His Lordship’s Motorcycle: 1984 Hesketh Vampire

With a few custom tweaks, a rare Hesketh Vampire becomes a killer naked bike for the street.

| July/August 2018

1984 Hesketh Vampire
Engine: 992cc air-cooled DOHC 90-degree V-twin, 4 valves per cylinder, 95mm x 70mm bore and stroke, 9.5:1 compression ratio, 86hp @ 6,500rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 138mph (claimed)
Carburetion: Two 36mm Dell'Orto PHF
Transmission: 5-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, Lucas RITA electronic ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Reynolds 531 nickel-plated steel trellis-style frame w/engine as stressed member/59.5in (1,511mm)
Suspension: Marzocchi telescopic fork front, dual Marzocchi shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: Dual 11in (280mm) Brembo discs front, single 11in (280mm) Brembo disc rear
Tires (stock): Dunlop K91 100/90 x 19in front, 130/90 x 17in rear
Weight (wet): 550lb (250kg)
Seat height: 33in (838mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 6gal (23ltr)/45-55mpg (est.)
Price then/now: $10,500 (1984)/$15,000-$25,000

This story starts with a man named Bubbles Horsley. Yes, that's his name, and yes, this story is about a motorcycle — a very rare motorcycle — built in England and called the Hesketh.

Bubbles wanted to race Formula One cars, and persuaded a pal of his to join in the effort. The pal was The Right Honorable Thomas Alexander Fermor-Hesketh, Third Baron Hesketh, or Lord Hesketh for short. The pair had a great time and, after Lord Hesketh hired James Hunt to drive for them, considerable success on the track, winning the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix. "The best way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a big one," NASCAR driver Junior Johnson once famously said. As the cost of keeping the team going began to exceed even Lord Hesketh's budget, the Hesketh team started taking on projects for other teams to earn a little money, and in the process got quite good at R&D. The Hesketh team stopped racing and became a consulting engineering firm.

The Hesketh

While this was going on, Lord Hesketh started thinking about starting a motorcycle factory. Lord Hesketh was (and is) a patriotic sort of person, and felt keenly the demise of the British motorcycle industry. By 1978, the once-numerous English factories, major players on the world motorcycle market through most of the 20th century, had been reduced to one, Triumph, which was holding on by its toenails. Lord Hesketh also thought there was a place in the market for a big two-wheeled luxury tourer, in essence an updated Brough Superior. He had one designed and called it the Hesketh V1000. The family crest, a rooster with a crown around its neck, served as the bike's logo. The bike was unveiled in 1980 (the cover over the bike was a Union Jack) at the ancestral manse, Easton Neston.

Despite its British origins, the V1000 had much in common with contemporary Ducatis. The technically advanced 90-degree V-twin engine, primarily designed by engine specialists Westlake under the direct supervision of Lord Hesketh, sat fore and aft in the frame. A single crankshaft spun both cylinders, which had a bore and stroke of 95mm x 70mm for a total displacement of 992cc. Chain-driven twin overhead camshafts worked four valves per cylinder, adjusted by shims. A gear-driven primary drive connected to a 5-speed transmission, with chain final drive.

Ignition was electronic Lucas RITA. Despite Prince of Darkness jokes (Why do the British drink warm beer? Because they have Lucas refrigerators!), the Lucas RITA ignition has a good reputation as a reliable, if expensive, component. The engine was claimed to produce 86 horsepower at 6,500rpm — more than enough to haul two riders plus a reasonable amount of gear. The press release claimed that a prototype hit a top speed of 138mph and that gas mileage was 50mpg.

7/12/2018 9:16:56 AM

Doomed by the chicken logo!

7/12/2018 9:16:41 AM

Doomed by the chicken logo!

7/12/2018 9:16:17 AM

Doomed by the chicken logo!

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