Craig Vetter Streamliner

It’s all about fuel economy

Craig Vetter Streamliner

Throughout history, only a few motorcycles were created just to challenge conventional thought.

This is one. And it was built by one of motorcycling’s most innovative thinkers, Craig Vetter.

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In the early 1980s, Vetter had just sold his Windjammer fairing company, and he turned his attention to another passion: fuel economy.

“At the time, I was watching motorcycles get bigger and heavier,” Vetter says. “I began to wonder what it takes to push a man down the road at highway speed.”

To find out, he started the Craig Vetter Fuel Economy Contest, a yearly event to see who could get the most mileage out of a motorcycle. At the inaugural run in Colorado Springs in 1980, the winner was a 1,000cc Harley-Davidson, geared very tall, that got 97.9 mpg.

Vetter thought he could do better, and this bike was conceived.

From his experience with fairings, Vetter knew that the better a motorcycle handled aerodynamics, the more fuel-efficient it could be.

Working with a donated KZ250 streetbike from Kawasaki, and with help from Bob Seim, Vetter modified the ergonomics to favor a more relaxed riding position, then built the smallest streamlined fairing around it that he could.

The low wind-resistance of the fairing allowed Vetter to push the KZ250’s gearing through the roof. Soon, he got 125 mpg on the highway.

The bike debuted at the ’81 Fuel Economy Contest, held near Monterey, California. While Vetter’s 108 mpg didn’t win, the event—and Vetter’s motorcycle—did its job, inspiring others to push the limits of motorcycle fuel economy. In 1985, the last year of the event, a 125cc streamliner, belonging to Matsu Matsuzawa, returned an astonishing 472 mpg. (For more, see www.craigvetter.com.)

These days, Vetter’s original fuel-economy bike is on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA Headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio. And the bike’s legacy might not be over yet. Vetter hints that we soon may see more from him on the fuel-economy front. Stay tuned.

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Quick List

Engine
250cc
four-stroke single

Started Life As
Kawasaki KZ250

MPG
108-125

Owner
Craig Vetter

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