Confederate P120 Fighter Combat | First Ride

Combat sport

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Steve Bohn

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.

During repeated runs up and down the twisting, 18-mile "driveway" to the Circle-X Ranch, I was impressed by the unexpectedly good ride quality. The combination of top-drawer components and low unsprung weight delivers excellent suspension compliance and feedback, though the footpegs drag a bit too easily in turns. The Fighter doesn't especially like cornering under power, either. That fat rear tire and massive power will push the front noticeably under anything more than partial throttle. Understeering tendencies aside, the only other negative point was the brakes. Even after accounting for brake pads that were incompatible with the metal-matrix rotors (an oversight that has since been corrected), the single front disc still lacks enough bite to stop this machine from the high velocities it can achieve.

Though the fat rear tire fouls the handling in the curves, it sure can lay down the power on the straights, and this is where the Fighter is most at home. The dual-counterbalanced JIMS motor is remarkably smooth, and provides plenty of grunt and very satisfying acceleration. The bike surges forward irresistibly in any gear and at any speed, and it's not uncommon to find yourself well in excess of 100 mph before you realize it.

Confederate will produce just 50 examples of the limited-edition P120 Fighter Combat, which like all Confederates is expensive at $72,000-roughly the same price as a Ducati Desmosedici RR. Compared to the previous Hellcat and Wraith models, however, the Fighter feels less raw and more refined without sacrificing any of the thrills when you twist your wrist and thunder off toward the horizon.

Tech Spec
Evolution
The Wraith's monocoque chassis concept and the Hellcat's massive motor, connected by an oversized aluminum spine.

Rivals
Ecosse Heretic, Wakan 1640 and any number of limited-production American V-twin power cruisers.

tech
SPEC
Price $72,000
Engine type a-c 45-deg. V-twin
Valve train OHV, 4v
Displacement 1965cc
Bore x stroke 104.8 x 114.3mm
Compression 12.0:1
Fuel system 51mm Keihin CV
Clutch Dry, multi-plate
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower 160 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Claimed torque 145 lb.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Frame Aluminum modular monocoque
Front suspension Double wishbone parallelogram incorporating a Race Tech shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Race Tech shock with adjustable spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping
Front brake Brembo four-piston caliper, 300mm disc
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 260mm disc
Front tire 120/60-19 Pirelli Diablo
Rear tire 240/40-18 Pirelli Diablo
Rake/trail 30.0°/4.2 in.
Seat height 27.0 in.
Wheelbase 64.5 in.
Fuel capacity 4.0 gal.
Claimed dry weight 460 lbs.
Color Raw aluminum
Available Now
Warranty One year, unlimited mi.

Contact Confederate Motor Co.
2222 5th Ave. S.
Birmingham, AL 35233
877.324.9888
www.confederate.com

Verdict 3.5 stars out of 5
A less expensive, more refined variation of Confederate's innovative, inimitable American power cruisers, with a dyno sheet that can't be beat.

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