1996-2008 Boss Hoss V-8

Stupid Money

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Weary of being one-upped by a succession of ever-bigger Big Twins? Striving for superpower status in an escalating internal-combustion arms race? Why settle for two cylinders or even four when you can straddle the apogee of American vehicular propulsion: the V-8. Get yourself a Boss Hoss. Produced in the picturesque hamlet of Dyersburg, Kentucky, the ’Hoss emerged from Monte Warne’s 5000-square-foot shop in kit form back in 1990engine, ingenuity and courage not included.

Complete motorcycles started rolling out in ’96, and by ’98 the factory was cranking out 300 copies every year. Though essentially unencumbered by details like styling, comfort or handling, early models made up for it with tons of what every red-blooded American 7-year-old thinks a motorcycle should be: huge, loud, flashyand fast. Those who lived to tell the tale say a healthy example is capable of covering a quarter-mile in 10.5 seconds at 140-plus mph. Not bad for over a half-ton of motorcycle that measures 6.5 feet from axle to axle. A 180-mph top speed is theoretically possible, but not at all advisable.

Like other natural disasters, statistics attached to this ’98 model are staggering. Displacement: 5700cc. Curb weight: 1200-plus lbs. Fuel capacity: 11 gallons. Claimed horsepower: 355 at 5250 rpm. You want torque? A claimed 400 lb.-ft. of the stuff will light that P225/70R-15 Firestone (yes) rear tire faster than a 79-cent Bic. And if that Chevy small-block seems, well, small, track down the 502-horse, 8227cc version that lays down a full 567 lb.-ft.

A silhouette reminiscent of Pamela Anderson’s can make parking near art museums, retirement homes or elementary schools a bit dicey. Otherwise, the ’Hoss is better behaved than you might think. Once you adjust to something that makes Triumph’s 2300cc Rocket III feel like a Taco mini-bike, motor-cycling’s answer to the Budweiser Clydesdale is an obedient mount, pulling off minor miracles like stopping and going around corners on command. But beware: Exceeding the maximum 28-degree lean angle puts slightly less metal on the pavement than a train wreck. That square-profile rear car tire doesn’t much care for cornering either.

As any shade tree mechanic will tell you, those big engines are reliable enough if you’re handy with a wrench. On the flip side, they’re a major pain in the back pocket if you’re not. All that power can be hard on the supporting structure, especially if the ’Hoss in question has been ridden hard and put away wet. Fragile rear axles in ’91 and ’92 prompted an NHTSA recall. That ubiquitous V-8 vibration tends to undo anything that isn’t routinely tightened. It all adds up to the cost of being the Boss. It’s not the best motorcycle you can buy. Not even close. But when you’re straddling something this big, who cares?MC

A full 355 horses at your command.

Being mistaken for Luke Duke, disappointing fuel mileage.

Watch For
Police cars, fluid leaks, electrical problems, missing parts.

A Firestone 225/70R-15 radial: $104.99. Smoking one tire and two polar icecaps at the same time: Priceless.

1998 $12,500
2008 $29,500

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