History of Thruster   17 comments

Thruster was a brand of BMX bicycle manufactured in Wayne, New jersey by Speed Unlimited. Speed Unlimited was owned by Lee Van Ormer and Tom Daniel. They had set a world record for the fastest rocket car, the “Vanishing Point”. The record was known as the Land Speed Record. In 1978 the Thruster bike was known as the Thruster LSR. They even had the race car on the front of the bicycle jersey and logo.

According to this interesting page, Tom Daniel was the founder of Thruster. He was bank rolled by Sam Miller who’s son by the same name, was the driver of Vanishing Point. Ron Vigneri also helped with Thruster but it is unclear exactly what his role was. It mentions that he owned the Tennis courts in Kinnelon, NJ. That explains the connection as they held BMX races at those courts. Not sure if this was before or after he was working with Thruster.


Speed Unlimited manufactured the frames in their small Northern New Jersey headquarters. It was not all that far from the legendary Craigmeur Raceway that hosted the 1978 and ’79 NBA East Coast Nationals. First location in 1978 and 79 was 45 Jerome Place. This was actually a house and Thruster was in the basement. They moved in late 1979 into a building at 105 Dorsa Ave.

They were one  of the makers of  Hutch. Speed Unlimited also made bikes it appears for Puch, Swoopco (small Indiana company) and Hank & Frank (Oakland, CA bike shop and team).

Around 1983 Tom Daniel would turn over control of Thruster to Lee Van Ormer. Its not exactly clear what Lee’s relationship was to Thruster before that. Around 1984 Tom would pass away from a heart attack.

They entered the BMX scene in a big way in late 1978 picking up soon to be NBL National #1 Sal Zeuner and his brother Terry.  In 1978 the NBL had no Pro class so the Pros raced 16 Expert.  They also picked up the fast and fan favorite Timmy Judge from Florida. Both racers would score covers of Bicycle Motocross Action for their new sponsor.

Tragedy then struck one of their New Jersey factory riders.   Speed Unlimited would be forced to close it doors. I believe this was sometime in 1984 or ’85.


Posted December 18, 2010 by Racer

17 responses to “History of Thruster

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  1. I remember the Tennis court track in Kinnelon like it was yesterday. I raced a double points event there in 81 or 82. Very few people showed up.
    It was a crumby track and I remember effortlessly winning my moto’s and main event. I can’t imagine that track was open for very long. There just wasn’t much to it.

  2. I believe it was Ron LIpner. Who was hired to be the factory team manager. He is the only Ron I know that was involved, the problem was Ron wound up doing more fabricating and truck driving to the chrome shop then working with the team. I was at thruster from 1979 out of welding school.

  3. gta 5 stole thruster emblem and put it on the bugati super sport look alike

  4. I just bought a Thruster fraame I was told it is Ferdie Garcia. I am not sure if it is anyway you can help? Plus I am trying g to find a set of forks to match and I can’t find a chrome set.

    Benjamin A. DiPietro
    • Ferdie’s had a euro bottom bracket. You can find forks on ebay from time to time on ebay. I have a Ferdie Garcia replica myself. Best part of mine is it has a Gapi’s sticker on it, the shop he rode for I think.

  5. Have any history on Ferdie Garcia?

    Benjamin A. DiPietro
  6. Not much. I do own a Thruster FG Replica. Haven’t been able to find any Ferdie Garcia decals to complete the restoration. I only know he was around since almost day 1 in New Jersey. I believe he also rode for Gapi and Puch.
    If any one from that early days era (pre NBA) has any information on him or the other North Jersey legends please email for a project I am working on, thanks bulletproof2000@live.com
    I only went to one Craigmeur race in 1979 and didnt meet any NorJersey guys. In ’81 I raced Braddock (ABA) many times but there didnt seem to be any of the old NBA names I read about in the coverage of the NBA East Coast Nationals racing Braddock. They must have been racing NBMXA or retired.

  7. BA DiPietro: I don’t have any particulars about Ferdie Garcia and Thruster. All I know was he was a listed factory rider in 1978 before I became heavily involved in Speed Unlimited in the Winter of 1979. That history at the top of this page has some errors in it. The true story of Speed Unlimited is published at BMX Museum. Ron

  8. Hey Ron thanks for chiming in. Please send me the corrections and I will gladly make them.

  9. I worked @ speed unlimited in the 80s both tom &lee were great ppl, they paid well ,miss those days C. yetzer

    • it seems to me the big flood of mud valley might have been the door closer for speed unlimited

      • Tom Daniels death, lack of effective marketing, amateur management by Lee Van Ormer, all contributed to the demise of Speed Unlimited. The lack of money (cash flow) causes businesses to die. The Wayne NJ flooding problems were biggest in 1987, well after SU folded, but the location of the building was a flood zone. That is why Sam Miller Sr bought it so cheap for his construction company equipment storage, and he set the little on-site building up for bike production. Sam Jr (Slammin’ Sammy Miller), lived in that little trailer that was on-site for a little while. The property was a mess after that 1987 flood. Sammy and I parted ways in 1993 and our corporation, Rocket Man Inc, was dissolved. We were something else while together. Here is the NY Times article on it if you want to read about it.

  10. Wow two former Thruster builders chiming in. Man if I could go back in time, I would take the time to have visited Thruster, just 2 hours from my home.

    • I just got a thruster chaos online anyone know much about it that can educate me? Thanks

      • A modern made in China I think Thruster, these are Walmart r Target level bikes, not sold in bike shops.

      • This bike is not related to the classic Thruster BMX bikes built by Speed Unlimited. I see that the Thruster name is being used by these China-made, Walmart sold 20-inch bikes. There is no one left to protect the name or keep it from being applied to these low-level bikes. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the bike, after-all, it still is a bike. You can Google the bike and read the reviews and advertisements.

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