There’s nothing quite like the furious brap-brap of a two-smoke’s throttle. For many of us, a two-stroke dirt bike was our first introduction to a life on two wheels. For a few, there is nothing in the saner world of four-stroke machinery to rival the banshee scream of a two-smoke hitting its powerband. Hunter S. Thompson was one of these, a man scarred and awed by his experience riding the Kawasaki Triple:
“I still feel a shudder in my spine…when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple… I have visions of compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called “Bess” sews the flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill.”
But even the mighty Kawasaki Triple, Honda CR500, and other blue-breathed demons of nearly legendary status pale in comparison to the power offered by a modern two-stroke snowmobile engine.
Steve Jones of Jonz Customs in Sedalia, Colorado, decided to correct this oversight. We first came across his build, Gatto Nero (“Black Cat”), at the Handbuilt Show in Austin earlier this year. What you see below is a custom-framed, snowmobile-engined motorcycle weighing just 320 pounds, powered by a 150-hp Arctic Cat F7 700cc two-stroke engine.
That means this bike makes twice the horsepower of a Kawasaki 750 Triple, while weighing 125 pounds less! Nearly every component that orbits this powerplant is custom-built, from the trellis frame itself to the expansion chambers to the clutch and belt drive primary.
Below, Steve gives us the full story on the build.
Gatto Nero: In the Builder’s Words
(Words by Steve Jones. Highlights by us.)
This build is based on my love of all things 2-stroke. It features an Arctic Cat F7 fuel injected 2 stroke 700cc motor with a custom built 6 speed transmission. I built the trellis frame, expansion chamber, rear sets, air box, oil tank, dry clutch, belt drive primary, motor and tranny mounts and other bits as needed.
The tank is a modified Ducati 999 as is the fairing. The tail is a modified Yamaha R1 unit. Suspension is Ducati 999R front and modified S2r rear. Wheels are S2r. The transmission is an Aprilia RSV4 cassette housed in a billet case machined by Bob Schenck. Paint is by Hair Trigger in Englewood CO. Special thanks to Bart at Mad Moto for help with the wiring and making this bike run like the beast that it is. 150hp / 320 lbs. = FUN
I’ve been building bikes far about 10 years now, doing about one per year. I don’t have customers for them, so they are all out of pocket. Not the best way to do things. It’s nice to have complete artistic freedom though. My builds cover quite a range of styles, from board track to sport bike. I prefer to build as many parts of a bike as possible to challenge myself in terms of both design and fabrication.
Frames and exhaust are my favorite things to build. Not having large budgets for my builds helps to keep me creative. Probably my biggest brush with fame and fortune came a few years ago when Jay Leno did an interview segment with me and two of my bikes for his online version of Jay Leno’s Garage (photos here).
I called the bike Gatto Nero because the Arctic Cat logo features a black cat.