The Alabama-based Confederate Motorcycles crafts bikes in their purest and most primal forms
It’s Thursday morning, and at the Confederate Motorcycles headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, Matt Chambers—the company’s CEO and the visionary behind the highly coveted X132 Hellcat and R131 Fighter—is doing what he does best: not compromising. “The people who work here all share a noncynical defiance. We are, in essence, rebels. We are here because of a need to express ourselves outside the boundaries of what society expects of us.”
Founder Matt Chambers, the visionary behind Confederate’s rebel spirit; the X132 Hellcat is carved entirely out of aircraft-grade aluminum; exposing all of the interior components sets Confederate bikes apart; every element is made from the world’s finest materials
It was a lifelong obsession with motorcycles coupled with an overwhelming dissatisfaction with American car design that led Chambers, a successful Louisiana lawyer, to leave the courtroom in 1991 to create something fiercely unique. “I wanted to make a machine that would be the most desired of all, and have it be an American machine,” he says, “which was funny, because at the time I had no idea what I was doing.”
What Chambers did have, though, was a clear mission to establish the ultimate rebel motorcycle company. He founded Confederate Motorcycles on a set of “iron laws”: Never compromise passion, intensity, time or money; invest absolute faith; relish the challenge; persist eternally. He ended up creating a road machine with a soul: a metal sculpture of heirloom quality that is so visually striking that some buyers purchase it only for viewing. Unlike any other bike on the market, this one doesn’t have fiberglass fairings or panels hiding inferior parts. Simply put, there is nothing to hide. Every component—from the lightweight carbon-fiber wheels to the smallest stainless steel bolts—is made using the world’s finest materials. Parts are never cast; instead, they are machined out of solid aluminum.
The result: some of the most intimidating, revolutionary American-made motorcycles on the market, which grace the garages of such celebrities as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Bruce Springsteen. Confederate customers have two things in common: unflinching confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit, which is why most clients order their bikes over the phone, sight unseen. Because each motorcycle is handmade, it can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to craft, depending on the number of machines on back order. And since each is already extremely rare and distinctive, Confederate does not customize one-off creations. “The most common customization is paint scheme,” says Clay Morrison, the head of marketing at Confederate Motorcycles, who recalls one client’s request to match the color of his motorcycle to the color of his Rolls-Royce.
The mechanical prowess and sophistication of Confederate bikes is unparalleled
The experience of riding one of the bikes also undoubtedly attracts customers. As Chambers puts it, “The sound is authoritative, confident and powerful, and [the motorcycle] feels like the most ferocious beast you’ve ever saddled. One client described riding his Hellcat like riding a rhinoceros. The machine, while exuding an individual life force like only something blood-touched can, rides with luxurious smoothness, high stability, nimbleness and precision. There exists a transcendent, all-informing energy field that grows as the owner spends more time in the saddle.”
At the moment, Confederate Motorcycles offers only two models, both examples of pure mechanical prowess: the X132 Hellcat and the R131 Fighter, which is sold out for 2012. The extremely rare R131 Fighter—available for a cool $100,000—is constructed almost entirely of aircraft-grade billet aluminum, stainless steel and carbon fiber. Only a mere 10 Fighters exist in the world, and David Beckham is rumored to have one of them. From the ground up, the beast-like machine is completely different from the more affordable Hellcat; the only two components common to both models are the transmission gears and speedometer. The R131 Fighter has a different engine, different geometry, different ergonomics and different suspension.
On the other hand, the third-generation X132 Hellcat is the lightest, tightest, fastest, most affordable incarnation to come out of the 21-year-old Hellcat series, with close to 100 bikes expected to sell this year. The 500-pound, $50,000 machine goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds with an S&S V-twin engine cranking 132 brake horsepower and 150 foot-pounds of torque. The case of the bike is carved entirely from CNC-machined 6061 aircraft-grade billet aluminum, and like every other Hellcat before it, every inch of the machinery is on display for everyone to see. “A true rebel,” says Chambers, “believes in 100 percent transparency.”
Wendy Straker Hauser is the author of Sexy Jobs in the City and Men at Work.
- Portrait is © Daymon Gardner
- All others courtesy of Confederate Motorcycles