We have a very special treat today, the prototype of a new American motorcycle: the V-1 Warbird by SAMCO (Spirit American Motorcycle Company).
The United States offers scarcely few American-made options for sport riders, especially in the wake of Harley-Davidson’s 2009 decision to kill off Buell, followed by the 2015 demise of Erik Buell Racing. There’s the Motus MST, powered by a “Baby Block” V4, but it’s a sport touring machine, and starts at a staggering $30,975. MotoCzysz has ceased development of their counter revolution engine to focus on electric bikes, and that leaves a serious vacuum: who will take up the torch of The Great All-American Sportbike…or at least performance motorcycle?
A man from Manitoba: Maurice Brisebois. (Hell, none of the rest of us are doing it!)
We met Maurice at the 2015 Barber Vintage Festival, and we were very impressed with his passion, candor, and the trellis-framed, V-twin powered prototype he had on display. It looked like someone had crossbred a Ducati Monster with a Buell Lightning, installing an air-cooled, twin-headed heart and trick Race Tech suspension. The fit and finish were excellent, a bike that raced the blood sitting still.
SAMCO V-1: Birth of an American-Made Motorcycle
In the Builder’s Words…
The idea of SAMCO (Spirit American Motorcycle Company) is a result of noticing a gap in the world of motorcycles. I have an old 1990 Fatboy that I’ve owned since new. The trip meter wasn’t working properly so it was a good idea to have it repaired. Upon removing it, upon the underside were the words “Nippon Japan”. I actually couldn’t believe it. I looked further into the origin of the components of my American motorcycle and found out my old Harley is not nearly as American as one would think, or as I think we can agree that we are lead to believe.
Since the Japanese speedometer is a sealed unit it cannot be repaired I refitted it into the old Fatboy and headed off to the end of the Florida Keys and back from Toronto, Canada. As many of us know doing road time is a great way of having initial ideas distilled into something more defined, more obvious. I guess you could say the condenser coils of my mind were putting out some pretty good corn liquor while hitting the backroads of the south. As intoxicating as my thoughts may have been, keeping me and my Fatboy between the lines and safe was never an issue.
The return trip of 3500 miles gave me plenty of time to think whether it be riding the secondary highways, having a meal, resting in a hotel room or just about any time where solitude can set. That’s just about all the time while riding solo for some distances. The overall premise of my thoughts were, “if I were to build an all American made motorcycle, what would it be?”
Well, I definitely knew what I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want a cruiser, bagger, chopper or any motorcycle that was extremely heavy, not great in corners, has poor suspension considering the degrading road conditions and doesn’t stop well. I wanted exactly the opposite. A high power to weight ratio, light, nimble, quick, handles slick pavement to rough roads and can really stop when needed which is a huge necessity in keeping alive on the road. All of this while maintaining a Made in America format.
Upon returning to Canada I started putting my ideas to paper, researching different styles and capabilities of the current and past brands. I first reached out to a custom bike builder (mostly choppers) but we didn’t have the same vision so I was quick to end the development. Thanks to the internet I had the world at my fingertips. I came across a frame builder and fabricator out of Illinois by the name of Framecrafters. They specialize in building race motorcycles in both vintage and late models.
I approached them numerous times with my idea but was just as often shut down and even denied. According to Randy Illg of Framecrafters, my concept had been tried many times without success. At about the fifth or sixth attempt at communication, Randy set aside an hour for a phone call interview to fully allow me to put my ideas forward and for him to ascertain my sincerity and depth of thought regarding my ideas. Randy gave me the time to fully explain the Truly American Made Motorcycle concept. Upon ending the telephone meeting he’d accepted me as a customer. I later asked Randy as to why he had put me through he hoops he had? He said, “I have so many people come to me with their ideas, most not anywhere near formulated that they’re bound to fail.”
A part of the conversation included procuring a donor bike. We agreed upon the Buell Ulysses with the fuel injected XB 1203 cc engine due to its higher HP output and more torque than the standard American made Harley Davidson 74 CID. The Ulysses was also chosen because of its longer travel suspension, something we were also considering for the build. We also agreed to work in the direction of the “Motard” genre of motorcycles.
Framecrafters designed and fabricated the frame, swingarm, fuel tank, oil tank, airbox, sub frame and seat cowling under the overall direction of SAMCO. Procurement of all American made components was made by SAMCO too. In our estimate as the SAMCO currently sits, it is 95% American made. We’re currently sourcing the final components to become 100% American made.
The entire process from concept to final prototype took just over 2 years. Our first presentation of the assembled motorcycle was at the Barber show last October in Birmingham, Alabama. After that show the bike was brought back to Illinois for final touches and some road time by Framecrafters. I then picked it up and brought it to southern California for some serious road time early November.
A part of the road testing was to meet with a number of southern California parts suppliers, one being Performance Machine who have supplied the wheels and front calipers. Rick Preuss of PM took a few photos with the bike and suggested we put the motorcycle in the upcoming International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach while I was down south. I did and it was a very good suggestion as both Ultimate Motorcycling and the Bonnier Corporation made appointments for test rides and editor reviews.
The overall impression of the motorcycles performance has been very good. Especially from the more experienced riders, some mentioning a hybrid feeling between a Ducati and a Buell. I’m really good with comments such as those. All I can say is it’s a riot to ride.
We will be presenting the SAMCO again at the upcoming International Motorcycle Show in Chicago mid February 2016. We would love you to come by and see what can happen with a little effort and focus can be built in the USA.