Malcolm! — The Autobiography, by Malcolm Smith with Mitch Boehm

Reader Contribution by The Motorcycle Classics Staff
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Occasionally an autobiography comes along that reads like a can’t-put-down thriller novel, and Malcolm! — The Autobiography is exactly that. The first-person story of legendary American offroad enduro and desert racing star Malcolm Smith as told to former editor of Motorcyclist magazine Mitch Boehm, it begins with Malcolm’s wartime upbringing in British Columbia, then follows his family’s move to California and his subsequent rise through the ranks of offroad riders to become a living legend in competition and a motorcycle magnate in business.

Born in 1941 in British Columbia, Canada, Malcolm was an only child. His father, Alexander Smith, was a Scottish-born prospector who struck gold before Canada’s Klondike Gold Rush: He followed that up by discovering the oil fields of Alaska’s Arctic Slope and staking them for the U.S. Navy.

Taking advantage of their dual U.S./Canadian nationality (both parents were U.S. citizens), the Smith family headed south to California when Malcolm was just 5 years old. When his parents divorced he wound up with his mother in San Bernardino. There, he acquired a Lambretta scooter, which proved to be his entry ticket to a career on two wheels, a career that took off in 1956 when he swapped the Lambretta for a 1949 500cc Matchless and started racing it in what were then known as TT/scrambles events, taking victory in his third race.

Following a serious leg injury at the age of 18 after colliding midair with a friend he’d gone to look for out in the desert, Malcolm recovered to obtain an AMA Pro license and began racing regularly at Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles and at San Diego’s El Cajon Speedway, where he became future AMA Grand National champion Gene Romero’s biggest rival; Smith would win at one meeting, Romero at the next.

But the lack of riding time at such events led him to quit dirt oval racing to concentrate full time on desert racing and TT/scrambles. After making his 2-stroke debut with a 250 Greeves he switched to Husqvarnas, beginning a long and fruitful association with the Swedish marque and its U.S. importer, Edison Dye.

Smith’s fame grew riding the Swedish bikes, winning countless races in the 1960s and ‘70s, including eight gold medals between 1966 and 1976 in the ISDT. He went on to become a six-time winner of the Baja 1000, three times each on a motorcycle and in a car, and a four-time winner of the Baja 500. He won Nevada’s Mint 400 and the Roof of Africa Rally twice each, and Morocco’s Atlas Rally once, as well as competing twice in the Paris-Dakar.

Many enthusiasts know Smith’s name because of his starring role in Bruce Brown’s classic motorcycle movie On Any Sunday, alongside Hollywood star Steve McQueen and AMA Grand National Champion Mert Lawwill. This book recounts the making of the film, complete with much little-known background — such as the fact that for the iconic trail bike sequence with the three stars, Lawwill rode a late-model Greeves 2-stroke festooned with Harley-Davidson XLR900 stickers to keep his race sponsors happy!

Rich in detail and featuring hundreds of previously unprinted photos from Malcolm’s personal archive, Malcolm! — The Autobiography is a must-read for any offroad enthusiast, as well as any motorcyclist who simply relishes a good story. “I’ve done a lot in my 74 years,” Malcolm says, “and I even managed to remember a lot of it despite falling on my head a few times!” 400 pages, hardcover, $49.95. To order a copy, go to the Malcolm book website. MC

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