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Full Blast Engineering
Full Blast Engineering (FBE) is a local bike shop that repairs, builds, or modifies street and performance bikes. Owner Leo Hess and the business have been a Sioux Falls landmark to area bikers for over 20 years. If your bike is your passion, you can trust its’ performance to the professionals at Full Blast (FB). Leo has been modifying bikes for over 40 years. They specialize in Harley Davidson motorcycles and their passion is speed. To understand this passion you have to know a little history on Leo.
Leo was born in a small town in Minnesota (Pipestone). He learned to drive at an early age (eight to be exact). “I could not even see over the steering wheel!” recalls Hess. “I had to look between the steering wheel and the dashboard.” But that didn’t stop Leo from pushing the limits on his Grandpa’s Mercury Monterey. “I would drive that car 75 MPH down the gravel road. That’s where I learned the techniques necessary to race the Salt Flats in Utah. Gravel roads are similar to the driving surface of the Salt Flats. If you didn’t know how to drive fast on gravel you were headed for the ditch in a hurry.” The need for speed soon transferred to motorcycles for Leo. “Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to do at night. So a couple of buddies and I would race our motorcycles down Main Street at exactly midnight every Friday night. Pipestone had one cop and he always sat in his car at the end of Main Street. We would roar down the street and he would ultimately chase us. We always split up so at least two of us would get away. It was a lot of fun and it continued to fuel my passion for driving fast on a motorcycle.”
FBE was “dreamed up” in the backyard of a good friend in Gardena, CA. “The business is 25 years old but I have been working on motorcycles for forty years,” says Hess with a smile. The business opened in 1985 in a small 1,300 square foot building and moved to their current location with over 4,000 square feet six years ago. Full Blast is not located on a high traffic street and doesn’t even have a large sign telling customers of it’s location. That is by design according to Hess. “Our low overhead gives us the chance to provide the best value for the dollar when repairing or modifying your bike.” The garage may be small but its’ talent is world class. Leo and his mechanic Dan Reiman have produced many award and performance bikes over the years. FBE is a full service motorcycle shop offering everything from oil changes and tire changes to tune ups and engine overhauls. Our specialty and passion is for Harley Davidson motorcycles but we work on all V-Twin after market motorcycles also,” says Hess. “After forty years of working on motorcycles, I can say I’ve seen it all,” according to Hess. Reiman adds, “it’s not very often you see the owner working on the bikes.” “Leo is a wizard with a wrench. Our many years of research and development gives us a definite advantage over any of our competitors. Not only have we seen it, we’ve done it.” “When you bring your bike in to us, you are talking to the people that work on your bike. We do all of our work in-house,” according to Hess. “Our particular area of expertise is to get the maximum horsepower on any V-Twin engine.” In addition to full service engine work, FBE also carries a large selection of aftermarket parts and accessories from companies such as Drag Specialties, Kuryakyn, S&S Cycle, Custom Chrome, Midwest Motorcycle, Tedd’s V-Twin, Harley Davidson and Rivera Primo. Leo’s mentor is Pete Hill, a fellow speed maniac who owns a motorcycle shop in Greenville, South Carolina. Pete and Leo met in Gulfport, MS in 1979 at a race. They hit it off and became racing good buddies.
Leo’s other passion in life is his military memorabilia collection, which he proudly showcases in a corner of his building. With items like artillery shells to helmets, the collection is quite extensive and includes a water cooled machine gun his father operated in World War Two. “I wanted to have a shrine to the men and women that serve this country,” says Hess. Hess continues to collect military memorabilia and the collection continues to be a good conversation piece with many customers.
Leo is renowned for holding ten unbroken world speed records on his custom modified motorcycles. “Speed was always the reason I built anything,” says Hess. Together with his friend, racing partner, and drop in mechanic Harry Bunker, who works for Kuryakyn Products, they raced every chance they could. According to Bunker, “I did not race. I only drove the Winnebago and just lit the fuse and said see ya!” In the early 1990’s, Leo was setting speed records at almost every race he entered. The first time he cracked 200 MPH was in Bonneville at the Salt Flats in 1991. On November 13, 1993 he achieved the world dry lake speed record for a nitro fueled that he engineered. His high performance 2000cc (120 cu. In.) Harley achieved an amazing 218 MPH in 1997, earning him a lifetime membership in the coveted Land Speed Authority, Muroc, El Mirage and ECTA 200 MPH Clubs.
Perhaps the most infamous race of Leo’s life came in 2007 at the Bonneville Salt Flats where he was racing the streamliner. “This was an amazingly powerful machine,” says Hess. The streamliner went 220 MPH in first gear. The vehicle was capable of going 400 MPH top speed. It had a 1000 horsepower motor in it. Leo was going approximately 170 when he crashed the Streamliner. “I catapulted 200 yards after the crash,” recalls Hess. “I can’t remember much after that.” A wind gust had spun the back end of the machine around. The back tire broke loose laying entered in a contract to race. The deal was if I set any records over 200 mph with this bike he would sell it to me for a very “reasonable” dollar amount. The following year I raced it in October at the Salt Flats and we only ran a little over 200. We decided to put it in the land speed authority and go for a world record speed in that category. The first pass, we blew up the transmission. A friend from Boise (8 hour drive) took a transmission from a 1959 Panhead Dresser. We took it apart and put most of them back in the bike and our first pass was just over 210 MPH. On a return pass I had to shift the bike with my hand as it came out of gear and still made it to 205 MPH. We went back to California in November and ran the bike on the dirt. It looked like a dried up lake bed, very dusty. When we unloaded the bike, nobody gave us a chance. They made me run a “reference pass” to see if I knew what I was doing. There was no speedometer or Tach but I knew exactly how fast I went because I had driven this bike so many times. My next pass was 178 MPH (a record). The next day we got put in the 200 MPH line. I drove the first Harley to go over 200 MPH in dry lakebed racing (207 MPH). The next year we went out again to the dry lakebed. We beat the record again and continued to beat it every year we went out. One year it got really cold and there was a sprinkle of snow on the track. The snow acted as a traction mat and I went 215. I also drove the only Harley ever to go over 200 at Edwards Air Force Base, El Mirage Dry Lake and ECTA Maxton.
It doesn’t take long after visiting with Leo to get excited about speed. If you are looking to optimize your motor for more horsepower, talk to Leo. He has the experience and expertise to make your machine a one-of-a-kind with unmatched performance.