Conceived by an English lord and
built by British craftsmen in the tradition of the Vincent and the Brough
Superior, the Hesketh is a natural aristocrat among modern motorcycles.
Fittingly, perhaps, it is also extremely rare. The fully-faired Vampire
version is the rarest of them all.
The enterprise was not planned
that way. Originally, the motor-racing peer Lord Hesketh planned for series
production rising to 100 per month, but the original bike ran into trouble
with press criticism only weeks before production was due to begin, and its
showroom debut had to be delayed for six months while a gearchange problem
When the production lines did
start rolling, it was too late to save the company, and they went into
liquidation after a year of difficulties. Lord Hesketh personally revived
the machine, building them by hand in his castle stable yard; since then,
production has moved to London, to a specialist firm called Mocheck.
The Hesketh ended up as many
believed it should have begun - as an exclusive craftsman-built special,
offering the best of British motorcycling tradition at a premium price.
That tradition includes many fine
concepts of which one is accurate and dependable roadholding. There are some
who find the Hesketh's steering a little ponderous, but there is no doubt
that it sticks to its chosen line like glue.
Another is a high-quality frame,
with noteworthy detail work that it takes a craftsman to perform. The
Hesketh has a sturdy nickel-plated frame of straight tubes, using the engine
and gearbox casing as a stressed member to mount the rear pivoted fork. The
quality of the welding is plain to see.
A third is a relaxed engine with
a deep exhaust note that delivers ample power and speed without ever
sounding as though it is working hard. So it is with the Hesketh. The 1000cc
engine has just two cylinders in a well-balanced 90 degree format. At low
revs you can count the individual piston strokes; while four-valves per
cylinder, a pair of overhead camshafts, and electronic ignition allow the
flexible engine free reign to more than 6000rpm.
Every British motorcycle should
be allowed a touch of eccentricity. Hesketh's is the full fairing for the
Vampire. Painted an extraordinary metallic pink, it blends complete weather
protection with an aerodynamic design that is partly futuristic and unique.
Although capable of well over
125mph, the Vampire is better loping along at 100ph, the engine throbbing
gently, the fairing cutting a clean path through the wind.
Here it is at its anachronistic
best - a machine that is both ancient and modern. It does not do, after all,
to hurry an aristocrat.
Is it a worthy successor to the
Vincent? Ah well, that is all in the mind. It is after all the only
contender, and very few people are ever going to find out, one way or the