From Hollywood A-listers to rock icons, the X132 Hellcat Speedster is popular with the rich and famous, and let’s not forget about the collectors.
South African-born Pierre Terblanche is one of the most acclaimed motorcycle designers in the world today. After making his mark penning notable designs for Ducati, including the Multistrada, Supermono, 999, Hypermotard and MH900e, Terblanche also anticipated by a good decade the current penchant for retro-inspired models with his trio of Ducati SportClassics launched in 2003.
After spending time with Moto Guzzi and Norton, in 2013 Terblanche moved to the United States to work for Confederate Motors, for which his debut design, the X132 Hellcat Speedster, was launched last August to some acclaim. But three months later, just as the first such bikes rolled out of the company’s Birmingham, Alabama, factory, Royal Enfield announced that Terblanche was moving to India to head up product development for the company, making the Speedster his farewell legacy for Confederate, which has become the boutique bike-building brand of choice for the U.S.A.’s rich and famous. Numerous celebrities, from Hollywood A-listers such as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Nicholas Cage through to rock idol Bruce Springsteen, head the high-profile roster of Confederate owners, often with more than one of these exquisitely crafted, ultra-costly two-wheeled works of art in their garages. Starting price for admission to the Confederate owners group used to be US$72,000, while prices for the company’s radical P131 Fighter model started at US$100,000. But now Confederate president/CEO Matt Chambers has taken the firm’s self-styled Art of Rebellion to its pricelist as well as its product line with the new X132 Hellcat Speedster selling at US$69,500, representing a slightly more affordable product in the company’s catalogue. Well, everything’s relative . . .
Named after the legendary Grumman F6F Hellcat carrier-based warplane, the X132 has been the mainstay of the Confederate Motor Company’s range ever since deliveries of its debut version, powered by an S&S Harley clone motor began back in 1994. Two decades on, Chambers has cut a deal with the Wisconsin-based engine manufacturer to essentially produce Confederate’s own air/oil-cooled V-twin engine derived from its 56.25-degree X-Wedge engine, starting with the Hellcat’s 132 ci version – hence the X132 name tag.
The Jambalaya of Motorcycles
My chance to become the first person outside the company to ride the new Speedster came by visiting Confederate’s new 2322 square-metre factory in Birmingham that it moved into in October 2013. A renovated 1940s brick warehouse, the factory has the capacity to lift production from the present 100 bikes per year to 150 annually by 2016, and then, as momentum builds strongly after that with a range of new models under development, to an eventual maximum of 1000 bikes per year – not Honda numbers, exactly, but still a cool multi-million dollar business. The company founded 20 years ago by Chambers, a Louisiana lawyer, has ridden out the recession through a mix of foresight and tenacity, where most other boutique cruiser manufacturers have gone bust. “We’ve seen out the downturn,” says Chambers, “and now our link with S&S allows us to go for growth by significantly reducing our prices, without compromising on the quality and uniqueness of our products. We’re adopting their X-Wedge engine across our model line-up and have several other mind-blowing designs in the works built around it. In the meantime, the X132 Hellcat Speedster is a stripped-down American hot rod representing a dragster for the street that is powerful, beautiful and, most of all, a thrill to ride. It’s the Jambalaya of motorcycles!” Speaking as a former resident of New Orleans (until Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Confederate factory there in 2005, necessitating the move to Birmingham), he should know.
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