Homebuilt Simca V8 Powered Cafe Racer by Malcolm Oastler

Simca V8 cafe racer built by Malcolm Oastler

Simca V8 cafe racer built by Malcolm Oastler

When you're an ex technical director for the BAR Formula One team and then a chief engineer for the Jaguar racing team plus designer of numerous race cars, what do you do when you retire? Well, if you're Malcolm Oastler, you head back home to Australia and build a V8 powered cafe racer that looks extremely tidy and sounds like a old street rod.

Malcolm started with a 2351 cc V8 out of a 1959 Simca Vedette, an engine based on the Ford Flathead which is what I thought it was when I first saw the video. There have been other flathead powered motorcycles around, appearing very Harley like but none as compact or good looking as this. Malcolm's design skills are very much in evidence here.

The frame and running gear are BMW boxer and the Simca V8 engine has been modified with new mounting points for the front and rear frame sections. A large aluminum fuel tank was fabricated along with custom handlebars that extend back to keep ergonomics in line. If you're not familiar with a Ford flathead, you might be confused by only six header pipes but that is because the center cylinders share a single exhaust port.

The engine sounds just like an old flathead should and the riding video shows you what an ample supply of torque will do as he does roll ons and even starts out in 5th gear.

The build video is great because he walks you through the whole process step by step adding pieces one at a time so you can see how it all comes together.

From the dates on the early videos it looks like this bike has been out there for several years or at least under construction for that long, but I've never seen it before.

What a wonderful build by an obviously very talented builder! A big thanks to Greg who sent this info my way. It's much appreciated.


  1. GenWaylaid says

    Gorgeous, if extreme. That tank is crying out for some Vincent-style pinstriping.

    Sure seems like a lot of torque going through that narrow rear tire. I imagine it would be quite wild on a wet road.

  2. Tom Lyons says

    I think it’s an interesting build.
    A little on the large side, but it has some cool aspects.
    I’m not a big fan of radiators on motorcycles. Never have been.

    I’m sure that it gets plenty of attention wherever it goes.

    • says

      I love it! Although the length of the bike is rather long, the handlebars put the rider in a very decent position for long rides. They do look a bit odd, but the bike is obviously built to be ridden, and I think you could rack up some serious mileage comfortably.

  3. Doug says

    Is there a brief explanation as to why the center cylinders share an exhaust port?

    Never knew that…

    • FREEMAN says

      This is all I could find about the Flathead engine exhaust system. Taken from the wikipedia article: “The most complex part of the block was the exhaust passage routing. The exhaust valves were on the inside of the V and exhaust flow was initially downward and passed around the cylinders through the water jacket to exit on the outside of the cylinder block.”

      I couldn’t find any flathead see-through engine animation renders. But I did find this.

    • says

      Unlike the Ford Flathead most V8 engines have separate exhaust ports, which of course looks better – especially on a motorcycle, where more of the tech bits are out in the open. Personally I’d have chosen a Tatra V8, it being air cooled, inexpensive, more powerful and made of aluminium. Otherwise any water cooled aluminium V8 would have been a good choice.

      • Wave says

        If you can get me an inexpensive Tatra V8 engine then I’ll take it! I doubt you would find many in Australia. Having said that, the engine he used is also incredibly rare, so I guess it would be a case of using whatever you happen to come across first.

          • Sam says

            Good find on that Tatra bike. Two homebrew V8’s with totally different approaches and flavors, and I’d say both hit the intended mark on design and execution for the individual motors. Must say that the “howto” vid makes it seem so simple, which of course it’s not. Lotsaworkandplanning. And for my interests, one of the best Kneeslider articles in a looong time. Thx, Paul.

    • Lost Boy says

      The Ford Flathead V8’s are so cool imo, however they were plagued by cooling issues because of the exhaust passage design. In fact, there were people who were fitting over head valve conversions on them back in the day.

      Taken from wikipedia: “Such an arrangement transferred exhaust heat to the block, imposing a large cooling load; it required far more coolant and radiator capacity than equivalent overhead-valve V8 engines. Ford flathead V8s were notorious for cracking blocks if their barely adequate cooling systems were overtaxed (such as in trucking or racing). The simple design left much room for improvement, and the power available after even low cost modifications was usually substantially more than could be obtained from an overhead-valve inline six-cylinder engine of similar displacement.”

      So, my question is, “does this engine prove better than the ford? What kind of power output is it achieving? The original ford 239 was referred to as the 100hp engine. I don’t know if it even made that much. It did however produce an ample amount of torque.

  4. Lee Wilcox says

    Don’t see how it could be stronger as no visual tips that there have been significant modifications. A little over half the size of the ford. My guess is it was chosen for simplicity, looks, and weight.

  5. John Stoehr says

    The Simca V-8 was a Ford V-8 60, they used it in some of the mid to late 30s Fords, and in midget racers. The Lincoln V-12 used the same rods and pistons.

    • Jon Hutchison says

      This was as mentioned a Ford V8 used in the Simca Aronde models in the 1960’s or so. Not sure if the threads and bolts were metrified, but ford after market heads and manifolds cross bolted

  6. Scotduke says

    Nuts but I like it. Simca took over the old Ford plant in France and the flathead V8 came with it as part of the deal. I expect the engine has been improved a little from the original Ford design. A friend of mine in Melbourne had a Simca Vedette; nice looking car but it needed a lot of work which there wasn’t the money for so it was sold.

    Yep, a Tatra V8 would be a hoot to squeeze into a bike. The later one was a 3.5 litre and was pretty quick. There aren’t many Tatras left in the Czech republic, so I presume most have either been crashed or fallen apart.

  7. Paulinator says

    Those who have an interest in things British might remember that the common port design was used by the venerable MG 4 cylinder engine. You can see it in the pre-war TD’s, as well as the A’s and B’s. I’m not a fan, since it concentrated the exhaust heat from the two inboard cylinders. The MG was a solid little unit, though.

    Cool bike!!!

  8. Gonzo says

    Don’t race car designers believe in fan thermostats? I find the constant on fan noise annoying.
    Other than that though…Wow. I wish my S1000RR sounded like that!

  9. Tin Man says

    The Flat Head Ford was one of the most popular engines of all time. Because not only was it cheap, It WORKED. DUH…. Its easy to second guess Fords design 85 years after the fact, Armchair Internet experts.LOL.

  10. Greg Ess says

    Here’s hoping Malcolm has done a little re-engineering of the input and intermediate shaft bearings in that Slash 6 gearbox.

    As someone who has blown up more than a couple with just hotted-up 900 cc twins, I have to question the robustness of that set up with a V8 running through it.

    I understand that it seems elegantly easy, but I wouldn’t plan on an extended service life in that application. 😉

    • says

      I would think that the gearbox will be up to it, it is the torque peaks that break gears and I would think that the torque peaks of the flat head V8 are considerably lower than a warmed over BM twin – there’s just more of them. ( Which don’t do any harm )

      That’s why singles have to have such ( relatively ) massive gearboxes, Ducati twins too, their boxes look like they belong in a Kenworth. ( Scania for European readers….. )

      Cheers IAN

  11. Josh says

    Great machine, but it looks like the wheelbase could be a good 8+ inches shorter if the radiator were relocated elsewhere.. A shorter WB would definitely improve the looks of the thing.

  12. tim hanna says

    The V860, the father of this Simca motor, has a wonderful race record in Midget car racing and has been used in Honest Charley Motorcycles for a long time. I think using the BMW set up is a great way to achieve gears in a reasonably compact layout – Honest Charley just used a bevel drive to a sprocket. I would love to see the wheel base shortened by maybe re positioning the radiator under the seat with ducted airfeed through the tank – like the Britten. Of course you do have a carb in the way. Maybe supercharge it to solve that problem. Not sure where you’d put it. All in all though I love it. I am putting a V860 in a 1935 MG and have sourced finned ally heads for it. That would look nice on his bike and would shed a bit of weight.