Texas racer Johnny Allen is best known for the multiple AMA motorcycle speed records he set at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in the mid-1950s while at the controls of the “Texas Ceegar,” a Triumph-powered, methanol-fueled motorcycle with a streamlined body shell.
Born in 1929, Allen was a resident of Fort Worth, where he owned a chrome-plating business. He raced with sponsorship from local dealer Pete Dalio, and was a regular competitor at the nearby Panther City Speedway. Allen spent eight years in AMA Class C racing, and was a Texas State Champion. He also raced for dealer Vern Gardner’s team from Oakland, Calif., where he eventually sustained a leg injury that ended his flat track career.
The Texas Ceegar was built by airline pilot J.H. “Stormy” Mangham, and Fort Worth dealer, tuner and 2001 Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee, Jack Wilson. The molded fiberglass shell of the Texas Ceegar was 15 feet, 8 inches long, and 22.5 inches wide in the center. The chromoly tube-frame chassis could be fitted with different engines for record attempts in various classes.
Prior to 1956, the 27-year-old Allen had already beaten six world speed records for various classes and distances and held two AMA speed records, including a 1955 run of 193.3 mph in the Texas Ceegar. In the summer of 1956, Allen and the Texas Ceegar team went after multiple AMA and FIM records in an effort to capture the world absolute speed record for a motorcycle.
When attempting record runs in the 650cc, 750cc or 1000cc classes, the Texas Ceegar was powered by a Triumph Thunderbird 650cc engine. For 500cc class competition, the machine was equipped with a Triumph Tiger 100 500cc engine. Both engines were normally aspirated, production-based motors.
On Aug. 31, 1956, Allen set the 500cc record of 198.020 while under the supervision of AMA officials. Allen and the Texas Ceegar team then set their sights on the world absolute speed record, which had recently been set at 211.4 mph by German Wilhelm Herz aboard the turbocharged 500cc NSU streamliner.
On September 6, AMA and FIM observers looked on as Allen set the world absolute speed record for a motorcycle at 214.40 mph. The record was later denied by the FIM due to a technicality, but stood as an AMA record and provided immeasurable clout for Triumph’s advertising campaigns. The now-classic 1959 Triumph Bonneville was named in tribute to the Texas Ceegar team’s record-setting efforts.
In the latter part of the 1960s Johnny, wife Reba, and silent partner Stormy Mangham opened Johnny Allen Triumph-Suzuki in Fort Worth, which they operated until 1974. Allen remained involved in the plating business and worked with several Texas jewelry manufacturing companies. He also became a real-estate agent and developed a successful agency in the Millsaps, Texas area.
Mangham had an airstrip near Millsaps, where Allen learned to fly in the 1970s. “He crashed three times and survived,” said friend Bob Stoker. “Johnny was quite a character.”
In his retirement years, Allen enjoyed hunting and fishing near his home in Millsaps, where he died in 1995.
Allen was inducted in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.