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Today in Motorcycle History

The "Heathen" Speedway Machine

(Pictures* and Information courtesy Mike Heath in America).

Sometimes machines and engines aren't quite what they seem. During the 1970's, the 4-Valve boom was well under way and just about every machine manufacturer and designer were throwing their own 4-Valve conversion units into the melting pot.

So when the "Heathen" made an appearance, people were keen to find out what new concepts it had in store ..... but things weren't quite what they seemed.

Former rider Mike Heath from America kindly sent me this little "Gem" of a story ... enjoy!

When I first started to get involved in speedway in 1975, (I started racing in 1976), it was almost all 2valve Jawas, we even had a quite a few JAPs at our local track in Hanford. Then this 4valve thing got started, Streets, Luckhurst, Briggos, Ivan Tyes, Drakes, and then whole new motors such as Weslakes, Twin Cam Jawas, Goddens, GMs .... when was it going to stop?

We were doing fairly well at our local track up to 1981, but when going out of town we kept getting the, "whose riding the 2valve" treatment, it was time for us at Heath racing to do something. Do we bite the bullet and buy 4valves? That wasn't our style.

We have a small foundry in the back of our shop, so we decided to cast valve covers. Roger Heath, my uncle carved the pattern. What to name it? - At the time the Godden was very popular so we decided on the Heathen-1, and 5 of them were cast. The minute we hit the track rumors started flying around from "We had welded the 2valve head up and re-machined them to a 4valve configuration", to..... "we cast 4valve heads using the 2valve head for the pattern". Some even thought they were single overhead cam with the timing chain running up through the push rod relieves. There was even a talk about one that had twin cam long stroke Jawa fly wheels and aluminum rod in it, Heathen-2 ?
It gated great!!! It was a lot of fun, I retired after breaking my leg in 1983, the rest of our riders ended up with Weslakes & Goddens before the season was over.

Ben Ludolphy, an avid contributor to these Pages adds:
Very nice story about the Heathen but it reminds me of a very similar story from England. At the moment I cant remember the riders name, but at some time there was an EJ 4 conversion for a JAWA engine. In fact it was just a normal pushrod Jawa but with a special made rocker cover, so everybody thought that this was a 4 valver too. By the way EJ 4 stands for Edgar Jessop.

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