Jesse Davis builds a tribute to his father’s famous “Lurch” — Kevin Schwantz’s first pro ride!
Here’s a piece of motorcycle racing trivia for you. Did you know the bike that Kevin Schwantz rode in his first-ever professional race was also the first Japanese V-twin ever raced in AMA Superbike? That’s right, and do you know what bike it was? The answer is “Lurch,” a Yamaha XV920 built by Vernon Davis, which has become a near-mythical creature in Texas racing lore:
“The bike was affectionately nicknamed ‘Lurch’, not in honor of the Frankenstein-styled character in TV’s The Addams Family (although that might have been just as appropriate), but for the way the big, torquey V-Twin Yamaha blasted off the starting line. In 1984 Davis asked Schwantz if he’d like to race ‘Lurch’ in the AMA Superbike round at Laguna Seca and Schwantz, who’d just gotten his Superbike license, jumped at the chance.” –Larry Lawrence, Cycle News
Schwantz finished 5th in the first Superbike heat race behind four HRC Interceptors, qualifying on the second row of the grid, which turned a whole lot of heads — suddenly, everyone wanted to know who this young Texan rider was and what the hell he was riding.
What was the story behind this machine? Years later, Vernon Davis provided some background on the machine:
“Lurch was kind of special, unique is the word that comes to mind though it has been called other names. We took a Yamaha XV920RJ, ’82 model, and we built a superbike out of it, or a pro twins bike to be exact, back then it was Battle of the Twins.”
Vernon says it seemed like a good idea at the time, as 1) the AMA had just gone to a 750cc Superbike capacity for fours, 2) as a twin, they could race it in the Battle of the Twins, and 3) they could also run the Superbike class, thereby getting themselves “into twice as much trouble.”
“It got its name of Lurch because of the way it would evacuate the start line. It was running against four cylinders most of the time in club races and it would out accelerate anything off the start. You could have first place…for a while.” –Vernon Davis
In the Superbike main at Laguna Seca, Schwantz was running sixth behind the likes of Wes Cooley and Fred Merkel, among others, when it unfortunately spun a rod bearing and put him out of the race. Still, Vernon went on to race the bike for several years in the Battle of the Twins class…
Enter Jesse Davis, Vernon’s son and the owner of JD Moto Service in Long Beach, California. Back in 2017, we featured Jesse’s quite insane YZ250-powered Honda Grom (six times the horsepower!), and Jesse, during his stint with RSD, was the main man behind the Suzuki GT750 Water Buffalo flat tracker that Travis Pastrana rode in the Super Hooligans short track race at Daytona.
Now Jesse is back with one very special build — a recreation of the original Lurch his father built:
Under 400 lbs.
Built for AHRMA Vintage Superbike Heavyweight.
Built as a tribute to my dad’s famous ‘Lurch,’ which Kevin Schwantz rode in his first ever pro race.
Just like the original, the bike is based on an ’82 Yamaha XV920RJ, but it’s been heavily modified. The rake has been adjusted from 28 to 24 degrees, swingarm is a modified lightweight Ducati 900SS unit, and the dyno-tuned engine now displaces 1155cc with custom Carrillo rods, CP pistons, and a crank lightened and balanced by Fox Performance.
What’s more, nearly everything else on the bike was hand-built in-house: brackets, spacers, cam sprockets, fork brace, exhaust, seat unit, and more:
“Nothing on the bike has been untouched by the mill, lathe, or welder.” –Jesse Davis
As you might imagine, it’s a very sentimental build for Jesse — a tribute to his father, who loves the bike — and it’s no show pony either:
“I was able to win the CSRA Superbike race at Thunderhill on the bike’s debut. With over 100 hp and 85 ft lbs, and 375 wet weight, the acceleration and handling are extremely surprising for a 40 year old motorcycle…” –Jesse Davis
Below, we get the full story on this incredible tribute to one of the legendary beasts of American racing lore.
“Son of Lurch” Yamaha XV920: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m Jesse Davis. I’ve been racing and building motorcycles for over 20 years. My shop is JD Moto service in Long Beach, CA.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is a 1982 Yamaha XV920RJ (not a Virago!).
• Why was this bike built?
This was a very sentimental build for me, as a tribute to the bike my dad built and raced in the 1980s. That bike was simply known as “Lurch.”
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The design is closely based on the original Lurch, with some modern improvements.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The custom work involved with this bike is extensive. the frame was shortened and the rake adjusted from 28 to 24 degrees, with 1.5 inches removed. The swingarm is a Ducati 900SS unit, modified to fit, and is also shorter and 9 lbs lighter than the original.
The engine features custom Carrillo rods and CP pistons, with a lightened and balanced crank by Fox Performance. Also custom-made in-house are the brake brackets, wheel spacers, fork brace, throttle bell cranks, adjustable cam sprockets, subframe, seat unit, exhaust system etc. It’s a long list. Nothing on the bike has been untouched by the mill, lathe, or welder.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Son of Lurch?
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
I was able to win the CSRA Superbike race at Thunderhill on the bike’s debut. With over 100 hp and 85 ft lbs, and 375 wet weight, the acceleration and handling are extremely surprising for a 40 year old motorcycle…
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’m particularly proud that I built a bike that performs as good as it looks, and that my dad is really excited about it.
• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Many thanks for help with the build from Mike Worshum, Mikey Castro, Vernon Davis.