Filmmaker James Cutting looks at drag racer T.C. Christenson and John Gregory’s Norton motorcycle in "Hogslayer, The Unapproachable Legend."
When motorcycle drag racer T.C. Christenson and co-builder/designer John Gregory took their double-engined Norton Top Fuel drag bike to the top of the pro drag racing charts in the 1970s, Norton was known more for a heritage of TT wins and building great road bikes than running the strip.
Thanks to their brute force torque, Harley-Davidsons had dominated the top of the drag racing scene for years, but the Christenson/Gregory Norton’s ability to beat them earned it the name “Hogslayer.” Wisconsin video producer James Cutting, who directed and wrote the documentary Hogslayer, The Unapproachable Legend, emphasizes that bit of Norton’s biography to help underscore how stunning Christenson’s four Top Fuel World Championships — 1972 to 1975 — were.
Norton was no stranger to the race track, having won the first Isle of Man TT twin cylinder class back in 1907 and innumerable road races since. But Norton had never been much of a force in drag racing. That all changed when Gregory and Christenson began campaigning their 1,680cc fuel-injected Norton fitted with Gregory’s custom-made 2-speed transmission and slipper clutch, which gave Christenson the ability to make flawless launches. After beating up on the likes of Boris Murray and his twin-engined Triumphs and Elmer Trett and his Harleys, the twin-engined Norton even outran Russ Collins’ monster Honda, despite its trio of 4-cylinder engines.
Gregory was a Norton motorcycle dealer and brought the brand, his impressive mechanical skills and meticulous attention to detail to the team. Tom “T.C.” Christenson brought a tough, wiry frame, steely nerves and switchblade reflexes to the riding chores — as well as a rowdy sense of fun that was essential to keep the gravity of what they were doing from sinking in.
Using current interviews with Christenson, Gregory and others who were along for the ride, as well as archival film, still photos and great storytelling, Cutting brings the story of the Hogslayer to life. More than just a motorcycle race film, Cutting’s documentary lets us get to know the men and the story behind them. You suspect Christenson may have been a handful in his youth, and Cutting confirms it, retelling T.C.’s affinity for street racing and his explosive encounters with the law as a kid.
Reminiscent in some ways of Roger Donaldson’s 1971 documentary of Burt Munro, Offerings to the God of Speed — which Donaldson later brought to the big screen as the feature film World’s Fastest Indian— this story features likeable heroes achieving unlikely greatness against very long odds. Does Cutting have plans to make Hogslayer a feature, as well? “I’m giving that serious consideration,” he says.
Watch the film's trailer: Hogslayer: The Unapproachable Legend.