Tennessee is famous for many things, but it is also the home of the Boss Hoss specials, which use American car engines inside a cruiser style chassis.
Monte Warne first developed a V8 version, mainly because he had an old Chevy V8 lyin´ round the yard, like ya do in Tennessee.
However, if the thought of trying to pilot a 5.7 litre, 345bhp, 1,000lb motorcycle along the highway is a bit daunting for you, then try the V6 version instead. This pussycat has a mere 200bhp Chevy V6 lump, and weighs a slimline 978lbs dry.
Whichever Boss Hoss you choose, it´s probably best to lay off the moonshine the night before riding it..
The feeling is unique, yet at the same time strangely familiar. You crack open the throttle of the gigantic bike, and it responds with a deep thubba-thubba-thubba noise that anyone who’s driven an American V6 car would recognise at once.
This time there are two big differences. Number one, you’re not in a five-ton piece of air-conditioned tin, sitting in a comfy seat behind a windscreen and a big power-assisted steering wheel. Instead you’re out in the Florida breeze, gripping a broad pair of pull-back handlebars behind the most enormous motorbike gas tank you’ve ever seen.
Difference two: Yank V6 cars gurgle in a powerful-sounding way when you mash the pedal, but most are far too heavy to provide much speed or excitement. In contrast the Boss Hoss “the name was Boss Hog until Harley objected” accelerates as though fired from a cannon, its 4.3 litre Chevy V6 motor hurling the bike forward in a creamy-smooth, gearchange-free surge that ends only when you finally shut off at a neck-straining 100mph plus. Yep, riding the Boss Hoss V6 is quite an experience. This latest model is slightly smaller, lighter and less powerful than the mighty V8 roadster that put the firm from Tennessee on the map. But that merely makes the V6 the second largest, second heaviest and second most powerful production bike in the world.
The last seven years have seen an amazing success story since Monte Warne created what he admits was a “real crude bike around a Chevy V8 car motor that he just happened to have around the place. I built the first one just for fun,” he recalls. “It had direct drive and a foot clutch, and was real hard to ride.”
But crude or not, plenty of people were attracted by the size, power and sheer all-American excess of the V8 bike. Along the way Warne has introduced some much-needed improvements: devising a new transmission system, overhauling the bodywork, replacing the original Harley forks with a custom-designed front end, and uprating the brake system. But Boss Hoss has never had a new model until the V6, which Warne laughingly refers to as the “ladies’ bike” of the range.
Side by side, you have to look closely to tell the two apart. They share the trademark brutal Hoss style of kicked-out forks, huge tank, stepped seat and fat back wheel. But in place of the V8 engine, the new bike has a transverse-mounted, 90-degree Chevrolet V6, as fitted to millions of General Motors cars. The 4.3 litre lump comes brand new from GM with automatic transmission and a claimed max output of 200bhp at 5200rpm.
Despite the shared look and layout there are quite a few differences between the two bikes. The V6’s frame, made of chrome-moly steel tubes, gives a wheelbase of 1880mm 101mm shorter than the V8, but almost 200mm longer than Honda’s F6C. At 445kg dry the new Hoss is over 50kg lighter than its big brother, but it still weighs as much as two Super Blackbirds!
At least the V6 carries its weight very low, thanks to a seat that is only 635mm off the ground. That helps the confidence when you climb aboard, but the monster is still a bit daunting. You have to spread your legs around the huge gas tank that rises in front of you, its 686mm width giving room for twin filler caps, a large central speedo plus no fewer than four other dials. When you hit the button the big motor fires up with a torque-rock to the right, and a menacing burble through its twin tailpipes. For all its size, the Boss Hoss is very well-balanced at low speed and almost as easy to ride as a scooter provided you know how. Having tested a V8 a few years ago, I thought I did. But to my embarrassment, after starting the engine and failing to find any sign of clutch or gearlever, I finally had to give up and ask what the hell to do next.
The secret is the automatic transmission switch on the underside of the left handlebar. This works like an auto car’s gearlever, changing from Neutral to Drive. Then you just open the throttle and pull away. Once you’re moving there’s no gearchanging to worry about, though you have to remember to flick the switch back to neutral as you come to a halt, or the bike tries to creep forward.
This bike certainly performs like no scooter on earth. There’s massive grunt available from any revs, with a glitch-free response from the big twin-barrel Edelbrock carb. Peak torque of a massive 265ft.lb is punched out at just 3800rpm. There’s no tacho and no need for one, because you know that any time you wind back the throttle, the beast will lunge forward like a charging rhino.
On crowded Florida roads even the briefest of blasts was enough to see 110mph on the clock with more to come, and the big motor is so smooth that such speeds could be maintained for ages if it weren’t for the wind-blown riding position. With a genuine 200bhp on tap, even a bike this unaerodynamic would surely be good for 150mph plus given enough gearing. As it is, the belt-driven Hoss hits the maximum mark on its 120mph speedo by the end of a standing quarter-mile.
The potent V6 engine is inevitably the star of the show, but the dramatically improved chassis played an equally big part in making my ride on the Boss Hoss surprisingly enjoyable. My main memory of the V8 that I rode five years ago is of weedy brakes and horrendous handling, due partly to a huge, square-section rear car tyre that wouldn’t let the bike lean round a corner. This shorter, lighter Boss Hoss is no racebike, but its chassis is significantly better. Main improvement has got to be the tyres, especially the rear 205/70-section, 15in Michelin whose rounded shape gave a reassuringly normal cornering feel. “A lot of guys like to put great big tyres on for looks, but it doesn’t make them run good, says Warne. With this tyre it’s fine, provided you run the pressure at 22psi so the sidewall gives in corners.
Both Hoss models now have beefy 50mm front forks, made to Warne’s spec and held in billet aluminium yokes, in place of the flex-prone Harley legs of old. Along with the Californian-made, damping-adjustable Aldan shocks they gave the V6 a pretty plush and reasonably well-controlled ride. The Hoss wallowed slightly in curves even at the fairly modest angles of lean that its width allows. But it didn’t threaten to get nasty, and straight-line stability was fine.
My main concern was the prospect of having to stop all that weight in a hurry if something went wrong, but at least the Hoss now has better brakes. Up front the combination of 320mm drilled discs, braided hoses and twin-pot calipers from American firm Wellwood gave a reasonable amount of stopping power, backed up by a same-sized single disc at the rear. Even with its reduced weight and length combined with the much-improved handling and braking, the Boss Hoss V6 leaves you in no doubt that it’s one big, heavy, slow-steering mutha of a motorbike. But crucially, the improvements that Monte Warne has made over the last few years have turned the Boss Hoss from a crude special into a machine that actually works amazingly well.
My previous test was full of phrases such as “disconcertingly unstable, cold sweat” and “distinctly bloody frightening”. Those don’t apply any more. And although for some riders the bigger V8 will be the obvious choice, the V6 is likely to have plenty of appeal for those who want the Boss Hoss look without quite as much weight and bulk, and who can make do with a mere 200bhp.
The V6 is considerably cheaper, too. Prices in the States (Warne also has agents in several European countries plus Japan, Australia and South Africa) start at $25,000 for a basic painted V6, rising to $26,500 for the standard bike with some chrome parts. A top-spec V6 with custom paint, plenty of chrome, windshield, Corbin seat, sissy bar and luggage rack costs close to $30,000 – roughly the price of a basic V8. Combined with its more rider-friendly chassis, that cheaper price might make the V6 look like a relatively sensible motorbike. Don’t be deceived. The Boss Hoss V6 is fractionally less excessive than its V8 relation in every respect. But compared to every other bike on the road it’s still completely mad.
Get Boss Hoss motorbike insurance for the V6.
|ENGINE||Liquid-cooled Chevrolet 90-degree V6|
|CLAIMED POWER (BHP)||200 bhp|
|FRONT BRAKE||2, twin-piston Wellwood calipers, 320mm discs|
|REAR BRAKE||Double-action Wellwood caliper, 320mm disc|
|FRONT WHEEL||3.50 x 16in; cast aluminium|
|REAR WHEEL||7.00 x 15in; cast aluminium|
|FRONT TYRE||130/90 x 16in Conti tour|
|REAR TYRE||205/70 x 15in Michelin XGT|
|FUEL CAPACITY||28 litres|