CONFEDERATE FA-13 COMBAT BOMBER ROAD TEST: Last of the Line | Bike Tests | Latest Tests
It may be the end of the war for Confederate, but what a ballistic ending. Sir Al rides a bike worth his bank balance in the Alabama hills.
All good things must come to an end and, after 26 years of rebellion and 1300 outrageously uncompromising V-twin maxi-cruisers, Confederate Motors has created its final such bike.
This marks the end of 24 years of innovation – Confederate was founded in 1992 by former lawyer Matt Chambers and the first Confederate Hellcat rolled out of the Louisiana factory in November 1994. But in January this year, Confederate changed its name and abandoned internal combustion engines.
Now based in Birmingham, Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed its New Orleans home in 2005, the unconventional company is still headed by Chambers, but is now called Curtiss Motorcycle Company, after the legendary motorcycling and aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss.
Glenn Curtiss’ most notable two-wheel achievement was to set a Land Speed Record on a 30kW (40hp) 4410cc V8 motorcycle which Curtiss designed and built himself. He rode it to a speed of 136.36mph (219.45km/h) in January 1907 at Ormond Beach in Florida. He then switched his attention to aviation, but his record would stand for another 23 years.
So, it’s goodbye Confederate and hello Curtiss. Since that first Hellcat, Confederate models have all been named after USAF warplanes, and the final limited-edition 13 motorcycles are named for the biggest bird yet, the FA-13 Combat Bomber. Reflecting this, and their rarity, these are also the most expensive Confederates yet, retailing for $249,000. This does include a bespoke couture leather jacket, made from the same horsehide as the machine’s seat.
All of the 13 examples have already been sold – including three overseas, to Germany, Malaysia and China, making this the truly last-ever test of a brand-new Confederate. The monocoque chassis, suspension and crankcases are carved from aircraft-spec 6061 aluminium billet and covered with a distinctive matte finish worthy of a stealth bomber. This may be the last-ever Confederate, but it’s one hell of a way to exit the stage.
The Bomber is based on the company’s previous limited-edition model, the P51 Combat Fighter, all 61 of which sold for $US130,000 each. Its successor is dominated by the same 178mm diameter aluminium tube comprising its spine frame, with the name, emblem and identity number carved into the upper face.
This fuselage is CNC-machined from solid billets bolted together to create a monocoque chassis to hold the rigidly mounted V-twin that’s a fully-stressed frame part. It’s a true monocoque and includes the 16-litre fuel tank, extending under the seat. There are five sight glasses in the chassis, the upper trio looking into the airbox, while the lower pair monitor fuel levels.
Proving Confederates have muscle to match their machismo looks, in August 2014 Confederate customer Jim Hoegh (he has five of them!) set a new Land Speed Record at Bonneville of 172.211mph (277.146km/h) in the APF-3000 category for unstreamlined, naturally aspirated, pushrod V-twin engines above 2000cc. A one-way pass of 176.458mph (282.33km/h) made his S&S-powered Confederate the fastest big block V-twin in the world, ahead of anything Harley-Davidson, Indian or Victory had to offer.
The rear wheel 112kW (150hp) at 5100rpm from the Bomber’s X-Wedge engine is derived from Hoegh’s salt flats record-breaker and is 3kW (4hp) up on the Fighter’s tune, plus there’s 7Nm more torque at 2000rpm, where a humungous 224Nm is on tap. The era of the great American muscle bikes may be ending, but they won’t be forgotten.
My chance to become the first person outside Confederate (other than a customer) to ride the new Bomber came at the factory in downtown Birmingham. I collected the keys of the seventh of the final 13 Confederates ever to be built, before it headed to its new owner the following day nicely run in and with a new set of tyres.
Read the full story in the current issue of AMCN (Vol 67 No 15) on sale now!