S & S Brings Know-How and Nostalgia to V-Twin Engines - Engine Builder Magazine

S & S Brings Know-How and Nostalgia to V-Twin Engines

As a maker of high-performance motorcycle engines, S&S can be linked to the industrial history of Wisconsin. However, the S&S story actually starts in Blue Island, IL, right after World War II. That’s when George J. Smith returned to his home in Blue Island and began tinkering with the engine on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

George J. Smith sits on a Harley-Davidson in his suburban Chicago neighborhood. This shot was probably taken in the early post-war years when new cars were hard to buy. The car behind him is a 1941 Pontiac. (Photo courtesy of S&S Cycle)

Smith had a knack for making motorcycles run faster. His talents did not go unnoticed. Before long he had a reputation for customizing and “hopping up” bikes like no one else could. He was “The Man” to see on the Southwest side of Chicago, and as the demand for his services increased, he started to dream of opening his own business.

Smith’s friend Stanley Stankos ran an auto upholstery business and let George use his machine shop. In 1958, the duo teamed to start a motorcycle shop, using both their initials in the trade name. Stankos felt the business was a hobby and sold his half to Smith in 1959. George’s wife Marjorie – who was also a motorcycle enthusiast – became his business partner and the S&S name then stood for Smith & Smith.

It was Marjorie who had the idea to buy a mailing list of all the Harley-Davidson dealers and send them literature about the lightweight solid-lifter pushrods that George was making for Harley engines. They allowed replacing the factory-type hydraulic valve lifters with solid lifters, which was a big performance improvement. There were 1,300 Harley dealers then and orders streamed in from dealerships across the country.

With his pushrods selling well, George began to manufacture a stroker flywheel that increased the horsepower of the Harley V-Twin engine. Smith had to take out a second mortgage on his home in order to afford a new lathe he needed to make the stroker flywheel. To get the machine into his basement shop, he had to take it apart and pass the parts through a window, before reassembling them in the basement.

In the early ‘50s, Smith began racing at Bonneville. The salt became a test bed for S&S products and its racing successes helped build the company’s reputation. Smith experimented with dual carbs to make his race bike go faster. He designed dual-carb heads that helped with fuel-delivery problems in high-performance engines. In 1967, S&S came out with a new carb that solved the problem simpler and cheaper.

Two years later, George moved the company to Viola, WI and hired his first employee, a local machinist named Floyd Baker. At the time, George’s son George B., worked for a printing company in Chicago. In 1970, George B. started working at S&S, but father and son found it difficult to work together. Despite any difficulties, George B. retained a great love for his dad and would later become company president. Another son, Ken, joined the company in 1971.

By 1975, George J. had created the Super B carburetor and then developed big-bore cylinders for Harley “Shovelhead” engines in 1979. It was just a year later that he died after a sudden heart attack. Marjorie put George B. in charge of S&S. It was a learning experience, but after a lean period in the early 1980s, several new products – including the Super EG carburetor and some innovative new engine parts – got things rolling once again.

In 1992, Marjorie Smith passed away. The following year, Sam Scaletta took over as the first person to run the company outside the family. As president, Scaletta worked with Kenneth Smith and other family members to increase profits. Kenneth Smith retired in 1991 and Brett Smith became president in 1993.

It was in 2004 that S&S set up its modern corporate headquarters in La Crosse, WI and opened a new training and certification facility. The X-Wedge engine was introduced a year later and in 2007, the S&S emissions lab opened. The company today has supplied components or engines to several large custom-building firms including Arlen Ness, Big Bear Choppers, Big Dog Motorcycles, Bourquet Bike Works, Orange County Choppers, Saxon Motorcycle Co. and Swift Motorcycle Co. ν

You May Also Like

PRI 2021: What a Show

First things first – Happy New Year to you all. I sincerely hope you got to be with friends and family during the holidays and that you all had a safe and fun end to 2021. We’ve now officially welcomed 2022, and as the holidays have quickly come and gone, as they always do, I

First things first – Happy New Year to you all. I sincerely hope you got to be with friends and family during the holidays and that you all had a safe and fun end to 2021. We’ve now officially welcomed 2022, and as the holidays have quickly come and gone, as they always do, I found myself reflecting back on the year.

New Year’s Resolution

It’s crazy to think that 2021 is coming to a close. The days and weeks in a year always feel long, but the months and the year itself, absolutely fly by. It’s strange how that always is the case. There’s no stopping Father Time as they say! All we can do is forge ahead and

Not Your Father’s Engine Builder

I’ve actually lost track of how long it’s been since people started claiming print was dead. It’s been a while! Now, I understand the ‘print is dead’ claim might be different for newspapers than it is for magazines, but I can tell you this – the content landscape has certainly been shifting. Related Articles –

Experience Always Wins

Formula 1 racing often tells smaller stories within each individual race; the final stretches of the Russian Grand Prix proved in my eyes that experience always wins.

Should Driving Be Outlawed by 2050?

As the world changes, so too does the automotive industry. Will self-driving cars eventually take over?

Other Posts

IHRA to Debut Motorcycle Class in 2023

The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) has announced a new motorcycle class has been added to the 2023 IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals at Holly Springs Motorsports in Holly Springs, Missouri.  Related Articles – Edelbrock’s Smitty Smith Dies at Age 70 – PerTronix Performance Brands Promotes Jeff Stacy – NASCAR Announces Hall of Fame Class

Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki Team Races to Pro Stock Motorcycle Semi-Finals at NHRA Midwest Nationals

Vance & Hines/Mission Suzuki rider Eddie Krawiec raced into the semi-finals and jumped up three spots in the Pro Stock Motorcycle Countdown to the Championship standings at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis on Sunday. Related Articles – NASCAR Names New Sr. VP of Competition, Promotions – Midwest

Celebrating 50th Anniversary of BMW Motorsport

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of BMW Motorsport, the BMW CCA Foundation will present The Power of M at The Ultimate Driving Museum in Greer, South Carolina, a dynamic and historic display that will open to the public on May 16. Related Articles – Hot Rod Power Tour 2023 Dates and Locations – Dayco Recruits Craig

Motorcycle Engine Bearings

Since motorcycle bearings are smaller than automotive, the oil clearance is smaller too. In order to achieve optimal conditions of hydrodynamic lubrication, the absolute tolerance of the oil clearance should be tighter than that of bigger automotive bearings.

Motorcycle Bearings