Inspired by Evel Knievel’s rocket-powered X-1 prototype!
In the early 1970s, a pair of engineers designed and built the X-1 Skycycle for Evel Knievel to launch across the infamous Snake River Canyon. This canyon-jumping “motorcycle” was, in effect, a two-wheeled, fin-stabilized, steam-powered rocket. In 1973, the Knievel and his team tested prototype…fortunately, without a rider. Sports Illustrated covered the event:
“At the end of [Knievel’s] countdown, the gleaming wheeled missile…blasted upward and out toward the far canyon wall. Then it began falling, spinning and twirling, a captive of the wind, a tumbling speck against the green ribbon of river 500 feet below. And finally there was a silent splash, followed seconds later by its echo up the canyon walls.”
At this point, the X-1 was lost to history.
Enter David Plotkin and the team of South Florida’s Burn Up Company. Operating out of their 6300+ sq. ft. facility in West Palm Beach, they scour the country for “unique and forgotten motorcycles,” restoring them to their former glory.
“We then work through them nut and bolt to get them up-and-running and back on the road; where they belong.”
At the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Fest two years ago, they had the idea to build their own Skycycle, a tribute to Knievel’s X-1. Fittingly enough, they unveiled the finished product at Barber this year, the “Burn-1” Skycycle.
The “Burn-1” body is built from the belly tank of an F-86 Sabre fighter jet and the Skycycle is powered by a 43-hp CB450 engine — the largest motor they could fit inside the fuselage. This hybrid of a land-speed streamliner and a mid-century aircraft boasts working flamethrowers, suicide shifter with hand-operated clutch, and period-accurate aviation details like an air-pressure reading speedometer from a 1957 Cessna!
Below, we get the full story on this incredible build.
“Burn-1” Skycycle: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Burn Up Company began as a hobby in the suburbs of New York/Connecticut by David Plotkin. A hobby turned into a passion. A passion tuned into an obsession. That obsession evolved into the 6,379 square foot facility in West Palm Beach, Florida that it is today.
Searching all year round, across the country, Burn Up Company locates and restores unique and forgotten motorcycles. We then work through them nut and bolt to get them up-and-running and back on the road; where they belong. Our main objective at Burn Up Company is to breathe new life and functionality into these vintage machines, while building a long-lasting relationship with their new owners.
At Burn Up Company, we take our commitment to both the customers and these one-of-a-kind machines with utmost importance, and aim to provide motorcycles and parts that will take you where you want to go, for a lifetime. We specialize in Vintage (1960’s, 1970’s and some select 1980’s) Japanese, British, German, and Italian motorcycles, yet we are passionate about all unique motorcycles from the golden age of motorcycling.
We are proud and pleased to be a part of the South Florida Vintage motorcycle community, and will keep bringing bikes to life for years to come. At Burn Up Company, we welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and deliver you the best service in the industry.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
We first conceptualized the idea for the Skycycle two years ago at Barber Vintage Motorcycle Fest, and found it fitting to unveil it here first. It is inspired by Knievel’s X-1 Prototype, a solid-state rocket. It has been lost to history.
The Burn-1 Skycycle is a completely custom vehicle that we built from the belly fuel tank of an F-86 Sabre fighter plane from the 1950’s. It is powered by a 1970 Honda CB450, simply because this is the largest motor we had that would fit the fuselage.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The controls, steering wheel, and pedals are all period accurate to the early 1970’s. It has a functioning air-pressure reading speedometer from a 1957 Cessna airplane. It also has functioning flamethrowers and suicide shifter linked to the original 5-speed gear box. Due to lack of room for a third pedal, there is a clutch handle on the shifter.
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
We were able to create something that has virtually no template other than inspiration from since-lost experimental prototypes. We feel that we’ve successfully amalgamated two extremely different vehicles – the land racing motorcycles and mid-century aircraft. Lastly, although nearly everything in this vehicle had to be heavily modified or created in order for the build to work, we were able to maintain period-accurate appearances, material and patina.
Follow the Builder
- Pinstriping by Steven Lahman (@StevenLahman)
- Photographer: Vincent Conti of Burn Up Company