“Because it’s there.” George Mallory’s famous retort when asked “Why do you want climb Everest?” sums up a certain daring-do. What then, is an appropriate response to the question, “Why have you built a motorcycle powered by 24 chainsaw engines?” Perhaps “Because, well, er, why not”? The lesson when faced with such posers is simple; don’t go looking for logic. Customisers customise because they can. Some lunatic idea catches hold and the next thing you know an American TV chat show host is the proud owner of Rolls-Royce turbo powered superbike. So joins us as we take a trip down Eccentric Avenue to savour some of the world’s most exotic and craziest custom motorcycles.
Making A Saw Point
OK another answer to the question above is “because we’re a publicity seeking chainsaw manufacturer” but when you create something so amusingly mad as the Dolmette who cares? So you take a Harley transmission, harness it to two dozen 5.2kW chainsaw motors and what have you got? Well apart from something that’s a tad tricky and arm-wrenching to start, an ingenious 1.9 litre machine of PR inspired eccentricity. The motors are fixed in two rows of six across both sides of the chassis, linked in sets of three by double-sided drive belts with a centrifugal clutch enabling delivery of 130BNm of torque. It’s a sight for saw eyes.
Toe Nails Tall Tale
Given it is 2.3m. (7.5 feet) high, some 5m. (16 feet) long and equipped with a beastly 5.3 litre E-Type Jag V12 engine, it’s safe to say Big Toe is a genuine monster of a machine. Indeed it’s the monster’s monster being certified by Guinness as the world’s tallest motorcycle. The Frankensteinian brainchild of Swedish boffin Tom Wiberg the £50,000 bike churns out 300bhp which is quite necessary to get its tractor tyres shifting its 1654kg and deliver a top speed of 60mph. But it’s not just size that matters. With the exception of that Jaguar motor, this mammoth motorcycle was all but hand-built by Wiberg. That’s quite an achievement albeit one whose purpose you might wonder at given that, understandably, it’s not road legal. The lack of brakes would no doubt raise VOSA eyes. As renowned biking journalist Roland Brown put Big Toe is “spectacularly useless but enormously entertaining.”
No discussion of custom bikes can ever avoid touching upon Norwich’s masters of motorcycle jiggery-bespokery, Hawg Haven. Among the many jaw-dropping machines created by the internationally renowned outfit was the Carole Nash bobber, built live before bikers eyes at the NEC bike show. But it was the extraordinary Psy-Bawg that is arguably their greatest achievement. Winner of 2006′s Carole Nash Custom Extreme Award Psy-Bawg is a stunning combination of engineering ingenuity and creative imagination. Low-slung and curvaceous this beauty is powered by a 1650cc Revtech engine turned by Hawg Haven’s late, great and much missed Terry ‘Nobby’ Clarke. The startling solid billet aluminium frame is tubeless and among many innovative features designed and created by the HH maestros. Sadly the bike, with all its unique, easily identifiable features rendering it worthless for illicit re-sale, was stolen from services on the A1 in 2008.
So what do you get when you combine an iconic Italian scooter with a similarly iconic German camper van? The answer is the Resto Tec 4, an inspired marriage of a Lambretta scooter and a Volkswagen Kombi sidecar. The inspired work of London’s Jason Dyer this amazing head-turner was unsurprisingly a Scooter magazine cover star and a swift breeze through what is often a bitter mire of hate – the internet – reveals it’s captured the hearts of both two and four-wheeled petrol heads. One imagines that VW camper nostalgists are rather pleased with the spread of love and peace which Jason’s gorgeous bronze machine has achieved!
Ecosse Moto Works’ Titanium Series RR clocks in at an eye-watering $275,000 (circa £170,000) so even if you could afford it you’d be unlikely to push its supercharged 2,100cc dual-cam turbo engine to the max on a track day. The smallest of small offs would cost you several pretty pennies given its carbon-fibre bodywork features a painstaking pinstriped paint job and that’s before you start thinking how much a titanium chassis might cost to repair. The combination of supercharged V-twin power and that lightweight titanium – the bike weighs in at a paltry 440lb – is pretty powerful, unleashing some 200bhp. Each bike also comes with a matching BRM titanium watch (or chronograph if you will). It’s bling that packs some zing.
Ted McIntrye is a cunning genius. Of course, as it so often is, that genius is tinged with a fair old slab of eccentricity. You see the boss of America’s Marine Turbo Technology spotted there were a lot of aero engines in the second-hand marketplace, courtesy of stringent air worthiness regulations. What to do with these surplus yet perfectly serviceable turbos? Why build a bike around them naturally. Hence the Rolls Royce Y2K, a 320bhp, 220+mph tarmac eating monster. Did we mention it’s a diesel? To be fair Ted reports the Rolls-Royce Allison 250 helicopter jet engine could run on petrol – or perfume. Built from scratch by MTT’s bike team it is, surprisingly enough, road legal (well, perhaps not everywhere!). Indeed thecompany’s blurb boasts it’s not just the “first turbine-powered street legal motorcycle, but also the most powerful production bike in the world.” Production maybe but few have been produced – chat show guru Jay Leno has one – so we’re counting it as a custom.
Run of the Millyard
Blighty’s own Allen Millyard is another cunning and eccentric genius – and one who claims to have created the world’s fastest production bike. The Millyard Viper V10 has Department of Transport Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (and therefore UK street legal) which paves the way for production. Powered by a mighty eight litre Dodger Viper V10 engine producing a fearsome 500 bhp and 525ftlb of torque, Millyard’s bike made its public debut on the Carole Nash stand at the 2009 NEC show. Unsurprisingly it caused a storm. Outside the rarefied exhibition arena Millyard has notched up over 1,000 road miles whilst an MCN tester hit a G-force inducing 207mph. Astonishingly the Berkshire engineer designed the nine-foot long bike in his head, without drawings or CAD jiggery-pokery. Then hand-built, says Allen, “from what I had around and could afford.”
There are few members of the elite rotary engine motorcycle club despite the innovation stretching back to at least the early 1900s and Charles Redrup’s Barry Engine. Suzuki’s short-lived 1974 RE5 was another famous Rotarian but by golly it looked nothing like JRL Cycles’ Radial Chopper. It looks bonkers with the 32″ Rotec 2,800cc engine sitting inline on the thick-tubed chassis, as if a turbo-propped light aircraft has hit it side on. Technically that was one hell of a headache and thus achievement. But why do it? Co-designer John Levey states baldly that “It started out just to be different.” But he soon realised the design was more than esoteric. “It ended up being a real sweet motorcycle motor. There’s virtually no vibration. Loads of torque. Sounds great, too,” he reported. Want one? A snip at $78,000(around £50k) from what is claimed to be the US’s only radial motorcycle manufacturer.
Sometimes people can, you know, go a bit, well, over the top. Kiwi customiser Simon Whitlock is one such, unless, of course, you think a 48 cylinder, 4,200cc Kawasaki sits in the realm of the everyday. It requires a 75cc ‘starter motor’ and half a dozen E-type distributors to turn over the series of six eight inline Kawasaki S1/KH250′s triples. Practicality is not this monster’s strong point: it weighs in at over a ton, looks as controllable as a teen at a JLS concert and as comfortable as a BP boss at a US senate hearing. But it is apparently rideable. Possibly not for long though!
Have a Dodge ball
The Dodge Tomahawk V10 is so stupidly powerful and ridiculously heavy that two wheel ssimply ain’t enough. Thus this 8.2 litre beast is equipped with a specially designed four wheel independent suspension which you’d be grateful of if testing either its claimed acceleration of 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds or top speed of 400mph. If you’re enticed b y the spec, just bear a couple of things in mind. Firstly it may not surprise you to hear that the Dodge falls foul of road traffic regulations. Tsk, elf ‘n’ safety eh? Secondly the price tag is a little – ahem – prohibitive. Business Week cited it among 2010′s most expensive stuff on account of its $700,000(£440,000) ticket. Confirming that the commodities of money and sense are unrelated, Dodge sold two of these gloriously impractical and defiantly not street legal machines at that jaw dropping price.