Don Emde
Page updated 13-Jan-2011

Don Emde on the Gus Kuhn Norton at Brands Hatch.
Photos from the Gus Kuhn archive

Don Emde, the American, came from a racing family. He won Daytona in 1972, and in the same year he rode a Gus Kuhn Norton in the American Team of the Transatlantic Races. This gave the GK team a unique opportunity to meet the American team, and what a charming bunch of gents they were.

The picture on the right shows Art Baumann (left) and Don Emde (right) with Vincent Davey (centre) when some of the American team visited the Gus Kuhn showroom.

Don remembers: "Gavin Trippe said the promoter in England didn't want anyone on 350s. They were trying to get the Formula 750 concept going in Europe and they wanted everyone on 750s. Gavin contacted a Norton dealer in London named Gus Kuhn Motors and the head guy Vincent Davey agreed to provide a Seeley Norton 750 if I would ride it. I wanted to go back (having ridden in the BSA/Triumph Transatlantic Trophy races the previous year), so I agreed. Once we all arrived in England, the Gus Kuhn guys took me under their wing and I spent my whole trip with them. We all had things to do about the bikes on a day to day, and in some cases, night to night basis and I was busy all the time.

The 1972 Seeley Norton I rode was fantastic, but they also had an older model that was not as much fun to ride. Every time the new bike would die, they would drag out the old one and I was probably one to two seconds a lap slower on it. It was the electrics that killed us in that series, not even Lucas stuff! They had some trick (at the time) electronic ignition and a battery system that would put burn out soon, and often.

Don Emde on the Gus Kuhn Norton in 1972

"By the end of the first day of practice at Brands Hatch, Vincent Davey told me I cut a faster lap around Brands than any rider they ever had ride their bikes. It really worked well and only in my mind can I enjoy now what may have been. I don't know how I would have measured with the Rayborn-Pickrell battles, but I know I could have been close. In the first race at Brands, I think I got sixth. In race two at Brands, we went off the line and Cal, Pickrell and Phil Read (John Player Norton) were all lined up tight in line going into the first right hander. I went in 4th and took an outside line around Read and then when we banked left to come down the hill I had the inside on him and took 3rd. I stayed right with Cal and Ray all the way across the finish line of the first lap, into turn one and again down the hill and then, in a split second the motor died out. No sputter, nothing. it just died.

At Mallory Park, I set the fastest lap in practice, then the battery died right on the line before the start of the first race, and they quickly dragged out the older bike for me to ride, but it wasn't as competitive. In the second race I was going back and forth, dicing for position with Phil Read on the JP Norton. When I got off the bike, his wife Madeline was right there telling me 'YOU were cutting my husband off.' well, where we come from if you are in the lead you take your line. and then I crashed at Oulton Park. GRRRRRR! That's what my Match Races was like.

Cal Rayborn. almost nobody goes somewhere for the 1st time and does something like that, he used to ride the highways out near Tecate, riding fast on curvy up and down roads that he didn't know, he learned to adapt. (An understatement to be sure, as Don's friend Rayborn tied Pickrell for individual honors on the older iron barrel Harley-Davidson.)

I also rode that bike at the Imola 200 a month later and gremlins messed me up there too. After chasing Agostini around in practice I felt ready to do well at Imola, then the carburetors got an air bubble about ten seconds before the start of the race and I lost about seven laps getting going. Dang it." []

Click here to read Don's very interesting account of the first 200 Miglia di Imola event. []

Click here to read about his experience of a start line mishap. []

Link to Don Emde website.

If you have further details of Don's career and would like to add a
biography and/or pictures, please contact us.