The C3 powerplant, built by "strategic partner" S&S Cycles, is the key to the X132 Hellcat
Confederate Motors, the southern-fried builder of high-end, avant-garde custom motorcycles, has been sailing without a rudder for quite some time. Though the company continues to manufacture and sell small batches of its minimalist B120 Wraith and P120 Fighter Combat (reviewed in our May 2010 issue), inconsistent funding and lack of a permanent manufacturing facility have kept the company from racing forward full-throttle. Now that's about to change. Thanks to a substantial influx of capital from the city of New Orleans and a just-inked "long-term strategic alliance" with Wisconsin-based engine manufacturer S&S Cycle, Confederate is poised to take a big step forward.
Though this is good news for Confederate, these new developments have been less than well received in the company's adopted home of Birmingham, Alabama. Critics there-including a former Confederate board member who resigned in protest-claim the motorcycle maker is turning its back on a city that welcomed it with open arms in 2005, when the company was forced to flee New Orleans after its facility was flattened by Hurricane Katrina. Confederate president Matt Chambers was originally lured there by Alabama's strong manufacturing base-along with a generous offer from real-estate magnate and motorsports enthusiast George Barber, who offered the company free rent for a year in an 8500-square-foot facility he owned on Birmingham's south side.
The Hellcat was Confederate's first model and remains its best-seller. Forthcoming C3 X132
The original plan was for Confederate to temporarily use that location to reorganize, after which Chambers intended to build an all-new, dedicated manufacturing facility on the grounds of Barber's motorcycle museum and raceway located on the outskirts of Birmingham. Chambers told city officials at the time that the new facility could one day employ as many as 100 people. The unanticipated economic downturn hit Confederate hard, however, and the funding for a new facility never materialized. At the same time, the city of New Orleans, anxious to lure Confederate back, offered a low-interest $750,000 loan contingent on the company's return. Chambers-who is from New Orleans and still has family in that area-welcomed the opportunity both to firm up his company's financial foundation and to return to what he considers its spiritual home.
The radical, minimalistic Wraith makes extensive use of carbon-fiber in the frame, fork an
Confederate is now relocating to a new facility in the Crescent City's arts-oriented Warehouse District. This will be the company's business office and primary assembly facility, with powertain development concentrated at S&S's facility 800 miles up the Mississippi in Viola, Wisconsin. The funds provided by the loan will be used to jump-start production of a new and more profitable high-volume bike called the C3 X132 Hellcat. S&S will build a proprietary 132-cubic-inch, air-cooled, pushrod V-Twin that will be the core component of the innovative C3 powertrain structure. This modular, fuselage-like structure combines Confederate's unique, unit-construction billet engine/transmission case with the exhaust system and massive tubular main frame to form the lightweight, ultra-rigid chassis at the heart of the hot-rod Hellcat.
This innovative design and construction will make the C3 X132 the lightest and fastest Hellcat the company has ever made, Chambers says. Thanks to S&S's ability to increase production efficiencies, it will also be relatively affordable, at least by Confederate's standards. Though MSRP hasn't been set, the company hopes to sell the C3 X132 Hellcat for around $45,000-a price it claims is within reach of the top 10 percent of current Harley-Davidson buyers.
The Fighter Combat is pure billet art. The main frame consists of multiple precisely machi
The company plans to sell the new bike factory-direct at first-as it presently does with the Wraith and Fighter Combat-then develop a nationwide dealer network, complete with S&S-authorized service centers, in the second half of 2010. Production is expected to begin as soon as July 2010, with the first delivery happening on October 31-Halloween-during a special homecoming celebration planned for the new facility on St. Joseph Street in New Orleans.
Notwithstanding hurt feelings in Birmingham, Confederate is better positioned for growth now than ever before. It's so far been an up-and-down ride for the company, which has been hit hard by disasters both natural and man-made. Here's hoping a new facility and a new model represent a new beginning, and that it's no tricks and all treats from here on out.