Hell Bound Train: One Hell of a Drag Bike

By Tom McCarthy

Some will remember Kevin Cleary’s “Hellbound Train” drag bike from the 1980’s era as a two-time championship winning Pro Dragster class bike (1984-85). While the DRAGBIKE! #1 plates were won decades ago, let me assure you, if you ever get to see this bike in person today in the modern era, you won’t forget it any time soon. For art, great art, is both memorable and timeless. This is what makes a classic a classic and this motorcycle is exactly that.

What you see here on these pages is not only the old Pro Dragster champion from the two aforementioned years, it is a true labor of love from its 72” Chrome-Moly wheelbase to its 96 CID genuine Harley-Davidson core. Weighing in at only 395 pounds, if you look closely, you’ll see every attempt was made at saving weight wherever possible.

“There’s some seven months of making chips,” commented Kevin Cleary of Ohio, who built and raced this bike. “My brother Mike and I built this from the frame up. My brother was a hell of a machinist as you can see, there was no CNC for us.” They used a good Bridgeport milling machine and a lathe for the round stock turning to create everything you see here. Kevin commented, “I’d lay stuff out, mark it with magic-marker where I wanted weight reliefs cut into the stock and when Mike got home from work he would just start making chips.”

A good friend of Kevin’s, Carl Lowenpabst, helped him with the frame construction. They bent the tubing and formed it the way Kevin figured it needed to be. They started building it in 1983 and tested it late that year, but 1984 was their first year in Pro Dragster competition: they won it all.