WALLENBERG: In the Winter of 74 after
I'd won the title in my area and
I had a chance to go to California, all expenses paid. There was
businessman in the Dairy business in Wisconsin - his son was 17-
and I had
just turned 18- and he said I'd like you to mentor my son- and
you two go to
California - and race against the big guys- all expenses paid-
SIEGE: no doubt-
WALLENBERG: well - I had this plan that
maybe I should go to College
too- but my Dad said boy, an opportunity like this is just incredible-
would go for it. Well, of course I did. And anyway I was getting
transmission worked on across the street from the old FMF headquarters
this transmission shop called KOBA. And the KOBA Shift Kit was
the absolute best thing you could do to a Sachs gearbox. It made
reliability go from 50% to about 90%.
SIEGE: they made this just for the Sachs
Engine? or for other things?
WALLENBERG: Nope. They just made it
for the Sachs Engine, but at that
time when it was first invented in around 73 there were so many
engines out there- with all the Pentons and Monarks and DKWs.
Anyone who was riding offroad should certainly benefit from this
So I happened to be getting my tranny
done- and it was all buttoned up
and ready to go- at that time FMF was in an Industrial Area in
that was not even paved- so there were just dirt roads-
SIEGE: which is handy!
WALLENBERG: yeah very handy- a lot of R&D
Work that FMF's Donny Emler and those guys did back then- put on a new
pipe- lets try it- run 'r own the road!
I had just gotten the tranny together- lets make sure the thing shifts-
and I hopped on that thing and took off down the road. At the same time
Donny Emler had wedged a 125 Elsinore Engine into a XR75 minibike frame
- he was just getting that thing going.
said "this is the World's fastest 125"
"well... you may think
so but ...."
So we did an impromptu drag race
right down the street- and I dusted him. And he absolutely went wild.
He didn't believe it- he thought it was a bored out 175- and he said
I gotta see that engine! I gotta see that engine! I said Donny you can't
see that engine- NOBODY is allowed to see that engine. My Dad told me
nobody was allowed to see that engine unless he was there with them.
So my Dad came out a couple weeks later for Christmas, and it turned
out my rod had let go. So we needed to pull it down. And by that time
we started chumming around with the guys at FMF and so Donny said to
my Dad sure we'll help you pop the rod out with my press, and at that
time Donny got to look at the engine.
SIEGE: and YOU had seen it before
then , yes?
WALLENBERG: oh I
had, yes, but I was sworn to secrecy because at that time -
SIEGE: it was hot news
WALLENBERG: yeah no one had ever
seen one like it, and even though the whole industry was switching over
away from European Bikes, especially 125s to the Japanese Bikes. But
it was secret secret. And it added to the mystique. But we got to be
friendly with Donny, and actually my Dad saw that the handwriting was
on the wall for the European Bikes and thought that these guys at FMF
really knew how to make fast bikes. And Marty Smith was running some
of his stuff.
So we became the first ever FMF Distributor outside of California, out
of the basement of my Dad's TV Shop. We ordered 100 pipes- and we couldn't
afford 100 pipes, but we said send ten a week, so we had to sell 10
pipes to pay for the next 10.
SIEGE: how new was FMF at that time?
WALLENBERG: they were only a year and
a half old- two years at the most. Although Donny had been around
building hot Pentons... he was even hot on the Zundapps. So I
would say 71 and 72... Donny learned the business form another
really famous porting guy named EC Birt. He made some Monark Pipes-
Birt Pipes were really popular.
WALLENBERG: the other thing was that
working at FMF at the time building pipes was a guy by the name
of Dave Miller. And Dave Miller was also a top racer - a SoCal
Racer and a pipe builder. And he was making weird one-off bikes.
He would put a Honda engine in a Penton Frame- a Penda. He had
this other one called a Hondakasaki- he took a Hodaka and a Kawasaki....
he made these weird things- because Dave was just a really brilliant
fabricator- so we commissioned him to build a Monda
for me for 1975. And so he took the basic fame parts from the
Marty Smith Monark and laid down the shocks and did a few other
things and made it work for a Honda Engine...
SIEGE: it was an Elsinore Engine?
WALLENBERG: an Elsinore Engine with
all the hot stuff- I only raced it- that I remember - two times.
It had lots of teething problems because the Honda had the sprockets
were on the left side, while the Monark was on the right side,
and we weren't -ourselves, my dad and I - really great at the
fine machining that needed to be done, so it could have used a
lot more work. The concept worked- it was really fast- it only
weighed 167 pounds- but that was the problem- just getting everything
to work and fit right. So it turned out better to just get a Japanese
125. So when I turned Pro that Spring-
SIEGE: Spring of '75?
WALLENBERG: Yeah- I decided to make a decision-
the AMA had just announced the first ever Amateur National Championships,
and my dad said what do you want to do? Do you want to stay Amateur?
Or turn Pro? And I just wanted to turn Pro, and wound up getting my
3-digit number and got a YZ125. And Emler did the whole FMF Stuff on
it- and it was fast and really nice. And so I rode that, qualified for
a few Nationals even, and got my feet wet on the National Scene.
SIEGE: how long did you stay as Pro?
at Mid Ohio in '77
WALLENBERG: Three years. 75, 76, 77.
And I got a Maico Factory Ride in 76 and 77 on the 250, and I
rode 125s for FMF. And then in 78 I was offered a Montesa ride.
Maico had three distributors back then; Midwest, East and West.
And the Midwest Guy was bought out and my Midwest Ride was gone.
So I was shopping for a ride, and working with Husky and Montesa
and I really wanted to be a Husky Rider all my life- it was a
dream of mine. And unfortunately the call came from Husky a week
after the Montesa Ride was nailed down. And I just couldn't go
back on my word to the Montesa guys.
SIEGE: and the Montesa was a 250?
WALLENBERG: it was the new generation
- it had the remote reservoir shocks- the very lightweight Marzocchi
Shocks- the last year of the red tank- and then they went to the
SIEGE: Ok- let me ask you another question-
what's the coolest bike ever, for your money?
WALLENBERG: the coolest bike ever- oh
man... well there's a lot of cool bikes- I always loved- just
for fun on the street- the old RD400 Yamaha- I mean, that to me
was just the ultimate cool fun bike to have- you could ride it
around like a dirt bike- it was light and quick- and really comfortable-
and lets see- I loved my Maicos- I had really nice ones, although
they broke and everything else - but I think one of the greatest
bikes still is the '81- the year of the twin shocker-
SIEGE: the 490?
WALLENBERG: yeah- it was superb. But
I also have to say in terms of a modern bike, Honda has pretty
much come to perfection with the CRF450.
SIEGE: In Racing, what's the closest
call you ever had?
WALLENBERG: well- when I had the Montesa
ride- I only got to ride the bike a couple times- and I raced
it and I was at Rockford Illinois, at Byron, and I put my foot
down in a turn- and it caught a tree root and it turned my foot
around- and it tore the ligament in my knee, and that was really
it for me- because the window that I had for that season- I spent
the summer in a cast. These days it would have been a nothing
surgery- but back then they opened it up- there's like a 10 inch
incision and they tied the ligament together, and I was in a cast
from my ankle to the top of my thigh for three months, with my
knee in a bent position. And I did come back and start riding
again, but that window kind of closed for trying to do the Nationals
again. And immediately after that I got this job opportunity to
move to California.
SIEGE: and you're what? 24?
WALLENBERG: 21- to take over this job
to be an ad guy for Dirt Bike and Motocross Action, which to me
was an absolute dream job- and I don't know - I would still go
out and ride Saddleback Saturday - but the whole scene with my
Dad- the Pro thing is fun, but very difficult
SIEGE: It's a long way to the top.
WALLENBERG: that- and there's more pressure
on you than you can imagine- sponsors, and just trying to make
the field- and I was starting to drink Mylanta on the starting
line because my stomach would get so queasy- and I'm glad I did
it- and I even earned a top 100 number one year, but-
SIEGE: so it was on the next chapter
WALLENBERG: well, I was the first ad
guy that had a professional license- I could talk to advertisers
and speak the language- instead of a the three piece suit three
Martini lunch guys that were advertising guys at High Torque an
other places- that gave me a nice little IN to the FMFs other
world. look what it's taken me to- Magazine Publishing!
Wallenberg runs Racer X Magazine.
Notice the slot here- that connected to a worm drive for a Speedometer
because that engine was used for so many applications besides
a motocross engine