Why in the world would anyone take an 8-liter, 500 horsepower V-10 ripped from the heart of the notorious Dodge Viper RT/10 supercar, and create a motorcycle around it?
Allen Millyard’s answer: "Because I can." The statement is made without pretense. British motorcycle builder Allen Millyard is all about doing things that "people tell me can’t be done." Ever since Millyard morphed a Mini’s powerplant into a BSA frame while in his teens, he has spent well over a quarter century fashioning the products of his intellect and imagination in the garage of his English Midlands home. In so doing, he has gained a loyal following of patrons and aficionados who appreciate his unique artistry, and the equally unique pleasure of riding Millyard’s monsters.
Make no mistake; Allen Millyard does not build show motorcycles. "To me, a motorcycle is to be ridden, as hard and often as possible," he says, "I mean, if you can’t ride the thing, what’s the point?" Given that one of his heroes is the late British racing legend and World Champion Barry Sheene, that view comes as no surprise.
Millyard does not see himself as a custom builder. "I like to think of my work as factory specials," he says. "My objective is to make a machine that could have been built as a prototype." This approach has hatched a number of mind-bending one-offs, including grafting two sixes together, creating a 2300cc V-12 Kawasaki.
Millyard’s Viper is the reality that Chrysler’s Tomahawk show bike, based on the Viper engine, could only hint at. Using dual wheels front and rear, the Tomahawk elicited more than a little scorn, reportedly being dismissed by critics as "a rideable engine stand."
The Tomahawk could also be called Allen Millyard’s motorcycle epiphany. When he and his son Stephen first saw Chrysler’s dream machine at the 2003 Goodwood Festival of Speed, he had already been considering the challenges of a mega-displacement engine.
"I did look at the Aston Martin V-12, but it was very messy to look at from the side and the mounting points were not ideal for my frame concept. And Stephen said, ‘Dad, you should make one of those that is road legal and goes fast.’" While Millyard noted the Tomahawk was less than roadworthy, he was convinced he could make the concept work. When eBay afforded him the opportunity to buy a Viper motor, the project took root.
"The engine sat in my garage for about two years," he laughs. "And then one day it just came to me. I would build an unfaired muscle bike. It had to work, it had to be road legal, and I had to be able to go shopping on it," he adds with a sly grin.
He estimates the build time was about six months. In his artisanal approach, he foregoes Computer Assisted Design and preliminary drawings. "I feel that CAD can be limiting in design because it can prevent free thought," he asserts. "Rules in engineering can be bent or broken."
Coping with the engine’s weight and power did not intimidate him. "It was simply a matter of over-engineering everything. The components are twice as heavy and twice as strong as they need to be. For example, I got the biggest DID drag racing chain. The radiator has the same surface as the Dodge Viper. But by choosing a European style rather than a cruiser look, everything has a proper scale."
"Everything had to fit-not just be a load of bits bolted together. I chose to do a single-sided swing-arm because it looked right, and I knew I could," Millyard explains. "I stripped the engine down to take away all the extraneous bits. One of the results is that the powerplant is now 10 inches shorter. And I took all the plastic off. Apart from the instrument pod, the motorcycle is all steel and aluminum."
The Millyard mantra, "If everyone says it can’t be done, then do it," permeates a conversation with a man whose confidence and brilliance are as understated as they are instantly evident.
Millyard’s home is an example of how motorcycle machinery can displace furniture, with motorcycles in virtually every room. Everything comes together in his garage workshop, stocked with traditional hand tools, including the hacksaw he uses to cut engine cases. "I like to work with old school engineering equipment because you get more feel when operating old machinery," Millyard reveals.
He did have a few technical puzzles to unravel, like "wiring and debugging the MOPAR electronic engine management system without a wiring diagram, and mating a crate engine controller to a 1993 Gen 1 engine." But this, and every obstacle, melted under the heat of Millyard’s determination.
While the Millyard Viper V10 produces 465 ft/lbs of torque and weighs nearly 1200 pounds (the standard engine alone weighs over 700 pounds), Millyard has it running on surprisingly tall Outlaw Triad wheels and Avon Venom rubber. While the acceleration is "like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life," he maintains "it goes round corners fairly well."
In its first speed tests, the Viper obliterated the 200 mph barrier without breaking a sweat, making the palms of throttle twisters everywhere moist with anticipation. At the same time, Millyard adds, "It’s a motorcycle one can ride through town on at 15 mph without a fuss." This king snake may have bite, but it obviously heeds its charmer.
With its simple livery, a white racing stripe on a candy apple red tank and wheels that echo the Dodge supercar that spawned it, the Millyard Viper is bragging rights incarnate.
So what’s next for Allen Millyard? "I am going to try and break the world land speed record for unfaired motorcycles, on the two-mile straight at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground next spring. After that, who knows? Maybe a motorbike with an Enzo engine, or a Porsche Twin Turbo. If someone wants one, I’m ready to do it."
In a world where "biggest" and "baddest" are badges worn with swagger, the Millyard Viper packs a unique wallop. But its creator, in contrast, is self-effacing: "I like making and riding unusual motorcycles." That, he does.Google+