Looking Back at EJ Potter, The Michigan Madman
With a heavy heart we report that Elon Jack Potter, better known to gear heads the world over as “EJ Potter The Michigan Madman” died on April 30 in Ithaca, Michigan at the age of 71.
EJ gained recognition in the drag racing world for pushing extreme to the limits. He built a number of V-8 powered motorcycles known as “Widow Makers.” EJ not only built the monsters bikes, he traveled to drag strips throughout the country in the ‘60s and ‘70s making thrilling and crowd-pleasing quarter mile passes. His fabricating prowess was not limited to wild bikes, however. He also built a variety of high-horsepower machines, from pulling tractors and jet powered three-wheelers to a couple of Allison V-12 powered Dodge drag cars.
Many of us have sat in the garage with a group of friends dreaming up wild creations, but EJ was the one who would spark up the welder and build his. Anyone lucky enough to have seen EJ in action was treated to a unique experience. His legacy will be those experiences he gave us and the legendary stories that will unquestionably be passed on for generations to come.
The first time I experienced EJ Potter I was nine years old at the Hillsdale (Michigan) Fair Grounds. EJ was there with his tractor called “Double Ugly.” It was powered by two Allison V-12s and was old and rusty. For a young menacing boy, I wasn’t interested in it. But when EJ hooked it to the weight sled and hit the throttle, I became an instant fan. It was loud and sped all over the track, with dirt flying everywhere in its aftermath. Looking back, it was an awesome sight that made EJ a super hero to me. Shortly afterwards, I was told the story of EJ’s Widow Maker bike at Onadaga Dragway in Michigan. The Widow Maker was a direct drive, so EJ would fire the small block Chevy with the bike on a stand, causing the rear tire to lift off the ground. He would then rev it up and kick the stand out, launch forward with the rear tire smoking and continue down the track burning rubber all the way. At least that was what was supposed to happen. This time he was unable to shut it down and ended up in the woods. He was able to miss the trees and seemed completely unshaken. Stories like that are what drew me to drag racing. EJ and his dare-devil builds will be truly missed.