The new Australian BARBARIAN V8 Motorcycle, yes, you heard........
How's that, a 350 Chevrolet V8 powered Motorcycle. Built by Warren Katz, a former South African who has decided that Australia is the place to be has just entered into production as a fully ADR-compliant machine the Brabarian V8 Motorcycle. Getting that approval for full production cost Warren two years and many a sleepless night. He admits, "If I'd known what was involved, I probably wouldn't have done it."
The idea behind the machine is simple enough. Warren says, "I just wanted to build something that Mad Max would ride." no argument so far. The basics are a twin-loop chrome-moly frame, made locally, with a cast-iron liquid-cooled Chevrolet 350 cube (5.7 litre) V8, running a 4-barrel Holley carb, electronic ignition and 9.1:1 compression. It revs to 6000rpm but claims 330 horses at 5000 and 400ft/lb of torque at 3800rpm.
It's nearest competitor, the American-built Boss Hoss, runs a 2-speed powerglide transmission, but the Barbarian does without, instead running a simple transfer case off the back of the clutch bell housing. The reasoning is that the transmission adds an unreasonable amount of length to the machine and really isn't necessary. I must admit I'm inclined to agree, as the Barbarian isn't outrageously long - its wheelbase is 127mm longer than a Goldwing. Substantial, but not ridiculous.
The massive dry plate clutch is handled by a cable-operated lever, with a left heel-operated foot pedal to assist in getting full disengagement. It may sound weird, but works well. There's also a hand-operated clutch lockout, to give the bike a neutral setting.
Front suspension is a set of billet forks, while the rear runs a design reminiscent of a Softail Harley, with twin Fournales shocks doing the hard work.
Wheels and brakes are made locally by Dragway. Discs at both ends are full floaters, with four-piston callipers.
John's Customs on the Gold Coast does much of the cosmetic work, while Zap Electrical did the harness.
Final drive is by chain, and there's an option of a 20 or 30 litre fuel tank.
In the saddle
The bike we rode pictured here with the owner is Warren's day-to-day workhorse and test mule. He admitted it was in need of a freshen-up, and it had some differences from the stock model: such as pipes (the bike with the flame paint shows the stockers), seat (a solo saddle is standard) and ride height, which was down a full inch from stock.
Taking all that into account, the machine is surprisingly easy to come to terms with. Warren's briefing was simple enough: engage the neutral lockout, stab the starter and give it a blip on the throttle (there's a significant torque reaction), then feed out the clutch with up to 2000 revs. I found it would happily get away with less than that.
From there, you don't have gears, and you only start looking for the clutch again if you're slowing down to 20km/h or below.
The bike is effectively silenced, producing a pleasant burble at low speed, developing into a roar as you pick up the pace.
It may weigh the best part of 430 kilos but knows how to lift its proverbial skirts and take off.
This example was in need of a tune-up, and a really sharp example would definitely get your attention. Warren says he has a supercharged 500-horse version in mind, just in case you thought a mere 330 was a bit limp-wristed. In any case, the stocker is perfectly capable of hurling you at the horizon at a rate that sets your eyeballs well back in the sockets. Great fun.
Warren also offers alloy heads for the engine, which shave 15 kilos off the weight, for $2000, or a full alloy engine (which knocks off about 50 kilos) for an additional $15,000. Both options have the potential to add substantially to the horsepower.
To my considerable relief, the brakes are very effective, with good feel and lots of power. It's not going to give your average R1 any cause for concern, and you are hauling up something roughly the size and weight of a small truck, but it does work well.
Its biggest problem was the severe lack of cornering clearance, because it had been lowered by around 25mm. I sat on a stocker and found it to be quite low and much better suited to my 190cm frame. If it were me, I'd be asking for all the ride height I could get, as the chassis gave every indication of being able to handle a more enterprising approach to corners.
Steering is generally good - it needs a firm signal from the handlebars to initiate a corner, but responds perfectly predictable.
The Barbarian is no sports bike, but is a hell of a lot of fun. Then again, so it should be as it's not cheap -- $60,000 plus GST. For that you definitely get the biggest toy on the block.