Putting a V8 engine in a motorcycle is easy, just build a bike big enough, like a Boss Hoss, and you can wrap it around anything, though as one recent home build, the Simca V8 shows, with a bit more thought and finesse, the results are a lot more pleasing. On the other hand, Ian Drysdale, the Australian engineering wizard, takes the idea of a V8 motorcycle to an entirely different level, he designed and built the engine first before building the bike and the results are just about as pleasing as you could possibly want.
Ian, as many of you know, played a major part in developing the Carberry V-Twin, one of the three major Royal Enfield single derived twins, plus he built the Godzilla V-Twin of his own design, using tapered cam lobes like the Mercedes-Benz F1 engines and master and link connecting rods like radial aero engines and he’s responsible for design and machine work on Russell Sutton’s radial engine builds. Drysdale also designed the prototype of the Vento 3 cylinder engine used in the Vento ATV and he’s the been designer/builder/fabricator in many, many more projects. Referring to Ian as a “builder” is either high praise for the word or a serious slight to Drysdale.
Inspired by the 500cc Moto Guzzi V8 GP engine, the 90 degree Drysdale 1000 V8 originally appeared 20 years ago as a 750. Using two FZR600 16-valve cylinder heads, the 4 cam, 32 valve engine also uses Yamaha pistons, though the connecting rods are of Ian’s own design and join together on a milled billet crankshaft inside his own sandcast cases. The exhaust is a twin 4 into 1 arrangement exiting under the seat.
The transmission is a six-speed cassette-type box with parts from a variety of manufacturers and slides out for service, delivering power through an FZR1000 clutch. The upside down fork, wheels and brakes come from an R1. The swing arm is Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 with an Öhlins shock mounted sideways.
The latest 1000-V8 is an ongoing development of the 1996 model 750-V8, and although outwardly very similar, it has a lot of refinements that are not immediately obvious.
One that is obvious is the rear exhaust system, we had to add 600mm ( 2 feet ) of tailpipe in there to get the fueling right, which was a squeeze in an already crowded space!
The changes to the rear suspension are also visible I guess, I was chasing a more linear rate as the 750-V8 was too radical a rising rate.
The main advance is the fuel injection – I had to butcher up BMW K100 throttle bodies for the EFI on my 750-V8 in the 90’s as there were no injected Japanese bikes then! I now use 2 sets of modified 39mm Kiehen TB’s from a CBR600 – it’s a shame to have to cover them over, the 8 trumpets sticking straight up look fantastic.
The bike is very compact, especially when considering the engine, though much of the engine, including the heads, can be removed in situ.
The engine develops 150 horsepower and will spin to 15,000 rpm.
The bike you see in these photos is already in the hands of its proud owner, that’s the first of five.
I have plans to build one of the “street fighter” versions ( naked with twin shocks and low pipes ) for myself and another for my business partner, and I will consider building a couple more customer bikes. The price is the hurdle obviously, hand built specials are expensive animals and I currently need US$100,000 to make it worth while building one.
Pricey? Of course, but hand made excellence of this type is not found in factory showrooms and the skills and time of a builder like Ian are in demand for a great many other projects, but when the subject of V8 engines in motorcycles comes up, there are few that measure up to this level of craftsmanship.
Isn’t it amazing what time, skill and the proper can-do attitude can accomplish? What an absolutely superb build.
Photo credits: Greg Parish