Australians may not give a XXXX about many things, but for a relatively small population, they sure have a strong passion for hopped up cars, bikes, boats, trucks… probably motorised wallabies too.
The Hunwick Hallam is a personal dream of two such Oz enthusiasts, featuring their self designed 996cc V-twin motor, top quality White Power suspension and dramatic styling.
The idea was to build a potential WSB prototype from scratch and the Hunwick Hallam is a better first attempt than most.
From the opening ’Wooo-ooaaaaahhh’ of Roland Brown’s 1999 test of the X1R, you’re left in no doubt that, well, he quite likes this bike. By paragraph three he’s ecstatically reporting that the Australian Hunswick-Hallam is ’one of the fastest and most exciting bikes I’ve ever ridden, as well as one of the most visually striking’. Stirring stuff.
Wooo-ooaaaaahhh this is fantastic!!!
Flat-out down the back straight at Calder Park in the driving rain is such an adrenalin hit that I can barely stop myself shouting inside my helmet. The Hunwick Hallam X1R accelerates with tremendous force, its 176bhp V-twin engine hurling the bike forward while I crouch behind the low screen. And half-way down straight in fourth gear, the rear Dunlop crosses a shiny bit of track and loses traction completely, sending the exhaust note rising and the rear of the bike fishtailing from side to side at over 100mph.
On many bikes that sort of thing would be enough to make you back off and come in for a change of leathers. But the X1R feels so well-balanced and responsive that it’s no problem to keep the throttle open as I snake past the watching mechanics on the pit wall, then flick up a gear and come round to do it again next lap. In the corners it’s fun to slide around, too, although this ultra-light and powerful bike makes the track seem even more slippery than it is.
Coming to test the Hunwick Hallam on what turned into a horribly wet day in Melbourne was a bummer, but nothing could diminish the thrill of riding this outrageous silver machine. It’s one of the fastest and most exciting bikes I’ve ever ridden, as well as one of the most visually striking. And best of all, it is not simply a one-off special, but the prototype of a roadgoing X1R that will be on sale by the end of this year (1999).
Sydney based Hunwick Hallam is run by Rod Hunwick, Australia’s biggest bike dealer, and Paul Hallam, a leading racebike tuner and engineer. Their seven-strong team had worked in secret for three years to produce the X1R, and the innovative V-twin followed its debut appearance with some good results in competitive Australian National races in the ’97 season.
Hunwick Hallam said back then that they planned a World Superbike challenge eventually, but that their initial aim was to use racing as development for a series of road bikes, which would go into production the following year. Well, they didn’t manage to build streetbikes in 1998 but the project is still very much going ahead. Construction of the firm’s factory and showroom, near the Eastern Creek circuit west of Sydney, is well under way, and the first bikes are due to be produced this summer.
’We’re eight or nine months behind where we wanted to be, because it took longer than I thought to convince the investment community that this is a worthwhile project,’ admits 42-year-old Hunwick. ’But we’ve just tied up a deal with Nomura, the Japanese investment group, who have provided a funding package to see us right to the production stage.’ That package is roughly Aus $15 million (almost £6m), three times the amount that Hunwick has already invested in the venture himself.
In 1998 the firm intends to build three models, each powered by versions of the same V-twin engine, and with differing chassis and bodywork based on a shared basic layout. The first model, due in June, will be the Rage: an 1127cc naked musclebike, producing about 140bhp and aimed at the likes of Suzuki’s Bandit 1200 and Ducati’s Monster.
The second bike, a few months later, will be the Boss, a cruiser with a softer-tuned, longer-stroke 1307cc engine, kicked-out chassis and higher handlebars. And finally, towards the end of the year, will come the roadgoing version of the X1R. This will have a short-stroke 996cc engine, with more revs and power, streamlined bodywork and racy geometry and suspension.
Production will commence at just one bike per day, increasing gradually to a maximum of ten per day. And if that leads you to think that the Hunwick Hallams will be impossibly expensive, as befits such a low-volume manufacturer, think again. The first two models will retail for Aus $37,000, about £14,000, and the X1R will be only slightly more expensive at about 15 grand. (The first few months’ production will be sold in Australia, but Hunwick plans to be taking export orders by the end of next year, and will set up a sales base in Europe.)
If the roadgoing X1R gets even close to the bike that I rode, it will be some machine. The development bike is a stunner visually, technically and dynamically. From its aggressive, beak-like fairing, all the way to its racy single seat with twin exhausts, via the enormous V-twin lump at its centre, the X1R is eye-catching, innovative and cleverly engineered.
Like many of its future rivals the motor is a dohc eight-valve V-twin with cylinders arranged at 90 degrees. But that’s where the similarities end. The HH has vertically split crankcases with a third, rear section that can be unbolted to give easy access to the six-speed gearbox. The engine is liquid-cooled but also has large cylinder fins, and is also designed to pass much of its heat to the aluminium front frame member, so it doesn’t need an oil-cooler.
The original X1R ridden by Mal Campbell had engine dimensions of 97 x 67.5mm, but the latest version has a short-stroke 102 x 61mm layout giving similar 996cc capacity (Ducati’s 996 is 98 x 96mm). Compression ratio is a high 13.8:1, running on premium unleaded fuel, which is delivered by an injection system that is fed by carbon scoops leading from large slots in the fairing nose.
Australian specialists Motec developed the injection system, which uses a single Bosch injector per cylinder, and will be reprogrammable using a laptop computer (even on the roadbike). It’s also possible that the roadgoing X1R will feature pneumatic valves, as used by Formula One racecars. This would allow a future HH Superbike racer they’re aiming for World Superbikes in 2001 to use the same system, which allows higher revs than conventional valve springs. (’I can’t comment on that,’ laughs Hallam when questioned.)
The precisely tapered twin-pipe exhaust system is responsible for a big chunk of the substantial power gain that HH has made in the last couple of years of development. The original X1R makes 142bhp at 10,600rpm; the most recent bike produces no less than 176bhp at 10,800rpm on the same dyno. Considering that it weighs just 168kg, thanks partly to the Kevlar and carbon-fibre bodywork that will also be used for the road bike, it’s no surprise that the thing accelerates like a bullet.
Chassis design also shows much evidence of original thinking, notably in the way that the WP shock sits diagonally to the right of the engine, and is compressed by the swing-arm via a long alloy rod, improving weight distribution and freeing space at the rear for the exhaust. The swing-arm and the aluminium front frame member are bolted to the engine, which forms the major structural part of the chassis.
All the road models will use the same basic frame set-up. Their handling will be modified by altering the length of the WP front and rear suspension, plus the swing-arm length. ’The Rage and X1R will have essentially the same geometry but the X1R uses a slightly shorter front fork, giving 23.5 degrees of rake instead of 24.75,’ says Hallam. ’The cruiser’s forks are 70 or 80mm longer, giving it 28 degrees.’
Despite those shared chassis parts the X1R felt every bit a racer as I threw my leg over the low seat and blipped the throttle to warm the engine, watching the movement of the tacho needle on the sophisticated multi-function digital instrument console. The bark through the carbon cans was deep and crisp, the bike felt delightfully light and responsive as I accelerated out onto the empty circuit and noticed a few worrying spits of rain on my visor.
Round the long right-hander and the next tight chicane, cautiously on cold slicks, the bike felt superbly light and flickable. And the way its front wheel rose effortlessly as I wound open the front wheel in second gear on the next short straight gave a vivid hint at the Hunwick Hallam’s fearsome power. The gearchange was short and positive, the throttle response instant, and the Brembo front brake effortlessly shed speed for the next right-hander. But the rain spots were slowly multiplying.
Calder Park’s main straight is used for drag-racing, and is streaked with slippery rubber, so I was careful to get pretty well upright before letting loose those 176 horses. The response was phenomenal, pushing me back into the seat hump, making the front wheel go light as the X1R leapt forward and I flicked up through the box. By now it was really raining, though, starting to soak the track and make riding on slicks distinctly dodgy, so I rode slowly back to the pits.
The rain set in for the rest of the day, so all I could do was splash round with a pair of Sportmax road tyres on the X1R’s broad 17-inch rims, having a lot of fun but very mindful that the slightest mistake would send this valuable and painstakingly constructed motorbike skidding down the track. Apart from an idle that was stuck at 3000rpm the twin ran flawlessly, but there was no chance to push its handling and braking even close to their limits, or to feel the full force of its acceleration.
My ride on the X1R certainly did give me a feel for the power, the agility and the sheer speed of this amazing motorbike, which looks set to form the basis of a brilliant roadster. And equally importantly, talking to the hugely knowledgeable and professional people behind the X1R has convinced me that Hunwick Hallam’s production plans will become reality and that there will soon be a new breed of exciting and innovative Australian V-twins on the road.
Get Carole Nash motorbike insurance for the Hunwick Hallam X1R.
Engine Liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin
Claimed power (bhp) 176bhp at 10,800rpm
Compression ratio 13.8:1
Transmission Six speed
Front tyre 120/60 x 17in Dunlop D207 Sportmax
Rear tyre 190/50 x 17in Dunlop D207 Sportmax
Front suspension 43mm inverted telescopic WP, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension One WP damper, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake 2, four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Double-action Brembo caliper, 215mm disc
Top speed 100 mph
Fuel capacity 24 litres
Current price £15,000