Redefining the power cruiser
Confederate's exquisitely crafted, ultra-costly cruisers are known as much for innovative construction as outrageous performance. The P120 Fighter Combat-the latest model from the Birmingham, Alabama, coach works-pushes that reputation to the next level by coupling a welded and bolted aluminum monocoque to a massive, 1965cc JIMS V-twin. With 160 horsepower pushing 460 pounds, this bike redefines the term "power cruiser."
The mind behind the Fighter's futuristic form is Ed Jacobs, Confederate's head of conceptual design. A graduate of New York's Pratt Institute, Jacobs joined the company in 2004, and the Fighter is his first clean-sheet project. "We wanted a straight-line expression from the handlebars to the swingarm pivot," Jacobs says. "We also wanted to create a modular chassis comprised of a series of aluminum plates that bolted the engine to the central backbone as a fully stressed member, to produce an extremely stiff structure."
A tubular spine defines the Fighter both structurally and aesthetically. The engine is held in place by a pair of machined-aluminum plates bolted to that central spine. Thanks to advanced computer programming, Confederate never built a prototype. "It went straight from AutoCAD to Solid Works to our CNC machine," explains Confederate founder and director Matt Chambers. "You know you have identical values for each chassis-even the best jig for a welded frame won't guarantee that."
A rigid chassis is a prerequisite for handling the massive output of the big V-twin specified for this wild ride. The engine is the highest-performance version JIMS offers from its Malibu, California, factory, producing a pavement-rippling 145 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine cases are specially cast in super-dense, 8356 aluminum for added stiffness, and connected to Confederate's own stacked-shaft, five-speed gearbox by a machined clamshell transmission housing that creates a unit-construction powertrain. Chain final drive has been relocated to the right side and mounted outside of the swingarm pivot to increase rigidity and make room for an oversized, 240mm-wide rear tire.
The Fighter's eye-catching girder fork is composed of tubular-aluminum and machined-billet pieces that compress a single, centrally mounted Race Tech shock. Another larger Race Tech shock supports the double-sided swingarm, which pivots directly off the transmission. The swingarm yoke also conceals the fuel pump and most of the electrical system. Confederate spared no expense on the remaining chassis components, selecting BST carbon-fiber wheels and Brembo radial brakes that grip exotic, aluminum-ceramic composite rotors.
The Fighter's steering geometry is conservative compared to the company's sportier Wraith, and the 64.5-inch wheelbase is slightly longer too. The under-proportioned seat-essentially a glorified pad stuck to the frame-sits just 27 inches above the pavement. This, coupled with forward controls, describes a relaxed riding position. Yet despite its outrageous look and minimalist accommodations, the Fighter is fun to ride. This I discovered in the Toana John Mountains above Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, where a similar Fighter posted a very credible 155.6-mph top speed at last year's BUB Speed Trials.