Confederate Motors (along with founder Matt Chambers) and I live on the same planet. Their first motorcycle, the F131 Hellcat, was conventional but better looking than any production bike I’ve seen. With the B120 Wraith they took the step to the level of Cabestan, Zonda and a few others capable of creating a truly unique, exciting and beautiful mechanical sculptures.
The B120 is a contradiction, if a were to read the technical specification sheet I would’ve thought it was a prototype racing bike, until a saw the choice of engine since 120 cu v-twins are not that common in racing. Carbon backbone and forks seems like something appropriate for a MotoGP bike, but the big, powerful engine has more torque than many cars and is more appropriate for cruisers. Appearantly it rides really well, so I guess there’s a point in using that technology in addition to the looks. To understand the choices one have to see where it comes from.
Confederate (and most of all designer J.T. Nesbitt) took their spiritual inspiration from the pre-16 boardtrack racer motorcycles and radial aircraft architecture and then pushed them into the future to create an alternate reality. It’s retro-futurism at its best, and I’m just happy live in a time when it’s being created. Conceptually it doesn’t differ at all from how modern race cars and bikes are developed, most of the new materials and technologies that they use first appear in the aviation industry. When a product doesn’t answer a specific need (apart from desire due to beauty) it’s crucial that it’s believable, that it could have been developed to fill a need during other circumstances. Had the world taken another route before the first world war the Wraith could have been a state of the art racer motorcycle in an alternative 2000′s and that’s how something gets depth and meaning and becomes more than just pretty face.
The bike is built around a carbon-fibre backbone containing the oil tank. The fuel tank sits below the engine and is a key part to the extremely low center of gravity. From what I can see the fuel tank is also part of a structural element so the frame should be very rigid; the large carbon-fibre tube should provide plenty of torsional ridigity on its own and the aluminium substructure will only add to that stiffness. The front forks are also made from carbon-fibre and are, by all reference standards, massive. They are designed in this way to allow the engine to be placed as far forward as possible in order to maximise the available front end grip.
It has impressive specifications (125bhp, 178kg, 166mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats) but it is so much more than numbers on a paper. Even if I’m not going to ride it (haven’t got a permit for motorcycles yet) I still want one just to showcase as a sculpture and a symbol of what can be created in the right envrinoment where dreams and open minds can roam freely.