Rocket Man, Ron Vigneri part 2   Leave a comment

Ron recently commented on his earlier Part 1 topic, regarding his connection with Speed Unlimited/Thruster. He updated his websites, so to make sure people can find that I am adding this new post.

Updated Thruster, Phazer, and rocketcar web pages


Posted October 21, 2022 by Racer in Uncategorized

Inside Man: Ron Vigneri   7 comments

Info About Thruster and Speed Unlimited
by Ron Vigneri

The first Speed Unlimited shop Sam Sr., and Natalie Miller’s home at 45 Jerome Place was the two car garage of Sammy’s (Sam Miller Jr.) parent’s house. Tom Daniels was hired by Sam Sr., to build BMX bicycles having been known to Sammy through chassis-building Race Car Engineering in Alsip IL, SW suburb of Chicago in which Tom had been a partner. Tom’s partner was assassinated while walking out of a car parts store on Chicago’s South side. The shop was closed down after big legal problems with the late partner’s widow, Tom was looking for work. Tom was hired and designed the Thruster BMX frames. Tom had very good chassis/frame engineering skills. Miller Construction had property at 105 Dorsa Ave, Wayne, NJ that was used for a storage and staging area and had a building on it that became the Speed Unlimited factory.

Thruster & Vanishing Point references came from rocket cars that were part of a Rocket Man Inc., corporation jointly owned by Sammy and Ron Vigneri, a rocket engineer, out of Kinnelon NJ ( One Vanishing Point chassis was one that that Tom had produced at Race Car Engineering. The rocket cars and racing achievements were always utilized for the Thruster BMX bike publicity and marketing. All the BMX bike models produced by Speed Unlimited usually featured rocket technology related names.

Speed Unlimited had contracts with Hutch and later, Puch, for BMX bike production. Quality control issues and timely production were always an issue at Speed Unlimited. Having Sammy running the company was a problem with him being only minimally available. It was a really disorganized company and always financially stressed. Lee Van Ormer was a New York City entrepreneur and was sold controlling interest in the company. Lee was a good investor but not so much an administrator. The company stayed disorganized and stressed financially. Tom had been seriously electrocuted years before, pre race car shop, while working as a lineman, had been in a contentious divorce, and had all the stress from Speed Unlimited with health effects that were probably the reasons for his fatal heart attack.

Hutch was started by a guy named Richard Hutchins in Maryland. Sometime around 1980 he put his bike ideas into motion and started his own company, Hutch. Profile designed and manufactured the first Hutch frames and Speed Unlimited picked up a contract for some of the Hutch production. Profile became famous for their 3 piece cranks. Later Speed Unlimited (in New Jersey) took over production. Speed Unlimited also were the makers of the Thruster racing bikes. Speed Unlimited was also starting to pile up a lot of Hutch bike frames and forks that had minor chrome flaws. This is where colored Hutch frames came in, to cover the minor flaws so they decided to paint them instead of scrapping them.

Ron Vigneri had helped Sammy with numerous activities concerning the bike business including a bike frame design that could be rapidly manufactured from four arced chrome-moly tubes that required no jigs to weld the head, bottom bracket, dropouts, and seat tubes to the frame tubes, and the design could be produced in all bike wheel/frame sizes. The Phazer frame design could be built with far less labor and in less time with less equipment than Thruster or its variants. Ron named the bike the Phazer. The first BMX prototype is shown at:

Five Phazer prototypes were built in 1981 at Speed Unlimited to introduce Tom to the new manufacturing process. The Phazer was to be the next Speed Unlimited production BMX model and, if that went well, bigger size models would follow. A production run of 100 was funded by Ron and all were sold directly. A business arrangement could not be worked out between the parties and Ron held the design and still does. Sammy and Ron ended their partnership in court proceedings in 1983. In 1985 Sammy and Henk Vink (both now deceased former rocket vehicle racers) copied the Phazer design and built the bikes in Sweden that were marketed under the name, “Rocket X-1”, with them claiming to have invented the design. In the period between, 1983-85, Speed Unlimited floundered and then faded away.

Interesting note: The third Phazer produced (serial number 3) was the first chromed production run bike that passed all quality control inspections and is still in NOS condition has been owned and only demo ridden by Ron over the 33+ years since it was built.
Thanks Ron, for the insight. Please feel free to email me any pictures or info for publication. Again thanks!

Posted October 30, 2014 by Racer in History of Thruster

Dave Dechert cover shot   3 comments

Factory Shimano star out of North New Jersey, Dave Dechert. Here “Dollar Dave”, is shown on his Thruster on the cover of Total BMX magazine. Total BMX was based in Pennsylvania and featured East Coast coverage.

Posted March 13, 2011 by Racer in 1981

Puch Trak-Pro by Thruster   4 comments

Eventually I will do a Puch website once I find one. Till then I will include this reference to Puch as Thruster made this model. This is from former Factory Shimano racer, Dave Dechert.

“Great Site! I was NJ’s 1st AA Pro, NJ’s 1st Pro to Win a National. I raced the 1st race ever in NJ, May7,1976 in Millville, NJ. Eventually went on to race the the top Pro’s in 1982.
The East Coast Shimano Pro Team was put together by the late Charlie Litsky (*ed note- Factory Mongoose ’78) in 1979. The Team included Charlie, myself, Wayne McFarqhuar,and Kathy Schachel. (*ed note- Kathy’s brother John raced for Columbia)
We ran the Puch Prototypes that were built by Thruster. (We were Co-Sponsored by Thruster.) We ran them before the Puch emblem was inscribed and went into production. ( I have attached a Pic of my Puch, I recently acquired. )
I ran Puch Thruster 1979-1981, I have also attached my cover shot from Total BMX November 1981, riding a Thruster Vanishing Point. In 1982 I ran a Mongoose in the early part of the year because of the Contingency Award Program. Tom Daniels then Thruster Owner had a offer me a Nice Deal to Ride the Tri-Power.
Again, Great Site. The Northeast was/is a Major Force in BMX Racing.”
“Dollar” Dave Dechert

Posted February 10, 2011 by Racer in Bike Models

1983 Thruster Team Photo   3 comments

Brad Dalbec, a former Factory rider posted a link to his gallery of Thruster stuff. From it I grabbed these 1983 team photos. Pictures were taken at the 1983 Murray World Cup. You can visit the entire collection here Brad Dalbec’s Thruster Images
Note the Thruster “T” on the head badges. So we know they debuted by this time. We’d have to get some shots taken during 82 to see if they go back that far or if they debuted in ’83.

Not sure were all the riders. Most I already have on the Team Roster thread and knew what state they hailed from. Most from New Jersey, my old stomping grounds.

Posted January 17, 2011 by Racer in Team Riders

October 1979 Timmy Judge cover   2 comments

One of my favorite covers of all time. I learned how to do a one footer immediately after getting this issue. Following the picture of Tim, is of me doing my best Timmy Judge impression just months after this issue appeared. Off a jump made from a pallet and firewood.

Posted January 1, 2011 by Racer in 1979

January 1984 Press Release   Leave a comment

This Press Release was in the January 1984 issue of BMX Plus!

“Lee Van Ormer, owner and team manager of Thruster, recently announced that he has signed Jim Comeau to his factory team. The Massachusetts based Comeau, who was featured as a hot up and comer on our November issue,  recently took third in the 16 Expert class at the NBL Grand National and ended up National Number 4 16 Expert NBL.”

Posted December 22, 2010 by Racer in 1984

Late 1983 advertisements   Leave a comment

These advertisements really tells you nothing. No word on riders, no word on the bike models, no pictures of the bikes, team or new products. But I’m sharing it just because its Thruster.

September 1983

November 1983


Posted December 22, 2010 by Racer in 1983

How to ID your Thruster   11 comments

This is a work in progress.  Information may be changed or added to.

Headtube Decal

1st Generation – I have seen no proof  Speed Unlimited Rocket car 1978

2nd Generation – “Speed” 1979 (even late 78 perhaps)-81 (perhaps early 82)

3rd Generation – “T” 82 till end of Thruster


Rear Brake Bridge

1st Generation – Round tubing 1981 and earlier

2nd Generation – Flat bridge with “T” stamped into it. 1982 and later


Serial Numbers

No early Thruster had a serial number from the Factory. In fact it is possible that NO Thruster came with a Factory serial number. Bikes have surfaced with them but it is unclear at this point that they were stamped by the factory or the owner.

More research on this is needed, but clearly no older Thruster had them from the factory. It therefore is also unclear if you can determine the year or anything from the serial number as it may not even be factory.


How to determine the model

Use the model guide here for top tube length and some model details

Posted December 20, 2010 by Racer in How to ID your Thruster

First look at Thrusters   Leave a comment

You have to look closely. This ad was run during 1980 for Sal and Terry Zeuner’s bike shop, Pedaler’s East in Vineland, NJ. That is in Southern, NJ. Note the mountains in the background, that must mean the picture was taken in Wayne, NJ. I’d bet it was taken in front of the then Thruster headquarters at 45 Jerome Place, a house.   This was taken so early in Thrusters formation they don’t even have the logo yet it looks like, on the jerseys.

If you look real close you will also notice that Terry on our right is riding what looks like a traditional Thruster. Sal (on our left) is riding a different version. His has what looks like a single plate gusset with a large hole. Im glad the design on Terry’s bike won out, as it was unique.  Terry in 1980 rode for SE Racing.

Ok did some more digging. Note that Sal is using a white helmet and running Vbars. Later when he would be photographed for the March (probably pictures taken late 78 or early 79)  “Bicycle Motocross Action” cover and interview, he was now running tall black bars and yellow “Bicycle Motocross Action” pads. He was also then running a custom painted Thruster helmet with BMXA sticker on the visor.

I then found this photo taken the same weekend I began racing.  My first race was the ’78 NBA Schwinn Tour race at Vineland, NJ. That was July 1978. This second photo was taken at Craigmuer for the NBA East Coast Nationals that same weekend I think in July 1978. Unfortunately the photo lacks details to show the stickers on his bike etc.

But still it confirms that the above photo run during 1980 was indeed taken the summer of 1978.

So as of now, these are the two oldest pictures of Thruster I could find.

Posted December 20, 2010 by Racer in 1978