Salt Addiction Buddfab Streamliner

May 21, 2008
Rocky Robinson
Rocky Robinson
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

Having raced everything from Flat Track to Trials, Rocky Robinson now pilots streamliners at the Bonneville Salt Flats and currently holds the ultimate land speed record at 376 mph aboard the Ack Attack streamliner.


You don t need triple-digit displacement to hit triple-digit mph marks  at least if you re riding the Buddfabb Streamliner - the little green machine going over 130 mph on just 50cc of power.
You don’t need triple-digit displacement to hit triple-digit mph marks, at least if you’re riding the Buddfabb Streamliner – the little green machine going over 130 mph on just 50cc of power.

It’s one thing to race across the salt on two wheels with more horsepower at your disposal than most race cars. The Ack Attack streamliner I’ve piloted to over 340 mph produces nearly 1100 horsepower and utilizes two four-cylinder Suzuki Hayabusa engines. Overall displacement is around 2600cc.

John Buddenbaum and Eric Noyes teamed up to create the Buddfab Streamliner, a 50cc single-cylinder machine capable of speeds over 130 mph! How serious is their effort? Eric Noyes, the engineer of the team, works at NASA’s Ames Research Center developing test equipment for spacecraft heat shields. John Buddenbaum is a master metal fabricator and is responsible for building the nose of the Ack Attack streamliner, which doubles as the water tank, out of handcrafted aluminum sheet metal.

In fact, after meeting with Mike Akatiff at his shop and seeing his streamliner first-hand, the bug bit hard. When John was a kid he read about the 50cc land speed record and was impressed with the speed, 121 mph. The thought stuck with him, the idea of trying to beat that record. What he lacked in time, budget and space, could be overcome by building the pintsize streamliner. And, if the entire machine could fit in the back of his pick up, even better.

John Buddenbaum and Eric Noyes.
John Buddenbaum and Eric Noyes are the dynamic duo behind the Buddfab Streamliner project.

He discussed the idea with Eric, who has a fascination with two-stroke engines and was excited about the chance to put some of his theories to work. John would own the bike and Eric would share ideas and his engineering skills. Both would take turns driving…

It was agreed upon that the powerplant would be from an Aprilia 50cc street bike. Parts were readily available and it was a two-stroke engine. Mika at AF1 Racing helped with initial motor work and pointed them in the right direction. John would eventually take over the chores of engine building himself, enlisting the services of Metrakit, a Spanish company that develops performance racing components for pint-sized racing machines.

CAD rendering.
An early CAD design of the Buddfab. An engineer for NASA, Noyes researched NACA World War II data to find the most efficient shape for the small design.

An efficient shape was needed to cut through the air with the least amount of drag. Eric researched the NASA archives for what he called an “efficient turbulent flow airfoil.” For such a vastly “subsonic endeavor” NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) World War II research was used. A shape was settled on and Eric began printing full scale layouts of the design which they used for early mock ups before building the molds for the fiberglass shell.

A huge stumbling block in streamliners is the front-end steering. Traditional telescopic forks can be too tall and hinder the vision of the operator. Center hub steering is a popular choice, but is complex and requires more time to fabricate. Instead the team decided on a design similar to the one Jack Costella (the Mad Scientist of Bonneville) used on his 5050 streamliner. Utilizing his steering system to control the lower fork legs, they were able to use just one spherical bearing at the top of the forks and keep everything within the tight confines of their ultra-aerodynamic body. (Note: Jack’s 5050 streamliner is a one-of-a-kind machine. The driver lays face down with his arms in front, grasping the controls in a prone position – inches off the ground.

Unique front end as seen by driver.
Buddenbaum and Noyes came up with this unique steering system for the cramped quarters of the Buddfab cockpit.

Traveling like this at over 120 mph is likely the closest anyone will come to replicating Superman in flight. I crawled inside and got a look firsthand. It would take more than a bowl of Kryptonite to get me to drive that thing!)

As for engine configuration, they’ve literally tried it all. With a claimed 300 runs on Mike Akatiff’s dyno, the little two-stroke has gone from being spoon fed gasoline to gulping methanol and even mainlining nitromethane. While many say it can’t be used in a two-stroke engine, (and they may be right) they experienced huge gains in low-end power, but not much on top. After two engine seizures on the dyno, the intravenous-fed nitro cocktail was admitted to rehab as alternative methods of “mechanical euphoria” were sought out.

John and Eric experimented with nitrous oxide and were rewarded with more gains. 24 horsepower was produced by the little two-stroke, but they have yet to make a successful run on the salt utilizing the powerful oxidizer. Determined to run the gamut of performance enhancing stimulants, turbo charging was next. It was questionable as to whether it would work on such a small motor, but the results were comparable to earlier tests with nitrous oxide, with a notably “peakier” power band.

It takes a lot more than aerodynamics and a powerful engine to operate a motorcycle streamliner successfully. Alignment, attitude, and weight placement are also critical. And then you have to learn to drive the darned thing… John and Eric both have racing backgrounds: John with motorcycles, sidecars and vintage automobiles; Eric with motorcycles and shifter karts.

Weeee! Early downhill testing.
Weeee! Early downhill testing of the Buddfab Streamliner without its green fiberglass bodywork.

But being successful at the controls of a conventional motorcycle or shifter kart doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll adapt easily to the tight confines of a modern day motorcycle streamliner.

In 2006 at the BUB Speed Trials the team made an attempt at the NSU 50cc record (121.7 mph). It required gearing 25% taller than they had ever used. With Eric strapped inside the claustrophobic shell, they pushed off, but were unable to keep the tiny engine lit at mere mortal speeds. Instead, John tied a rope to the roll bar and pulled it with his truck. It finally started and Eric kept her running while John secured the canopy and pushed him to the line. At this point it was a dead heat between the racing engine and Eric’s racing heart.

The engine revved and he released the clutch, trying to maintain rpm’s. The tall gearing caused the machine to nearly stall, but after reaming the tiny motor for all it was worth and slipping the clutch just to maintain forward momentum, the little streamliner that could was wobbling down the salt with high hopes screaming at the top of its miniature lungs. Eric retracted the landing gear and held her wide open. By third gear he had enough momentum that he could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least on this pass, the shiny side would remain up. It was at this point that he realized the

Go Speed Racer!
The Buddfab Streamliner may be a small package but has plenty of Land Speed Racing records to its credit earned on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats.

flags he was keeping to his right weren’t the BUB course markers, but were in fact the markers used at Speed Week the month before! To make matters worse, he couldn’t see the course he was supposed to be on.

Thirty seconds into the run Eric conceded he was lost. He backed off the throttle, put down the landing gear and turned left. When he finally found the course he was at too much of an angle to converge, so instead drove to pit road and shut her down. Motorcycle streamliners can be hard to see out of and even harder to maneuver due to a very limited steering radius. To the team’s credit later that same meet, Eric captured the AMA Gasoline 50cc Motorcycle Streamliner Record at 121.4 mph, and John took home the AMA Fuel Record in the same machine at 133.8 mph!

As always, enjoy the ride.

– Rocky

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