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..
From the moment it comes to life, with a mighty torque-rock to the right and a blam of noise that subsides into a menacingly low burble from stubby twin silencers, you know this is going to be a ride like no other. Peering over an enormously wide double gas tank with a speedo in its centre, you reach forward to high bars that suggest limited performance and a laid-back approach.
But this bike is no slowpoke Harley. The spine-tingling tickover note is produced by a massive, smooth-running V8 engine, from which four pipes snake out on either side. The styling, the tank murals and the acres of chrome plate say cruiser; the powerplant begs to differ. And so, more importantly, do the vital statistics.
The Boss Hoss motor’s capacity is 5735cc, and its claimed maximum power output is 345bhp. The bike’s dry weight is 1028lb, its wheelbase is 1930mm (for comparison, a GL1500 Gold Wing’s equivalents are a puny 810lb and 1700mm) and its rear tyre section is 235/70. Claimed top speed is “over 160mph” and who’s arguing?
The figures come from Tennessee-based Hoss boss Monte Warne, who developed this outrageous contraption, built around the Chevrolet V8 lump that has powered everything from little red Corvettes to a million dusty pickups. That the end result is even rideable comes as some surprise, but Warne “who can supply either complete bikes or chassis kits” has sold over 150 since completing his first two years ago, and now the bike is available over here. Parked outside importer Roy Warburton’s garage on the winding A35 near Axminster in Devon, Britain’s first Boss Hoss looks as incongruous as a shire horse at a pony club promenade. Photos don’t prepare you for just how big the thing is in the flesh, with its enormous square radiator, its frame tubes like scaffolding poles and a square-section rear Bridgestone that makes the sidestand seem barely necessary.
The inadequate 120mph speedo and three smaller gauges for water temperature, oil pressure and battery voltage are lost in the expanse of the yard-wide tank, which even manages to overhang the engine itself. Long, kicked-out forks lead to the solid-disc front wheel with twin disc brakes. At the other end, a huge brake disc and caliper sit out above the chromed, box-section swing arm.
The motor is the ubiquitous small-block Chevy, produced by General Motors since the Fifties. This is horsepower by the direct, old-fashioned, American route: nearly six litres of watercooled, two-valve, 90-degree V8 muscle. It’s big, thirsty and crude, with monster low-rev torque to match its guttural growl and gas-gulping 10-20mpg greed.
For four-wheeled use the motor comes with automatic or manual gearbox but the Hoss, weighing far less than any car for all its bulk, has no need for such niceties. As Warne says, the 350 cubic inch Chevy puts out more power at 1000rpm than most bikes do at full throttle. So there’s just one gear, “fast forward”, and the V8’s conventional bell-housing and single-plate clutch lead to a custom-made angle drive that transfers motion to a normal sprocket on the left.
The clutch itself would be too strong for normal bike-style hand operation, so the Hoss unit is fitted with a vacuum booster “a black drum visible near the left footboard” that lightens the load. The vacuum is created by the engine, though, so starting up requires use of the foot clutch that is operated by the rider’s left heel.
Such unfamiliarity initially helps make the stepped saddle of the Boss Hoss an intimidating place to be, but happily the bike’s low seat and even lower centre of gravity allow fairly easy slow-speed manoeuvring. The beast carburets cleanly through its bucket-like Holley carburettor. Despite the slightly grabby clutch, with so much grunt you can let the lever right out after a couple of yards and simply accelerate away on the throttle.
And boy, does the Boss Hoss charge when you open it up. The big motor will pull from virtually nothing and at 60mph, when it’s turning at just 2500rpm, the Hoss answers a crack of the throttle with acceleration that tries to rip the chrome-plated reins from your hands. On one short Devon straight the bike stomped through the ton mark in moments, and was still pulling hard when I bottled out well before a fast-approaching bend.
Warne’s 160mph-plus speed claim is wholly believable, and happily his chassis seems sturdy enough to cope. The frame, which unbolts in the middle to allow engine removal, is seriously heavy-duty item. Hotted-up Hoss dragsters have reportedly posted 150mph quarter-mile terminal speeds in the States (there’s a vast array of tuning gear available for the V8, including this lump’s alloy Edelbrock heads), so it needs to be.
Corners are another matter, though, thanks mainly to the square-section rear tyre that prefers going straight to lifting onto its edge for a bend. At first the Hoss doesn’t want to turn at all. Then, when you tug harder on the wide bars, it changes tack with a disconcertingly unstable feel that disappears only when you’re back on the straight and narrow. (And this bike feels vague enough to make even a Heathrow runway seem narrow.) Bumps are not much fun, either, thanks to raked and inevitably flex-prone
Harley front forks, and twin shocks that struggle to cope with all that power and weight. Even the gentlest of bends is enough to make the Hoss wallow and scrape its low-slung sidestand and pipes, as its rider hangs on in a cold sweat.
Brakes are Harley parts, which didn’t bode well. But although the twin-disc front was typically feeble, the Hoss puts plenty of weight over its outboard rear disc and also has heaps of engine braking. The big bike doesn’t stop as hard as it accelerates, but it pulls up tolerably well given a firm stamp on the high-set footpedal.
One advantage of the Hoss being available in kit form is that an owner can choose from a wide variety of cycle parts, including brakes, when building the bike. The basic frame kit costs just under £6000; a simpler option is the Deluxe kit, at £12,338, which includes everything bar the engine, plumbing and electrics.
Firms such as American Auto Specialists in Ashton-under-Lyne (0161-308 3410) can supply a brand-new Chevy lump with carb for a little over three grand, for those interested in building a Hoss themselves. Alternatively, a complete bike costs between £25,000 and £40,000 depending on spec and finish, with this one coming somewhere in between. Either way, the result is enough of a pose to be fun even if you don’t use more than a fraction of the V8’s awesome potential. But the attraction of the Boss Hoss is that it’s one seriously excessive piece of machinery. It’s fast, it’s exciting and it’s distinctly bloody frightening at times. Motorcycles simply don’t come bigger or more powerful than this.
Get Boss Hoss motorbike insurance for the V8.
|Claimed power (bhp)||345bhp @ 5000rpm|
|Dry weight||467kg (1028lb)|
|Current price||£25,000-£40,000 (spec dependent)|