Rob Selvy of Selvy’s Performance

The following is an interview with Rob Selvy that I was working on in 2013. Rob and I, both got busy enjoying life and never quite finished this, and it never got published (until now).  I think it’s too interesting to not be shared with his many friends and ATV racing enthusiast admirers.
– Rob Selvy, gone from this earth — but never forgotten.
May he rest in eternal peace in Heaven.

photos by: Rob Selvy, Mike Palmgren, Andy Siebel, Bruce Alleman among others



Selvy’s Performance was one of the most prestigious engine builders of the eighties. Selvy’s talent really got noticed when the AATVA created a pro-level 200cc class that was basically formed to house the many 200X riders that were flooding the race scene.

Factory Honda 200X mounted Curtis Sparks dominated the 200 ranks with nothing but Hondas following his lead for two years in a row. This didn’t sit well with Team Green. In 1985 Kawasaki could no longer stand to see an entire class built around their arch rival so they sent a few riders like Tim Helter and Steve Mendenhall with sleeved down Tecate engine to try to steal some of Honda’s 200cc four stroke thunder.

Honda, concerned that Sparks and other four stroke riders might not be able to hold off the peppy two stroke Tecates that were popping up at the Grand Nationals, sent Steve “Too Tight” Wright to the 200cc battle with a state-of-the-art ATC 200R that looked like they spent a million dollars on it.

The Honda / Kawie rivalry was extremely fierce, nothing like today’s friendly manufacturer race scene. All this one-upping each other in the 200cc class catapulted Rob Selvy’s already successful business to the forefront of the ATV aftermarket industry.

Anyone could sleeve down a 250 with a smaller piston, but nothing performed like a Selvy’s engine kit. In fact, Selvy’s didn’t even sleeve the cylinder, instead Rob cut almost an inch from it and shortened the stroke on the 250R and Tecate 250 powerplants, then hand-crafted them into high-performance fire-breathing rockets, then added a hand-coned exhaust system that squeezed every ounce of power from the smaller sized cylinder, and finally gave the kit his iconic “Sonic” label.

Privateer rider, Fast Freddie Conover liked his 200cc powerplant so much he used it to beat a slew of factory-backed 250 riders at the Pomona, CA Micky Thompson Stadium race in 1985. Riders loved how torquey and more ridable the kit made their 250, and many riders that wanted a smoother four stroke-like powerband sent their engine to Rob.

Soon after Conover’s impressive MTEG victory both factory Honda and factory Teem Green Kawasaki, wanting the good stuff, were plugged into the Ontario, California shop. Selvy’s basically turned into a one-stop performance outlet for factory Honda and Kawasaki Team Green alike! Big-name riders like Chis White, Tim Helter, Tracey Dickson, Steve Wright, Dan Lamey, Freddie Conover and others all used Selvy’s Performance products over the years.

This chain of events, along with a great business plan, kept Rob extremely busy from ’85 to 1990, but what ever happened to Selvy’s Performance, which was once basically the 200cc race-engine assembly line for Honda and Kawasaki?

With that I talked with Rob Selvy himself to find out what he has been up to. I also discovered he’s definitely no has-been, and has got quite a lot of interesting things in the works.



Did you travel to a lot of the races? When was the last time you saw ATVs race? What do you think of today’s quad racing machines and the race scene?
Oh my Gosh, I lived out of a suit case because I was gone so much to every race we could make. If I didn’t make it my team sure did. We were in it to win it and it was certainly crazy trying to compete as a privateer with team Honda backing us a little but we funded the entire team from my little shop here in Calif.

I’ve watched many races and not to hurt anybody’s feelings but the Dan Lamey’s, Marty Hart’s, Jimmy White’s, Freddie Conover, Curtis Sparks, and of course Dean Sundhal just to name a few of the warriors that were racing back in the day, I believe were in a league of their own! I believe given the equipment we have today to them even today they could still put a hurting on most of today’s riders. I think I’m biased but these guys were just plain CRAZY!


I think the quad racing today is great and I’m starting to really enjoy it. My hopes are to be able to get back into the entire race scene with my longtime friend Carlos Aloise from BDT Motorsports. We want to bring a fresh approach to racing. First we are huge 2 stroke fans still and we like being the underdog with using the old TRX 250 engine to race with the 450cc class bikes. So far we are doing quite well and have plans to be a real threat against the bigger motor racers. I’m still learning the ropes in the new scene but I’m always up for a good challenge. I have as many years building 4 stroke engines as I do 2 stroke engines so it’s no problem to make the 4 stroke motors competitive. The cost factor is what we don’t like. A 450 will cost an easy $5K to build just the engine and that’s not even a great engine whereas the same money will get you a complete engine race ready and the maintenance is probably less the $1000 to race it every weekend for an entire year.

We feel making racing more affordable yet still competitive enough to win any and every race will be a key factor in our future success at BDT. We already have results and we are expanding in every way. Our goal is to make true Works engines available to anybody that wants one.

How did you find your way into the industry? Did you race?
I was not allowed to ride motorcycles in my house until I was 15 ½ years old. All my buddies raced and all I could do was watch and wish. Finally when I turned 15 I was legal to work in the summer with a work permit and my parents told me if I wanted to race I could but I had to earn the money to buy my own bike and pay for everything that came with racing. That was a challenge that changed my life forever. Not only did I earn the money to buy my bike, I earned enough to buy 2 in one summer. I sold one and used the money to fund the build of the other. I taught myself how to ride and decided to start racing by age 16. By age 18 I was racing professionally and by  19 I was #2 rider in AMA as a Novice class C Professional. I started road racing and then started racing anything with wheels. Finally at about 22 I decided it was time to just build engines and focus on that instead of me racing, I had a new family and responsibilities that come with it. From age 22 until age 40 engine building was my life, every day I would eat sleep and drink my love and passion for racing and building the best engines, frames, shocks, pipes, carburetors, and anything else I could dream of. At age 40 I was burnt out! I ruined 2 marriages from being married to my work and I just wasn’t happy any longer building and racing. I completely walked away on my 40th birthday and started a new career in Computer Technologies. In 2003 I was at work one day when a co-worker was horsing around and he grabbed me by the neck to say “Hey”, he took me by surprise and I ended up needing major surgery on my neck. Long , very long story but needless to say I’m still disabled to this day with a chronic neck injury that has yet to be resolved. I still have hope and I know my faith won’t let me down, I will get my neck fixed one day.



Did you have a favorite rider over the years? Someone you really enjoyed watching?
Actually I had several favorite riders during my career and each one had and still has a very special place in my heart. I became very close to my team riders as I was sort of coach , mentor and friend to many of them. To start out Chris White was my first Super Star, at 15 years old we won the very first Mickey Thompson 250cc 3 Wheeler race at the Pomona Fairgrounds. That was an amazing night because this young kid took our super-fast 250 out there and literally spanked the entire factory and hot shoes in the business and from there he was always a ferocious competitor every time he rode the bike.


Soon after Chris started winning a very quiet shy young man from Iowa came out here, Jimmy White, and he was looking for a ride and a job all in one, this was none other than Dan “The Animal” Lamey. He was not as out spoken as Jimmy and at the time he was not nearly as aggressive but he had a ton of potential. I quickly snagged him up before somebody else saw what I saw in Dan. Dan also started working at Selvys as my right hand man, soon Dan could do most anything I could plus he was getting faster and faster at racing too. I would say some time in 83 we had finished the first Selvys true Works bike. This bike had a very custom frame that I built, custom shock in the rear with 11.5”  travel and 9.5” front wheel travel plus the motor was a bullet. I made everything on this bike for the most part and we competed on it heavily until early 84 when we switched to Kawasaki. Honda was not giving us any support to speak of and Kawasaki was helping us locally with some parts here and there but we figured our best shot at a factory ride for Dan would be on a “Green Machine” besides I felt the power was abundantly more with the Kawasaki engine. Team Selvy was having a killer year and we were certain Dan was next in line for the full factory ride with Honda, they had expressed interest and made it clear they did not want him riding green any longer. In my opinion Dan Lamey was without a doubt the best MX / Supercross rider in the entire country. In just over a year he went from ho hum Dan to a man that had a killer instinct and feared nothing. He would triple jumps that most riders couldn’t even double.


I believe it was late in 84 Team Selvy was back in New York for a race and we shot a special with PM Magazine that featured the 3 Wheeler racing. During that weekend Dan was critically injured in a high speed accident, he broke his back in multiple places, punctured and collapsed both lungs and suffered numerous other very serious injuries. Needless to say Day would never race a 3 wheeler again. Miraculously he survived and became an amazing engine builder and is now the owner of DASA Racing. I would have to say Dan was like my brother, I loved him like family and his injury plagued me for many many years.

After Dan’s crash I needed to find new talent to fill the role of Team Selvy’s factory ride. I would say it didn’t take me long to zero in on my next unknown rider, in fact he didn’t even know he was going to race a 3 Wheeler until I went to his shop and asked him. This was none other than “Fast Freddie Conover”. I was a professional dirt tracker and I knew Freddie from my racing days. He was an excellent MX rider, he was a pro and he had NO Fear much like Dan. I gave Freddie a bike and told him to take it home for a bit to see what he thought. Well the rest is history, Freddie was a perfect fit for Team Selvy and the image we were looking to maintain. Freddie was another first in the Mickey Thompson series, He was the first person to race a Selvy’s Works 200R against the fully fielded 250 Pro series race. Not only did he win the race on our 200R but at this race they let these funny things with 4 wheels race with the 3 wheelers and he beat them too!



Did Steve Wright use a Selvy’s engine? Or was that a copied version that Honda created?
Short answer is Yes, he did run a Selvys 200R. However he also had the very sleek very trick MTX 200 Honda “Works” bike which had no resemblance to anything I built for them. Typically Steve would use the Selvys Wurks engine for anything to do with desert style racing and in fact he won to my knowledge every single time they ran it and they even placed very high up in the overall standing in multiple Baja races. The engine had a 100% success rate meaning it never failed at any time Honda was using it. They would bring me back the motor after every race to freshen it up and amazingly the motor always look like new when I would take it apart.

The easiest way to tell in a photograph which #22 motor Steve was using was to determine if the chassis was a stock 250R with my engine or was it the custom frame with the MTX engine. I’m not too sure how many if any races Steve rode the Selvy Works 200 in short course racing, I think Honda was committed to using his really trick bike. Was my bike faster? I like to think it was but I cannot say for certainty which of the two had the most power because I was never allowed to test with that bike. I remember during testing for the Baja 1000 the Selvys 200R would be geared to run 69 MPH in 6th gear and their 250 ran only 71MPH which was not a big difference all things considered. The most important thing was the motor had to have a 100% completion rate or I would have been booted most likely. Needless to say we met the requirements and had tremendous success with all victories and zero DNF’s.


Email Content:
I’ll continue working on this and will hopefully have it back to you next week towards the end of the week. I’m in So Cal still and at the end of the day I’m usually exhausted so when I get home I’ll be able to get this done. Like I said, please let me know if you want it done any differently. You can take out what you want but I figure it’s better to give you more than less and you can decide what you like.

I have lots of pictures of different things and ironically I just finished a complete Selvys WORKS 200 for a very nice man named Andy Siebel. This is the man that sold the NOS 250R that was still in the crate last year for some $35,000.00. He is an amazing collector and he does amazing restoration work. He’s bringing the Works bike to Ashtabula and I’ve made arrangements for you to take it for a spin if you’re at all interested? This bike is amazing and I’m confident you’d really enjoy blasting it down a road if nothing else. I must admit I was a little sad to see the motor go home.


Rob and Andy Siebel

Rob and Carlos Aloise

On another note I’ll be talking to Bud today and I’m going to have my answer about the AMA, I’m pretty certain we will be using one of the other options you provided me with. Would you mind if Carlos and I called you sometime today to discuss it a little? I also wanted to let you know that without Carlos helping me none of this would have been possible or at least I would not have what we have so far. He is an amazing person an industry innovator and a great friend of mine. He is making my dream of re-entering the industry possible by providing me all the tools and support I need to make the things I did in the past a reality.

RIP Rob Selvy

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