Deafening noise, vibration and an impossibly heavy throttle gets the better of Chris Pearson after just five laps of MalloryPark on this beast of two stroke and it’s a relief to be safely back in the paddock, but Richard Digby’s monster machine is certainly fast.
When Richard Digby first showed me this little project I thought he was completely mad, but I already had him down as a crazy guy for racing the gawky looking Husqvarna single in the Earlystocks club so nothing should really come as a surprise from this affable chap. The machine is an exercise in ignoring the conventional and doing things your own way and could well be what the Scandinavian bikers might be racing had they never had any contact with the rest of the world.
The engine is two 500cc two-stroke MX engines joined at the waist via a central coupling. Unusually, the sparks are provided by two completely separate ignition systems, one on the left hand crank and the other on the right. This idea should work providing both choirs are singing the same tune. The concept for the engine came from the world of MX sidecar racing and was made in Lund, Sweden by the company, Folan. The theory proved very successful from the outset, finishing second in the world championships in 1984 with Tom Van Heugen driving and Fritz Kiggen acting as passenger, first of all using two air-cooled 500cc Husky motors before further development led to water cooling. The idea was actually marketed as a kit so there may well be several of these power plants sitting around awaiting another eccentric like Richard to come along.
The two conjoined water-cooled engines are mounted on to a centrally mounted block, which then drives a five-speed gearbox, again made by Folan, which in turn passes on the enormous grunt via a conventional chain set-up.
The combined capacity of 976cc yields a total power output somewhere around 90bhp with torque way up in the 60-65ft lbs mark. All this is held in place by a Yamaha FZR400 chassis and swing arm, although the original seat sub-frame has long since succumbed to the heavy vibration created by the amalgam of ex-MX parts. A complex aluminium trellis type sub frame has since been manufactured by Richard that has, so far, not given in to the onslaught of the engine’s mismatched vibes. The running gear is totally FZR400 and the fact that little has been altered for track use is a sure indication of that little machine’s capabilities. Two huge, 38 mm, Mikuni carbs feed each cylinder and these sit, completely unfiltered, gasping for air, snug and comfy between the massive aluminium frame rails. They splay out quite wildly to facilitate the gearbox’s presence spite of not being able to sit level they still seem to work efficiently.
Two things that don’t sit anywhere snug are the intertwined exhaust pipes. The length required by the big capacity pots make the job of getting straight from exhaust port to the rear of the bike an impossible task, so they have to meander, cross over and swan neck their way from front to back, greatly reducing ground clearance. Each pipe is actually longer than the whole bike. The whole lot does look very business-like nonetheless and is actually very compact and professionally done, a testament to Richard’s engineering skill and enthusiasm. The fitting of the twin pot engine into the oriental pocket-rocket chassis is faultless, as indeed is the British racing green paintwork applied to the cut-down FZR bodywork. But the project begs the question: Why? Because it was there, came the reply.
Starting the doubled-up crosser engine is no mean feat and we were all thankful for the steep incline found in the MalloryPark paddock – though it was no fun if the thing didn’t start and it had to be pushed back up the hill. With a big drop on to the seat from way up high, this monster of a two stroke springs into life like no other machine, sounding not unlike an industrial specification MZ, it rattles and ring dings its way to warmth – even then the engine sounds no healthier. The electric water pump can be switched on or off independently to help the engine warm quicker which is a great help. Piston slap and exhaust explosions fill the air and all around take an interest in this smoking, rattling and shaking race machine. The twist grip is so heavy the engine cannot be blipped in the usual manner; only a steady increase in revs is possible before releasing and having another go a bit later.
Even if the throttle were a little lighter I dare say the almost square bore and stroke of 86mm and 84mm respectively would not be too willing to respond in any other way. The hard metal of the footrests bounce your boots off with every rise in revs and the gear lever hits the top of your foot with such a speed as to sting. A very hostile environment and we are not even in the warm up area yet! First gear is selected and the wet clutch bites with an eager ferocity that results in you being on the move before you are ready. The pulsing deep throb of the engine reminds me of the first time l took the baffles out of my Fizzie, that hollow honk of an unrestricted two stroke, albeit far louder and doubled up. Low down in the throttle range every pump of the throttle felt like it had only just prevented the spark plugs from oiling up as a retching, smoker’s cough belched through the expansion chambers before eventually clearing the throat of this machine. Once on the go the Husky was not much better as she made it clear I was not too welcome on her. Vibration is simply not the word – this thing shakes and rattles its way around the track and does not feel fast in any way. It was almost like the bike hadn’t yet woken up. And to make matter worse, she was in a foul mood.
Fast it most certainly is however and the lethargic climb through the revs is so misleading as to be downright dangerous in places. One must remember to ignore the low resonance of the engine and keep a good look well ahead as the standing quarter times would be impressive in any company. First gear through to third is serious wheelie territory and one has to be very gentle with that heavy throttle so as not to upset the apple cart and book an early bath. Around Gerrard‘s for the ﬁrst time and the chassis was rock steady. On the gas for the exit was absolutely impossible to blip the weighty throttle while downshifting so l quickly chose to be easy, letting the clutch out instead and that did seem to work. Good job really, as the huge amounts of engine braking could prove troublesome if you got the engine speed
mismatched with the rear wheel. Into and out of the hairpin gave little trouble as did the Bus Stop and now time to really get this thing wound up through the Devil‘s Elbow and the start finish straight. Exiting the Bus Stop was a heady mix of wheelie and wheel spin as the front stayed clear of the ground, and the rear end popped its head around the side for a better look.
The steady rise in the revs kept all of these shenanigans in check thankfully. lt might produce the sort of power and torque for these antics but with the lazy nature of this twin, one would have to be half asleep for it to bite and spit you off like a GP two stroke. Fourth gear is lazily hooked and the Husky calms down a wee bit, the wheels starting to follow similar paths with the superb chassis tracking straight and true. The revs wind up slowly but surely down the straight and the throttle proves difficult to hold open for any length of time. l needn’t have worried too much however as the corner arrived considerably quicker than first thought.‘ Off with the throttle; on with the twin disc brake set-up and down a gear ready for the huge Gerrard’s, Bend in fourth gear. The front end is giving great feedback despite the buzzy ride, while the rear just gets on with laying down the huge torque via the wide and soft Metzeler Rennsport tyre.
Down towards the chicane but this time way faster than before. The lack of a downshift capability is worrying so great care was taken to synchronise the shifts via the clutch and once again all was well. The hairpin and Bus Stop passed, once again, without fuss as indeed did the Devil’s Elbow power-slide show, but the next time around Gerrard’s I thought we had over-cooked it completely and some serious apologising was going to be due. The front end slid out as soon as the bike was leant over and there was nothing I could have done to stop it. The noise and overall attack on the senses drowned out any warnings like metallic noises scraping the track so I was not aware exactly what was going on. At one point there was only the rear tyre and my knee slider holding the plot up. The bars had gone loose and were having no effect upon the trajectory of the Scandinavian monster. It dawned on me that the Husky had decked out the front of the pipe and a quick change of body position got the front tyre back on the ground.
Five laps into the session and I was glad when the sun went in as it made photography useless and gave me the excuse to head for the paddock.
I could not wait to get off this flying bedstead. It handled and generally behaved itself but the engine and throttle was far too much for me to take. I needed a breather and a cup of tea. My hands and feet were numb from the ride and it felt like I hadn’t ridden a bike for years, such was the assault from the Husky.
Forty minutes later, and it was time to get out on track again, Immediately the big stroker felt light years better, although I think a change of glove to
a more padded pair helped no end. She had woken up fully and the bad temper appeared to have subsided. We were starting to work together a bit more now, almost like the Husky had suddenly given me approval to ride her. I didn’t notice the vibration as much -perhaps my brain had fried during the first ride, who knows? Heaven knows what top speed the Husky is capable of but it definitely is not slow. Sharing the circuit with more conventional and modern machinery clearly showed she was no slouch and just as fast in mid-corner.
The Husky twin is not the easiest, ergonomic or even the most enjoyable way to get around a race track but in a sidecar-cross outfit that engine would be unbeatable if you had the balls to use it to the full. It successfully combines the power and low down grunt of a big four stroke, with the lightweight of a two-stroke.
<h2>Husky 1000 Race Bike Gallery</h2>
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