hos and Gene. Perris Auto Raceway

Hos on The Flat Track Page
Don Vesco passed away today after a long bout with cancer. I spoke with his good friend Gordon Menzie last Friday as Don had requested no visitors. Gordon said Don was being treated and was heavily sedated. Don had been in the hospital for three weeks prior to his death.

I have known Don was ill for over a year and when I visited him at his home in Temecula last summer he said he had found a medicine for his pain and was doing better. He was hard at work on the Turbinator streamliner project and was planning to go to Bonneville in the fall.

I first met Don when I was a teenager. He was a star racer both on the dirt and on the pavement. I watched him when races at the Carlsbad Raceway road course in the middle '60s. As dirt track racing became more popular, Don sponsored many racers out of his El Cajon shop. The highlight of the summer was Don's annual beach party at Mission Bay where we would waterski and play touch football and have a great time.

When Yamaha began taking over the road race world in the early '60s with the TD's, it was Don's Team Vesco that was at the forefront in America. Don found people like Kel Caruthers and Rob North to help him keep his Yamaha's the finest.

Don's ability to solve problems and try innovative approaches was clear if you ever sat with him and let him explain how he had gotten his Bonneville machines refined.

When I was injured in 1971, Don helped with my fundraiser by donating generously to the raffle prizes. Through the years, he was always glad to hear from me and would take time out of his busy schedule to chat.

Don was too young to die and we will all miss him.



Bruce Sanford

Joe Michaud writes on Brit Iron tonight..............

    I just got a phone call with sad news for local San Diegans as well
as gear-heads worldwide. Don Vesco passed away today.
    I'll write more in a few days.

    This just came over my email from Paul Carruthers of INDUSTRY NEWS
just now...

                "The World's Fastest
Don Vesco, the current wheel-driven land speed record holder and a
former motorcycle land-speed record holder, died today at Mercy Hospital

in San Diego, California, after a bout with cancer. Vesco was 63 years
old. Vesco held 18 motorcycle and six automotive records at the
Salt Flats, and he owned the outright motorcycle land-speed record for
19 years with his 318.598 mph run. He is also the current wheel-driven
land speed record holder with his run of 458.44 mph set earlier this

In addition to his speed records, Vesco was also a successful road racer

and was the founder and owner of Don Vesco Yamaha in El Cajon,
California, a dealership that also sponsored many a road racer -
including 250cc World Champion Kel Carruthers and former Grand National
Champion Gene Romero.
Godspeed, Don "

Goddamn, another one gone. A sad year, indeed.  

(11:58 Dec. 23, 2002)
Don Vesco, 1939-2002: Land-speed racer passes away

Land-speed racer Don Vesco died Dec. 16 after a yearlong battle with prostate cancer. Vesco set the FIA wheel-driven land speed record at 458 mph last year in a turbine-powered car he and his brother Rick designed. He also held 18 motorcycle and six automotive records at the time of his death, and once held the motorcycle land speed record for 19 years at 318 mph.

Don and Rick were instrumental in preserving the Bonneville Salt Flats after nearby mining interests threatened to siphon the salt from the flats and consequently end racing there. Thus, the Vesco family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made in Don’s name to Save the Salt Inc., c/o Mike Waters, 39937 90th St. West, Leona Valley, CA 93551

Posted Dec 25th, 2002 on FT page by JEG

Jim Feuling is an inventor, author, publisher, philosopher, pilot, motorcycle and automobile designer/builder/racer and leading-edge researcher/developer in the field of engine design and fluid dynamics. Jim founded Feuling R&D/Advanced Technologies in 1974. His experience with high-efficiency engines began at an early age. He started riding motorcycles at age 5 and flying aircraft at age 11. He tuned and raced his own motorcycles and won the California State TT Championship at 16. He graduated from high school in Honolulu, Hawaii, attended Southwestern College and The University of the Seven Seas. Jim served in the United States Army Special Forces. He subsequently began building and racing sports cars and off road cars. Jim scored many off-road racing victories. He was awarded the prestigious SCORE "Mechanic of the Year" trophy in 1976. His racing engines, high performance components and inventions have been used worldwide, from Daytona to Monaco, from off-road racing to Formula One Grand Prix racing and the Indy 500. Jim¹s leading edge development work includes his company¹s R&D contracts with Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, John Deere, Harley-Davidson and aircraft companies such as Cessna, Mooney and Quickie. In 1988 he received the "Outstanding Technical Achievement Award" from the National Engineering Societies for his "clean sheet" design, development and manufacture of the 2.0L Oldsmobile "BE" Quad-4 racing engine used in the Oldsmobile Aerotech Research Vehicle (267.339 mph International Record, driven by A. J. Foyt). His radical design for the Oldsmobile BE 4-cylinder engine developed the highest specific power output of any automotive engine in history (over 1,270 hp from 121 cubic inches).

In addition to racing efforts, Jim also developed the engine for the American Honda high-mileage streamliner, capable of 500 MPG @ 55 mph, and developed the engine for the 2-place Q-2 aircraft, rated the world¹s most efficient. His internationally-recognized products include the 4-Valve cylinder head conversion for Harley-Davidson® Evolution motorcycles, his patented aluminum CENTERFIRE® cylinder heads for Chevrolet 454 and Ford 460 truck engines, the all new 'Fast-Burn' MAXFLOW cylinder head kits, SuperPump and HP+ lifters for the Harley-Davidson Twin Cam engines and the awesome W3 Motorcycle. Jim is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, The American Chemical Society, the International Society for Optical Engineering and a Senior Member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He was elected a Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Engineering (IAE).He holds numerous international land speed records and is a member of the prestigious 300 MPH Chapter of the "Bonneville 200 MPH Club". The Feuling name has been closely associated with ultra-high efficiency, small-displacement engines, but he and his staff have years of experience with engines and powertrains of all sizes, from motorcycles to Indianapolis racing engines to hard-working big-rig diesels.

Jim is a consultant to a number of educational institutions. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Automotive Museum and has served as a "Distinguished Speaker" in the SAE Industrial Lectureship Program. He is a very popular speaker and has made numerous presentations to SAE, ASME, IMA and SME. He has been a featured speaker at the Superflow Advanced Engine Technology Conference on four different occasions; beginning with the 1990 Superflow Advanced Engine Technology Conference on the topic of "Overlap Phenomenon in the Four-Stroke-Cycle Engine," again at the 1991 conference, where his subject was "High Efficiency Sound Attenuation for Internal Combustion Engines." He addressed the 1995 conference on the topic of "Mechanical Octanes" and the 1997 conference on his "ULEV High Performance Engine/Vehicle." He is listed in the Marquis and Strathmore's Who's Who Publications under Science and Engineering, Business Executives and Technology.

Jim is currently involved in numerous cutting-edge projects including his radical W3 Motorcycle. A "detonation chamber" engine design, EZEV/zero emissions equivalent vehicles, electronic aerodynamics and his awesome world record setting Bonneville Streamliner.

His hobbies include surfing, scuba diving, motorcycles, paranormal phenomenon, UFO¹s, Nikola Tesla and traveling to historic and mysterious places.

Jim has two sons, Daniel and Matthew and a daughter Theresa.

Godspeed Jim Feuling and Don Vesco...

The Vesco brothers claim the highest speed record that hot rodders covet most. 458.440 mph 
BY JERRY GARRETT, January 2002

AMA Motorcycle Hall Of Fame