Making of the Windjammer Part 3:
1971: Finalizing the design
In early 1971, I was operating from the "Meathouse" a 50 x 50 building on the alley in Rantoul Illinois. We called it the Meathouse because it had been the refrigerated Locker Plant in the days before before home freezers. It was full of metal lockers - hundreds of metal lockers. Some still contained "petrified meat." I used those metal cabinets for everything.
I was still making changes in the Windjammer. As usual, my friends and employees got the first fairing prototypes. Besides being a treat for them, it was a good way to accelerate development.
This was also the time that my design for the BSA Rocket 3 was being leaked to the public and press:
|It didn't hurt that my bike had been on the cover of Cycle World Sept. 1970 and was was being shown at the AstroHall in Texas in January of 1971.|
|My work was beginning to attract attention and things were beginning to happen quickly. We were running out of room in the Meathouse and had to begin working outside. Rows of Vetter Phantom fairings filled the parking lot. It was a good thing that we all rode motorcycles. |
The Vetter Phantom 4 was popular
Above right was a week's worth of production in early 1971. Each fairing required a large amount of hand work. Actually, it was all hand work. There was no such thing as a "fairing-making machine". The Series 1700 Phantom 4 was the last of my one piece fiberglass fairings. And it was the most specific fitting only the Honda 750. It retailed for $193.
Phantom Fairings were really good. And they were beautiful. But they were bad products. Here is why: Each design would fit only a limited number of bikes. They were expensive to ship. In fact, the only ways we had to ship were Railway Express Agency (REA) or Greyhound busses. I never learned about such problems in design school. I learned as I went. The new Windjammer had to eliminate these problems. If I did this right, someday we would have a big, "fairing-making machine."
Designing a good fairing and a good product.
"Getting the big pieces right."
From the beginning I designed the Windjammer to be vacuum formed. But not right away. For now, it would still be hand-layed fiberglass*. I would have to sell a lot of Windjammers before I could afford the enormous tooling expense of vacuum forming. Besides, I wanted to be sure that the design was perfect before committing to expensive metal molds. If-and-when we did vacuum form, quality and consistency would go up.
*Fiberglass - or FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) is glass strands captured inside a matrix of polyester resin that hardens with catylist. Vacuum forming involves using a kind of plastic that softens under heat, is drawn into a metal mold, then cooled and removed. More later.
June 14-18, 1971: Time for a ride to the International Design Conference at Aspen
I rode my H-1 Kawasaki 500 with this first Windjammer to the IDCA Design Conference at Aspen. Bucky Fuller was going to speak. Illinois was a good place to live and work because almost any direction from Rantoul was a great place for vacation. Colorado was two days away and I loved the ride. This was the first serious cross country ride with the Windjammer.
The other riders in the picture above had never seen a Windjammer before. Of course! This was the only one in existence. I already knew I was making something great.
When I got back to Illinois, a customer on his way to California named George Monroe stopped by to have a Series 2500 Phantom fairing installed on his BMW. He changed his mind when he saw the first Windjammer on my Kawasaki 500. I took the very first Windjammer off my Kawasaki, made up the first BMW bracket and sent him on his way.
More often than not, it was customers like this that stopped by to be fit up who helped us to make mounting brackets.
See the George Monroe story
|This is the very first Windjammer that was on my Kawasaki 500. I put thousands of miles on it. Then George put thousands more on it. It is now back in my private museum. You can see the very early interior with the storage pockets. At this point, I made a left side and a right side storage compartment to serve as the interior. I also decided that it looked too rough. I needed to make the inside prettier and cover over the backside of the headlight. Eventually, the interiors of all Windjammer Fairings were made in one piece. |
You are getting a peek at the design process. I cannot go directly to the final design. It takes time. Riding thousands of miles in all conditions is the most important part of designing.
|With the big parts worked out by August, 1971, it was time to refine the details: developing a standard hardware platform, finding sources for the components, etc. |
I wanted to be shipping Windjammers by September 1971.
|The first dash plates were the same as on the Phantom Fairings of the time.|
|Of course, we made special side decals |
The first electrical plugs were 6 prong. The holes were hand-filed rectangles. Serial numbers were scratched into the fairing.
Beginning November 1971, we Pop-Rivited aluminum plates onto the inside left side. These plates had serial numbers stamped into them. I got number 1000 for mine.
|This August 31, 1971 sketch shows how the Windjammer hardware bracket was taking shape. It would be a matter of designing amd producing a special mounting bracket similar to this for each bike we would sell a Windjammer for. In the end, we had hundreds of brackets! |
July 21, 1971, ready or not, the word was out
A dealer in California, Duane Ausherman of BMW of Marin, called to say he was servicing George Monroe’s bike and wanted to buy Windjammers for his customers. Thus began national Windjammer sales and a life long friendship with Duane. Eventually, dealers bought Windjammers by the truck load because they would fit any bike likely to come thru the door. This made it a good product. Any Vetter mounting bracket needed to put the Windjammer on any bike was just a phone call away. Those brackets were small enough to go by mail or by the new UPS system.
The Windjammer was a good fairing and a good product.
|The double wall construction of the Windjammer allowed riders to carry a lot of stuff.|
|Left: September 22, 1971 |
We were ready to begin accepting orders at $150 each. The Windjammer was the right thing at the right time. It killed the sales of the Phantom fairings. We had to offer discounts to get rid of them.
|The first Windjammers were made by the same fiberglass folks that had made the Phantom fairings, Bee Boat Company in Paxton, Illinois, about 15 miles to the north. It was always a pleasure working with Ray Diskin, its owner. In no time, however, his company could not keep up with the demand for the Windjammer and we had to find additional fiberglass suppliers. |
Good fiberglass people are few and far between. Eventually we had every good fiberglass outfit in the surrounding states making Windjammers shells for us. It required a truck and big trailer to be on the road all the time, picking up parts. What a nightmare.
The final version of the Windjammer mounted on my Kawasaki 500.
The Windjammer was now finished. I had just turned 29 years old. I needed a break. It was time for another trip to Colorado. I wrote in my notebook #15, P71 August 25:
|"Officially, I am testing the revised Windjammer. Actually I am going to sit on a mountain and read the Last Whole Earth Catalog” |
That is just what I did, too.
Coming up in 1972:
We were out of space at the Meathouse
In March, 1972 I made an inflated warehouse from polyethylene film and a window fan. I filled it with cardboard shipping boxes. It lasted until it rained and froze. The weight of the ice took it down.
Everybody wanted the new Windjammer...
Nobody wanted the new Bonneville
In September of 1971, I was asked: “Would you give some thought to fixing the new high-frame Bonneville?” This was Edward Turner’s flagship. Of course I would help.
I could develop the Windjammer and the Bonneville at the same time, right?
In December 1971, I began sketching the new Bonneville. I knew just what to do.
Next, a real factory and real Windjammer production
Posted Dec 24, 2012
updated Dec 30, 2012