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Malcolm Smith

Malcolm Smith

Malcolm Smith is considered to be one of the best off-road motorcyclists of all time. He has won more metals in the International Six Day Trials than any other American. He has found great success in desert racing in both buggies and motorcycles, winning his class at the Baja 1000 six times and finishing second in his class four times.

Smith was born on March 4, 1941, on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada. His father had purchased a sheep ranch on the Island with the earnings he had made as gold miner in north region of the province. In 1946 the family ready for a change returned to their native United States and settled in San Bernardino, California.

At thirteen years old Smith purchased his first motor scooter, a Lambretta. Smith lived close to the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest and would regularly explore the area on his scooter along with a friend. The boys converted their scooters in to off road machines by screwing in the used cleats from the local high school football team into their tires.

Two years later Smith purchased his first real dirt bike, a Matchless. Small for his age he had difficulty kick starting the large bike and would push the bike to the top of a hill in order to roll start it. Despite his difficulties getting the bike going, he took it to enter his first race. He entered the Scrambles Race at Riverside, CA. His strategy was to hold the throttle wide open. The technique lead to numerous crashes yet Smith finished in second place. It occurred to him on the way home from the race if he had utilized his normal riding technique which did not involve a lot of crashing, he probably could have won the event.

Smith continued to race throughout the 1950s and 1960s as a side hobby while working for Norm McDonald and Kenny Johnson at their Riverside, K&N Dealership building racing engines. In 1966 Edison Dye of the Swedish Husqvarna motorcycle company found Smith at the shop and offered him a sponsorship deal. The deal included a new dirt bike and an all expenses paid trip to the International Six Day Trials in Sweden. The event is now called the International Six Day Enduro. Smith took second place at his first event racing on unfamiliar muddy European soil. He went on to claim eight gold medals at the Six Day events from 1967 through 1976 making him one of the most successful Americans ever during the course of the event’s history.

Smith also found great success racing on North American soil and has won his class at the Mexican 1000 and its predecessor the Baja 1000 six times. In 1967 he came in first in the motorcycle class second overall, sharing the riding with J.N. Roberts. In 1969 he took the 250cc motorcycle class. He repeated the first place motorcycle overall finish again in 1971this time with Gunnar Nelson. After a serious motorcycle accident he tried his hand at racing the event this time in a four wheel vehicle. The results resembled his record on the bike and he once again won his class and taking second overall with Bud Feldkamp as co-driver in the 1975 event. They achieved the same success in 1977. In 1982 he and Bob Gordon shared the wheel of a Chenowth Porsche and won their class. He continued his racing career into the 1980s participating in the 22 day long, North African, Paris-Dakar Rally. In 1986 he came as Press Corp. In 1988 he and his navigator Alain Fieuw took their Range Rover to a fourth place finish. In 1972 Smith purchased the K&N Dealership which was renamed Malcolm Smith Motorsports in 1973. While running the dealership kept his hands full he managed to find time to work with film maker Bruce Brown to shoot the off-road classic “On Any Sunday.” Smith did not think that his role in the film would be significant due to the small amount of time he felt he was filmed. He was amazed at the amount of coverage he received and the positive recognition that the film generated.

Smith has been leading specialty tours for the public since 1995. His tours, Malcolm Smith Adventures, take motorcyclists on rides in North America, Mexico along the Baja 1000 route, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America.

He has not just toured the world he has contributed back to it as well. He hosts an annual Six Days of Baja Charity Ride which has contributed over $150,000 to orphanages in Mexico. He is a trail leader for the Colorado 500 charity ride which makes annual donations to the communities which it visits. He also operates the non-profit Malcolm Smith Motorsports Foundation founded in 2002, The Foundation supports the El Oasis Orphanage home to about 50 children. Sources: Notes From Malcolm Smith Fiolka, Marty. 2005. 1000 Miles to Glory, The History of the Baja 1000. Phoenix, AZ.: David Bull Publishing.

The Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Malcolm Smith Biography