13 March 2012
T.W.O. - The 48-Cylinder Whitlock Special
What's the coolest way to kill yourself from a motorcyle? Doing an Evel Knievel-style leap over a row of buses never hurt anyone's style, but every bike-toting daredevil already has that corner firmly covered. For you, we present this one-of-a-kind solution: do it while maxing the speedo on a 48-cylinder motorcycle.
While necessity may be the mother of invention, building a 48 cylinder contraption just because you can sure counts as its doting Aunt; this 4200cc Kawasaki monstrosity is about as poignant a statement for that as you probably need. Not only will it be a beast to control, the posture on that thing looks incredibly cumbersome. If you don't die from a crash, you'll probably end up ploughing through a stack of painkillers from lower back pain.
Designed by motorcycling madman Simon Whitlock, the bike is built from a series of 14 engines pulled from Kawasaki S1/KH250 3-cylinder motorbike engines Each engine (the bores are 88cc on each cylinder) from the original bike has been cut and joined together to form six banks of straight eights , each functioning as its own complete engine, with its own crankshaft. They are bolted to a housing, gear linked and driven through a BMW shaft-drive bike transmission, as the bike is pretty long already it would be difficult to put a transverse drive through a gearbox to chain drive, just as well as we can't imagine the chain that would take the torque from this beast. Ignition is taken care of via six Jaguar E-Type distributors, and a 75cc 'Donkey' motor under the seat is used for starting the whole thing up.
It has taken Simon almost three years of hard work and he has overcome some huge problems to get here - where do you even start to think about building a bike like this? Oh, by the way, Simon is not a classically-trained engineer of any kind -he's a civil engineer, overseeing the building of shopping centres and the like; hell of a way to let off steam.
Does it run? Well, not only does it run, but it is (just) rideable; the engine and box alone apparantly "weigh just over a ton." No doubt your wrists are turned to jelly after a change of 48 plugs.
Don't look at it as a bike, look at it as a pure feat of engineering; Volkswagen seem to have a penchant for exotic engine configurations in their high-end cars but this beat any VAG engine hands down. Simon seems to have a taste for the complex, having built a supercharged, fuel injected, nitrous injected, water cooled Kawasaki H1 about 5 years back. How will he top this one? We shall see.
Oh, and we bet you thought the pics were photoshopped.