Spotted recently in an AMA newsletter, the bike that almost won the first roadracing world championship for an American but didn’t: Legendary tuner Erv Kanemoto built this one for Gary Nixon to campaign in the 1976 FIM Formula 750 series.
According to the story at the AMA site, Kanemoto built a much stronger new frame from large-diameter, thin-wall tubing, which positioned the shocks in a more laid-down position for more suspension travel and more progressive action. Horsepower from the liquid-cooled two-stroke Triple was never an issue.
The Daytona 200 was the first round of the international series, and Nixon scored a solid second. Then he appeared to win the second race, in Venezuela, but officials gave the victory to fellow American Steve Baker instead. Baker had pulled into the pits to fix a carburetor issue, and pulled back on track ahead of the pack but one lap down.
While appealing the Venezuela decision, Nixon battled Spain’s Victor Palomo for the title all season. At season’s end, the Venezuela win would have given Nixon the championship by a single point. What happened instead was that the FIM had apparently lost lap charts and paperwork, and wound up simply throwing out the results of the Venezuela race, leaving Nixon in second place, behind Palomo.
One year later, 1977, Baker won the Formula 750 championship, and he, rather than Nixon, is remembered as the first American to win a world roadracing title. There’s a more detailed account of the controversy here by our friend Mark Gardiner. Nixon died in 2011.