TT specialist, accessories magnate
The Californian was one of history’s best Tourist Trophy Steeplechase riders. From the time he turned pro in 1962 until retirement a decade later, Van Leeuwen dominated AMA TT competition, winning multiple regional championships and four AMA TT national races. He won his first at Ascot in ‘67, then followed up the next year by repeating at Ascot and triumphing at Castle Rock, WA. In 1969, Van Leeuwen won the TT at the Houston Astrodome before 47,000 in what he called the greatest thrill of his career. He stepped away from riding in his mid-30s to focus on Van Leeuwen Enterprises, which became one of America’s largest motorcycle accessory companies, and to make room for a new generation of challengers, including Gary Scott and future inductee Kenny Roberts. “Those kids were so fast,” he told AMA.com, “and they were already calling me the George Blanda of motorcycle racing.” Van Leeuwen continued to sponsor races and racers and was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1999.