Shell Thuet AMA Hall Of Fame Nomination:
Attention: AMA Hall of Fame Committee
TO: Katy Nastali, cc: Hank Scott, Tom Horton
Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum
13515 Yarmouth Drive
Pickerington, Ohio 43147
(614) 856-2222 ext. 1293
1944 Quail Circle
Louisville, CO 80027
Re: Recommendation for the Induction of the legendary tuner, Sheldon (Shell) Thuet to the AMA Hall of Fame.
Being far less worthy and of negligible notoriety as those that have benefited from Shell's expertise in the building, tuning and sponsoring of so many AMA Grand National riders, I am however lead to submit a request to induct Shell into the AMA Hall of fame. Shell is the epitome of American grass roots racing and his participation and contributions cover a time period from the 1930's to the present. Like so many riders that have enjoyed success and the limelight of the podium, I know that the tuner, and engine builder, is the one person that can turn a novice rider of possibilities into a rider of championship caliber, yet must stand aside as others get the glory.
Shell was able to turn motorcycles and engines designed for the street into competitive and reliable instruments of speed. While his contemporaries such as Tom Sifton, were specializing in Harley Davidsons designed for racing, Shell was the best at building and tuning Indian Scouts, followed by Royal Enfields, and later Yamaha's. As an individual he was able to achieve victories over formidable factory teams that shall live on in dirt track history.
Shell's influence and mentoring of young motorcycle enthusiasts, along with his wife Maggie, and as detailed in his biography, has turned many teenagers into national if not world class racers. Unlike the factory teams, which reap great financial benefits from their sponsoring of already established racers, Shell has, through his entire life and sacrifice, privately sponsored or aided many talented young men. The most notable, that have ridden under the Shell banner, are Dewayne Keeter, Eddie Wirth, Galin Brookins, John Allison, Rick Hocking, Elliot Shultz, Kenny Roberts, Gene Romero, Hank Scott, Don Hawley, Tom Horton, Jimmy Kelly, Eddie Lawson, and Chuck Basney. Art Fredenburgh, Keith Mashburn, Wayne Rainey, Bud Meyer, Don Castro, Gary Scott, Bob Shirey, Tex Luce, Al Gunter, Bill Heins, and Guy Lewis. Other greats, like Sammy Tanner, have benefited from Shell's generosity by a loan of a race bike.
As you study the pictures of Shell from his glory years to the present, one is appreciative of the number of young folks that surround him and his riders with admiring dream-like faces. Of these, how many, like myself and so many others, couldn't realize their dreams until they were far into maturity? Yet, when the bug to race came back, Shell was still there, building the same engines of that bygone era, with as much eagerness and vigor as he had back then. Shell, never being one to capitalize on the inexperience or financial status of others has continued to provide parts and services at prices indicative of the early '80's.
Yet with all his successes, he has endured many setbacks, sometimes caused by unappreciative riders or one-sided business alliances, Shell has continued on, in all humility, for the love of the sport. At the age of 88, Shell still hoists engines, splits motors apart, presses crankshafts, ports heads, bores cylinders, welds crankcases and all the other manner of things that one must do to turn a street bike into a racer. He still sponsors at least two riders in vintage events and supports dozens more across the world. All one has to do is say "I have a Shell motor" and everyone in the pits, knows what you are talking about. No other name can help you sell your Yamaha more than by saying your motor has Shell rods, Shell pistons, Shell sleeves, Shell #1 cam, etc.
Began racing by helping Jimmy Kelly in 1937.
Original member of the famous 13 Rebels Motorcycle club in the 40's.
Campaigned an Indian Scout against the Norton Manx's in 1949-50.
His Indian Scout held a land speed record on the salt flats that lasted for decades.
Dominated much of the Expert classes at California tracks in the 50's and 60's with his riders Al Gunter , Don Hawley, Guy Lewis and Elliot Shultz.
Was the only tuner to make a Royal Enfield competitive with BSA's and HD's.
Had a motorcycle dealership, which started with Indians, then Royal Enfields and Greeves, then later Yamaha's.
In 1970 Shell was asked by Yamaha to help build the XS650 street bikes into racers that could compete in AMA racing.
With rider Keith Mashburn, Shell won the inaugural Yamaha Silver cup at Ascot.
During this time he helped other young up-and-coming riders in amateur events such as Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Tom Horton, Eddie Wirth, Rick Hocking, Art Fredenburgh. Skip Aksland and many others.
Maggie Thuet, Shell's wife, becomes famous for her tuna sandwiches freely given out of their motor home to all the struggling young riders while on the road.
In 1973 Shell was hired by Yamaha to build bikes capable of winning the AMA Grand National Championships. Shell designs 750 cylinders, pistons and cams for the XS650 engine as well as performance parts for the 250 single cylinder two strokes used in short track races.
1973 Kenny Roberts won the Colorado Mile National and Don Castro won the San Jose Half-Mile National. At years end, when the overall points were counted, they finished 1st and 5th in the nation.
Shell was named the 1973 AMA tuner of the year.
In 1974 Kenny Roberts won the San Jose Mile and Peoria TT Nationals and Gene Romero won the Indianapolis Mile National. The Shell-led team, which included Don Castro, finished, in overall points 1st, 3rd and 12th in the nation.
Was awarded the 'Dirt Track Tuner of the Year' from Motorcyclist magazine's All-Star Award winners of 1975.
Started Shell Racing Specialties, as a private company, to help racers riding Yamaha's to have race-ready parts. Frames, tanks seats, and engine products all had Shell branding and were of his design and development
In 1976 Shell sponsored Hank Scott who won the Oklahoma City National Half-Mile. The last time a Yamaha would beat the indomitable Harley-Davidson factory at an AMA Grand National event.
Hank Scott showed up to the Ascot opener four years later in 1981, not having ridden since 1976, and won the race on a Shell Thuet Yamaha.
Dirt track racing decreases in popularity in the late 70's and 80's due to the Japanese factory's interest in moto-cross and enduro competition. Shell continues to build performance kits for street bikes in North America, Britain, Europe, and Australia.
1985 - The Yamaha XS650 OHC Twin ends production after 15 years (1970-1985). The success of this model, which sold more than any other of Yamaha's fleet, is directly attributed by many because of the influence and expertise of Shell. Thuet
1988 - Dirt track racing begins a resurgence among baby boomers and with the advent of the Vintage Dirt Track Racing Association (VDTRA), Yamaha' s with Shell motors and parts begin to dominate the vintage pro and amateur open twin classes.
1989 - The American Historic Motorcycle Racing Association (AHRMA) is founded, and Shell Thuet powered Yamahas dominate Sportsman 750 roadracing and 750 twin dirt track classes.
Present - Vintage racing continues in popularity, Shell continues to supply parts and engines. Shell powered Yamaha's continue to win championships.
After 63 years of racing Shell continues to get daily phone calls from customers, current riders, ex-champions, and inquiring engine builders. All, trying to glean the wisdom from this self-made man or to get fatherly advice. The 40-50 year olds that have known him when they were in their prime still call him Dad and send cards to Maggie on Mother's day. Some of us, that have only known him for a couple years, do likewise.
In closing, Shell's modesty and humility would never allow us to ask him about his life and successes. All the research of Shell's history was acquired without him knowing about it, through so many of his riders, friends, admirers and associates, especially Shell's life-long friend and business partner, John Reed. At 88 years old, though strong in spirit with a mind sharper than a tack, he is almost deaf, and Maggie, his wife of 55 years, is practically blind. He has outlived most of his contemporaries and many of his riders and those of us still living believe that there is no one more deserving than Shell Thuet to be honored by being a 2001 inductee in the AMA Hall of Fame Museum.
Thanking you, in advance, for your consideration.
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