Whilst the Festival of Speed is rightly viewed as a nostalgia-fest, some clever marketing men use the popularity and back-drop of Goodwood to introduce their ‘all new’ products to the public. Several bike manufacturers brought their latest and greatest to West Sussex; some you may already know, some of the others have remained a mystery until now. Whilst these are all bespoke machines, I must confess that after not having purchased a new bike for 10 years the prices are more than a little eye watering. Whilst this year’s Hesketh 24 was being piloted passed Lord March’s front door by Tommy Hill I thought I overheard Keith Huewen, whilst extolling the virtues of the beautiful twin, announce a price tag of £35K. I fully appreciate the ‘24’ is a limited production run for the new Hesketh, with a price tag of that size only a couple of dozen buyers could justify that kind of outlay. Therefore this machine is not aimed at your daily rider, it will no doubt be snapped up mainly by collectors and return a huge profit in the years to come. It has all the ingredients to become a legend; the right name is first and foremost vital. The Paul Sleeman designed Hesketh brings back memories of James Hunt driving the 308 F1 machine right down to the colour scheme; 24 was also the number the car ran in 1975. Hand built; the 1950cc V twin S&S engine is also used in the Morgan 3 wheeler but re tuned by Harris Performance in three different power options (you choose), now the price tag is starting to make sense. The Italian leather seat is supplied by the same manufacturer who fits out the McLaren supercars. A number gold plaque on the tank, dripping with the best parts from the likes of Ohlins and Beringer all sounds great, now it just needs to make the right noises. Tommy Hill must have known that’s what I wanted and gave the beast a handful as he passed; I can now offer an opinion, at £35k the limited edition Hesketh 24 is a bargain.
Discussing the unusual looking machine parked on the Ariel Motor Co stand at the Festival, it came to light that when Simon Saunders acquired the company name it was always the intension of the Somerset based company to build motorcycles. Four wheels came first and the Atom has been around for a while now. Much favoured by ‘Top Gear’ it has a unique design in many ways and that is repeated in the bike. Like the Hesketh the Ariel name has history; going back to 1870 and cycle production in the Midlands, the first motorbike came in 1902 and during the 1930s the company produced some significant machines including the ‘Square Four’. The new ‘Ace’ like the car has some very unusual design aspects, made in two versions, a new form of ‘cruiser’ and a ‘street fighter’ come ‘café racer’ look. Both powered by Honda’s 1237cc V4 as found in the VFR 1200, enclosed by the aluminium space-frame that really catches the eye, hand built taking 70 hours to machine and weld per bike. The cruiser features the companies own ‘girder’ forks (Ohlins assisted) whilst the street bike features a more standard Ohlins set up. Shaft-drive, with options on sequential or manual gear-changes and other options include seat height, tank size, wheels and exhausts. A ‘less is more’ approach to plastics and decoration gives both machines an aggressive look, with adjustable foot rests and handle bar choices the bike is built for the rider, tailored and unique. Each technician builds one machine at a time, specific to customer requirements. Being low volume only, 100-150 per year will leave the West Country factory at a cost of £20k plus options per bike. The cruiser I saw looked fast and stable on the Festival Hill and sounded quite different as V4 engines tend to. I think, like Hesketh, the Ariel will sell well; it dares to be different and offers the owner a bit of exclusivity.
Images and article by Grant Ford.