Harley-Davidson might have set the mold for the archetypical American motorcycle, but it's boutique brand Confederate that has taken it to the extreme. Confederate's Hellcat and Wraith are glaringly unique machines - all metal and carbon, nasty skeletal designs dripping with confrontational attitude. Now they're joined by the limited-edition Fighter Combat - a celebration of machined metal that looks like it's been chiseled from one hunk of polished aluminum for the next Terminator movie. But beyond its arresting looks, there's some interesting ideas on board.
The name alone should tell you a lot about the target demographic: Confederate's P120 Fighter Combat was launched last month at the car-focused Quail motorsports gathering in Carmel, California. And this all-American beast is every bit as eye-catching as the carbon girder-forked Wraith.
Only a select group will ever get to truthfully answer the question "how's it go?" - Confederate's only planning to build 120 of these unique-looking beasts - but you can expect the answer to be "scary fast." Weighing in at a reasonably slim 460lbs (207kg), the Fighter Combat boasts 160hp and a meaty 135ft-lb of torque - both at the rear wheel not the crank.
These figures are achieved through a thunderous 120ci (1966cc) radial twin engine. With each piston displacing around 1000cc, you're looking at two of the largest cylinder bores in production motorcycle-dom. Bring a rope, a plank and a GPS if you ever plan to work on the engine.
The rear wheel is driven through a close-ratio five-speed box and a chain - fair enough, you can't expect a belt to cope with 160 horses. The exhausts are extremely short and exit basically right under the left-hand side of the engine, making for a ferocious but refined roar from the throttle.
Somehow, four gallons (15 liters) of fuel and 4.5 quarts (4.3 liters) of oil are secreted away in the bike's tubular frame, meaning that there's basically no tank to grab with your knees - add this to a foam pad the size of an old-school Walkman that passes for a seat and you can see that rider comforts have been kept to a minimum. But the tube frame does have one interesting advantage - the fact that you seem to be able to check the oil level by looking through a large circular sightglass right behind the headstock, and watch it all pumping around at idle.
The P120 might look and sound kinda like a bobbed cruiser, and the seating position might be typical 'balls to the wind,' but if you're stacking 160 horses behind the throttle, you'd best make a bike that handles and pulls up.
Confederate chose to experiment at the front end with another odd suspension configuration - a fascinating double wishbone parallelogram of aircraft-grade aluminum, sprung by a race tech monoshock whose piggybacked reservoir sits right behind the dash. The entire front end stays steady as you compress the front end, the bike moving up and down independently of the 'forks'. In an effort, perhaps, to offset this considerable chunk of unsprung weight, the wheels are featherlight carbon orbs.
Twin bug headlights sit low, right on top of the wheel in lieu of a mudguard - I wonder how an unsprung headlight will effect vision on a bumpy road at night? Perhaps a form over function decision there.
The brake discs are super high-performance carbon/ceramic, but then, there's only one of them at the front - perhaps another win for the styling department. Calipers are Brembo's racing 4-pots, radially-mounted and with a radial master cylinder up top as well.
All of which will likely be of little relevance to the typical buyer, you'd imagine. You'd buy a P120 Fighter Combat if, like me, you drool over finely worked metal; or if, unlike me, you want to attract every eyeball on the street; or if, unlike me, you want to rattle every windowpane and set off every car alarm with a blast of throttle. And, if (extremely) unlike me, you're absolutely loaded. If you see one of these rare beasties on the road, wave - it's either a movie star or a bloke who's just mortgaged his house.
More photos in the gallery and at Ultimate Motorcycling.