Top 10 car-engined bikes

For when a bike motor just isn’t big enough…

STICKING a car engine into a bike is generally a bad idea but it’s one that’s been around for decades.

Usually, the resulting creations are one-off custom bikes, designed to turn heads rather than actually perform well, but once in a while somebody will put a car-powered bike into production.

Here are the 10 that we think have made the best fist of it.

10. Boss Hoss

When it comes to numbers, Boss Hoss is probably the most successful firm ever to integrate car engines onto two wheels. The firm has been churning V8-powered, automatic-transmission machines for a quarter of a century now, with thousands of the things on the road. The current line includes 4.8 litre and 6.2 litre Chevy offerings with 295 or 445bhp respectively, but it used to offer an incredible 8.2-litre version making over 500bhp. It would be hard to argue that they’re pretty, but they’re probably the best all-around solution if you’re in the market for a brand new car-engined two-wheeler (or trike, for that matter).

9. Dodge Tomahawk

Whether or not any Tomahawks really found buyers is a matter for debate – it’s quite possible that only the original 2003 concept machine was ever built, but a further nine were theoretically offered for sale, to be built to order for a mere $555,000 each. Oh, and it was on the condition that they weren’t to be ridden. If anyone took up that offer, they’d have got a weird four-wheeled (but leaning) motorcycle powered by a Dodge Viper 8.3-litre V10, making 500bhp. Claims of a 300mph top speed were, of course, never tested and likely to be rubbish.

8. Sabertooth Turbocat

Okay, so it’s pretty similar to a Boss Hoss on the surface, but Sabertooth uses Ford rather than Chevrolet V8s and the Turbocat scores on this list because, as the name suggests, it gets a turbo. Well, two of them, actually. It’s also a DOHC, 32-valve V8 rather than the Boss Hoss’s 16v, push-rod motor, so while it’s small in capacity at just 4.6 litres, it’s far more powerful. Just how powerful? The firm claims 600bhp and 580lbft of torque, so even though the bike is a hefty 1,040lbs, it has more than enough performance to overcome its mass…

7. Olson’s Flathead

It’s another Ford-engined V8 here, but a rather different proposition to the Sabertooth. The Olson’s bike, of which more than 50 have been built, uses ancient ‘Flathead’ side-valve Ford V8s, dating to pre-WW2, to create unique machines – each built-to-order with their owner’s individual spec. They’ve even created at least one V12 version using an old Lincoln engine, running eight open exhausts (thanks to siamesed exhaust ports, the V8s confusingly have six pipes and the V12 has eight). Strangely these creations manage to look suitably old-fashioned, avoiding the in-your-face, over-the-top appearance of customs using modern V8s.

6. Van Veen OCR1000

Van Veen’s ambitious attempt to make a Wankel-engined superbike in the late 1970s relied on an engine – the 107bhp Comotor 624 – that had been developed for Citroen’s GS Birotor. This wasn’t a mad, look-how-big-the-engine-is bike though; the Comotor Wankel was simply the right size and shape for the project, and happened to be shared with a car. Sadly, neither the bike nor the car was a success; Van Veen made only 38 examples of the OCR1000 while Citroen barely did any better. The firm pulled the Birotor from the market after just 847 sales and then bought most back from their owners because scrapping them was cheaper than stocking and supplying spare parts.

5. Indian Dakota Four/Wiking

It’s not really fair to tar the Scottish-made Indian Dakota Four, itself a derivative of the Swedish Wiking four-cylinder, as a car-engined machine. But it’s engine is derived from a four-wheeler, in this case a Volvo. To create the original, Wiking builder Sture Torngren machined the whole top end off a four-cylinder Volvo engine and fitted his own design of air-cooled aluminium cylinders. The head was also his, but the car links continued with a Volkswagen valve train. Later versions still used the Volvo crankshaft and pistons.

4. Quasar

The British-built Quasar is remarkable largely because it managed to garner a huge amount of publicity and is therefore familiar despite the fact that just 21 were made between 1976 and 1982. Its radical feet-forward riding positon and oh-so-seventies cheese-wedge styling mean it tends to stick in the mind once seen, too. What was less obvious was that its engine came from a car. And while a Boss Hoss owner might be able to boast that his motor comes from a Corvette, Quasar riders mumbled: the engine's from a Reliant Robin.

3. Brough Superior Austin Four

The Quasar’s Reliant Robin engine itself is a descendant of an even earlier car motor – the 747cc four-cylinder used in the 1930s Austin 7. And that’s exactly what George Brough used to create what is surely the most valuable car-engined motorcycle in the world. These weird creations were intended to be used with sidecars, and came complete with two rear wheels mounted right next to each other on a shortened version of the Austin’s rear axle. While cheaper than an SS100, the Austin Four was more expensive than the car it took its engine from, and only 10 were made between 1932 and 1934. It would have been a good investment, though – one sold at auction in 2013 for £246,400.

2. Muench Mammut

We’re packaging two bikes into one here – the original Muech Mammut (that’s Mammoth in German) of 1966-75 and the turn-of-the-millenium Mammut 2000. The first, created by Friedl Muench, came before Honda made four-cylinder road bikes something that anyone could buy, and as such made its mark on motorcycle history as being the ultimate superbike of its day. The engine was an air-cooled four from an NSU car, initially a 996cc motor with 55bhp and later an 88bhp, 1177cc version. The Mammut 2000, revealed in 1999, was a totally different beast, albeit still from the mind of Friedl Muench and with car-powered roots. It had a water-cooled, turbocharged four-cylinder loosely derived from a Ford Cosworth car motor and tweaked to 260bhp.

1. Track T800-CDi

The Track T800-CDi gets our number-one spot because, while it was car-engined, it actually made a fairly convincing case for itself as a viable diesel-powered motorcycle. The car connection in this case was the Mercedes-owned Smart car, which donated its three-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine. Allied to a continuously variable transmission and a BMW-based shaft drive, it worked surprisingly well. It even looked pretty good, in the current adventure bike vogue. Unfortunately, although an unknown number were sold and several are in private hands, including some in the UK, the firm disappeared a couple of years ago.

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