The Parasite

It all started in the winter of 1958 when John Melniczuk Sr., a Triumph Dealer and owner of Bauer Cycles of Salem, NJ, and Tommy Grazias, a fellow racer, first toyed with the idea of building a twin-engine dragster. Both had been racing T-I10 Triumphs and the thought of taking the engines from each and building one dragster was too tempting not to try. John would design and build it and Tommy would race it. The best place to showcase such a motorcycle was the upcoming Daytona Drags. The bike would have to be ready to contest Daytona by March of 1959.

In the late 50s, the two-engine dragster concept was unheard of and John and Tommy spent hundreds of hours over a two month span designing, building, redesigning and rebuilding the motorcycle. Without the advantages of modern aftermarket and factory race parts, each part had to be fabricated by hand. The modified Triumph frame was hand built by John and included a girder fork front end brought back from England in a suitcase by Triumph Corporation’s Rod Coates. The half quart gas tank was made of two bicycle headlight shells and an empty can. The rear rim was reworked from an old Indian rim drilled out to save weight. Due to the horsepower created, most of the transmission gears were removed leaving only second and third. Finally, the drag slicks (not available at the time) were created from recapped Indian tires. But difficulties often follow the exhaust of innovation.

The bike was first tested, running only one engine, on Jericho Road, an old backwoods road know for drag racing. Timing both engines had become increasingly difficult. John worked tirelessly at it, breaking chain after chain. His first thought was to run the engines as a single four cylinder. What he got was a four-cylinder slingshot snapping chains straight up into the air. Then one day it came to him– the engines had to be timed as one. During the frame modifications, John ran into difficulty with the rear section braking and had to add gussets to strengthen it under the load of two engines. After working through all of these setbacks the bike was starting to come together.

But before heading to Daytona they needed to race the bike in some local competitions. So they loaded the bike into Tommy’s station wagon and set sights on Indiana where they claimed their first victory. The $100 prize money, however, went even faster. For all proceeds went to the Pennsylvania State Police who stopped them for driving over 100 mph on their way to Indiana.

One evening in the old, rickety shop of Bauer Cycles, John, Tommy and a group of racing friends were sitting around trying to come up with a name for the bike. Each took turns rifling through an old dictionary searching for a single word to describe the unique, twin-engine monstrosity. Finally, around the letter P, someone said they had found it. The room grew silent as he read it aloud: “Parasite, an organism living in, with, or on another organism.” That was it, one engine living off of the other. The Parasite had been born.