History: Mini Bike Factories, Suppliers and Dealers

#41
Lil Indian warehouse.
A little bit of history about how Bonanza industries got it,s start . Orrin Farrand, was a sheet metal fabricator and heavy equipment mechanic. He did work for the Patchett Bus factory in Newman California before moving into the mining business where he helped design and develop a more efficient system for extracting Tungsten ore, a rare and valuable commodity during WWII. So valuable in fact, that the location of the mine and its operation were classified information.

The noun Bonanza is defined as follows:

1. a rich mass of ore, as found in mining.

2. a source of great and sudden wealth or luck; a spectacular windfall: The play proved to be a bonanza for its lucky backers.

Starting to get the connection...?

Orrin Farrand had handed down to both his sons, these same design and fabrication skills and innate mechanical aptitude. As teenagers in the 1950's , both Mike and Dan worked at the mine in the High Sierras helping to maintain the trucks and mining equipment. If something broke, it wasn't purchased..it was repaired or a new one was made from what was on hand. Later, Orrin would have a hand in the manufacturing side of the mini bike production at Bonanza, helping to design the welding, metal etching, and painting assembly lines that traveled between two floors via a conveyor system...but I digress.

Mike eventually entered Modesto Jr College where he majored in business. Recreational vehicles such as go-karts, and dune buggys were becoming very popular at the time and Mike saw this as an opportunity to combine his fabrication skills and business degree to start his own manufacturing business… Custom Kart Industries . In 1958, he started working out of his father's now vacated garage which was conveniently equipped with a drill press, power hacksaw, welder, etc. Joining Mike was his best friend from high school, Paul Heins, who helped supply mechanical drawings as well as lending a hand with the construction. This is where the first series of "fun" karts were built, all painted in metallic gold enamel. When they outgrew that shop, they re-located to the first of the San Jose locations at 24 Barnard Ave where they shifted their focus to competition karts.

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#43


Just snagged this off of facebook. California Speed & Sport, 299 Jersey Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Still in business "today". Has been in business since 1945.
 
#47
I can supply some information on the manufacture of Terra Cat mini bikes , manufactured by Rankin Manufacturing in Durand, Mi.. These were.larger adult sized fat tire bikes, with rimless balloon tires and a 5hp Clinton engine They were manufactured from the early 70s through the late 70s, and were pretty much a one man operation by a guy named Bob Proffer, with a few helpers. The early models had centrifugal clutches, but the later ones incorporated a torque converter. While not fast, they were great in rough country and would go almost anywhere. I do t know what their total production was, but I suspect in the but hundreds rather thàn the thousands. There are still a few of them.floating around the Michigàn area, but the original balloon tires are very difficult to fin images.jpeg d. Bob was.a.tinkerer, and I remember he built one with a 350 twin Yamaha from àn RD350 to take t the sand dunes. It was not.very practical because the tires would expand to where they rubbed the fenders. The building is still standing,and last I knew claimed a trophy business. The last time I saw Bob, he was a car salesman at a Chevrolet dealership in Flint, Mi.. If anyone would like photos, I may have some, or could get some of a bike and the building today.
 
#48
I can supply some information on the manufacture of Terra Cat mini bikes , manufactured by Rankin Manufacturing in Durand, Mi.. These were.larger adult sized fat tire bikes, with rimless balloon tires and a 5hp Clinton engine They were manufactured from the early 70s through the late 70s, and were pretty much a one man operation by a guy named Bob Proffer, with a few helpers. The early models had centrifugal clutches, but the later ones incorporated a torque converter. While not fast, they were great in rough country and would go almost anywhere. I do t know what their total production was, but I suspect in the but hundreds rather thàn the thousands. There are still a few of them.floating around the Michigàn area, but the original balloon tires are very difficult to fin View attachment 249912 d. Bob was.a.tinkerer, and I remember he built one with a 350 twin Yamaha from àn RD350 to take t the sand dunes. It was not.very practical because the tires would expand to where they rubbed the fenders. The building is still standing,and last I knew claimed a trophy business. The last time I saw Bob, he was a car salesman at a Chevrolet dealership in Flint, Mi.. If anyone would like photos, I may have some, or could get some of a bike and the building today.
Thanks for the history. Pictures would be great.
 
#49
I can supply some information on the manufacture of Terra Cat mini bikes , manufactured by Rankin Manufacturing in Durand, Mi.. These were.larger adult sized fat tire bikes, with rimless balloon tires and a 5hp Clinton engine They were manufactured from the early 70s through the late 70s, and were pretty much a one man operation by a guy named Bob Proffer, with a few helpers. The early models had centrifugal clutches, but the later ones incorporated a torque converter. While not fast, they were great in rough country and would go almost anywhere. I do t know what their total production was, but I suspect in the but hundreds rather thàn the thousands. There are still a few of them.floating around the Michigàn area, but the original balloon tires are very difficult to fin View attachment 249912 d. Bob was.a.tinkerer, and I remember he built one with a 350 twin Yamaha from àn RD350 to take t the sand dunes. It was not.very practical because the tires would expand to where they rubbed the fenders. The building is still standing,and last I knew claimed a trophy business. The last time I saw Bob, he was a car salesman at a Chevrolet dealership in Flint, Mi.. If anyone would like photos, I may have some, or could get some of a bike and the building today.

A neighbor friend of mine had a Terra Cat back in the early seventies. Now I was living in western Massachusetts at the time, so not sure how it landed there except his father was a traveling millwright, so maybe he brought from Mich. . Anyway, it had a five horse Clinton, and the seat was so large, three of us could ride on it at once. We were only eleven at the time. It had a cent. Clutch, but was geared low. Sadly, one of the tires got sliced on a sharp piece of metal out in a sand pit, and that was the end of the Terra Cat. The tire could have been retrofitted I suppose, but we had moved on to larger bikes by that time.
 
#50
I still have one, and have some tires from a six wheel Argo type ATV, which can be made to work with some modification. Most of the Terra Cats I see now are converted to rimmed wheels and tires.
 
#51
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Here's the history I've received from a close relative of Baker Williams, the man who produced these mini bikes. His son's first bike was a Go Kart Co. Green Enduro powered by a 2 1/2hp Clinton. He bought it with paper route money. They went to the factory in Azusa to buy a go kart but fell in love with the mini bikes instead. He learned welding, engine rebuilding and porting on that bike. Later it got a jack shaft and a 700 West Bend. Then they built their own prototype with a hard tail and the Earls fork. 2 More prototypes and racing were to come to get the desired geometry of the frame, fork, steering, rake and trail, and swing arm position. A main concern and design feature was the concentric swing arm and jack shaft, keeping chain tension consistent. Simplicity was also a major goal. A dozen or so experimental bikes were made with a lot of different features. One even folded to fit behind the seat of a 64 Porsche Cabriolet. It was too week for racing and turned into a parts donor as did some of the other attempts. Only 12 of the bikes in my photos were built and raced. About half of them can be accounted for so far. Little or no literature exists but it was confirmed there was a good article in Cycle World. We're trying to find the magazine. If I have any of this incorrect, I'm sure it will get straightened out. This is a great story and hopefully more info to come.
 
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#53
:D Thank You all for preserving our history! Back in the day when we couldn't wait to get home from school, my dad made us boys go karts from scratch. later I had an 1957 allstate moped. Mick
 

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