Motorcycle Powered Cars
Current motorcycle engines are pretty sophisticated. You don't have to look at MotoGP engines to see it either, just visit any motorcycle dealer and look at the street bikes ready to follow you home. Many 600cc sportbikes produce over 100hp and 1000cc liter bikes develop over 150hp. The Suzuki Hayabusa comes in around 175hp and thanks to a well developed aftermarket, the big 'Busa can be turbocharged, given the big bore treatment and, of course, fitted with nitrous, for unbelievable horsepower gains. At a recent horsepower shootout, one well massaged Hayabusa cranked out over 700hp!
Why not cars?
With a little imagination you might look at those engines, note their compact dimensions, peer under the hood of a small car and go hmm...
Well, before you pat yourself on the back for being so creative, it should be noted that folks have been putting motorcycle engines in cars for quite some time.
The Cooper Car Company was putting 500cc JAP motorcycle engines into a ladder frame special and making a race car back in the late 1940's and BMW dropped a motorcycle engine into the Isetta in the mid 1950's. Even earlier, in the 20's and early 30's, the Morgan Motor Company built their famous 3 wheelers with V-twin engines from JAP and Matchless mounted right out front. If you're interested in very early micro cars and motorcycle powered cars you have a lot to choose from, there's the Peel, the Velorex, the Berkeley and many others that most people have never heard of. There's a large following and many active collectors for these early motorcycle/car hybrids but our focus here is on the modern engines produced today.
Factory built and kit based
There are a number of companies currently building motorcycle engine powered cars for both street and track applications. Some are complete factory built, finished cars while others are in various stages of completion or kit form.
Depending on your skill level, tools and facilities at your disposal, time, energy and intended application you'll have to narrow down the choices and choose from there. If you're thinking of buying or building one of these beauties, keep in mind, road legal in one country may not be road legal anywhere else, so be sure to check with local registration authorities and with the company producing the car as they may already have the answers you need.
Powering a car with a motorcycle engine is a bit more complex than dropping a smallblock Chevy into your old street machine. Motorcycle engines are not equipped with a transmission containing a reverse gear or motor mount placements designed to work with a car so any of these motorcycle/car hybrids are going to be custom built the first time around. If you're comfortable building one off prototypes, you can start from scratch. Otherwise, you can take advantage of those who have done this before.
Builders have found many engines suitable for powering cars. Some current favorites are the Yamaha R1, Kawasaki ZX12, Kawasaki ZX9 and, of course, the Suzuki Hayabusa, however, any time you begin with a clean sheet, you can design for any engine desired.
There are twin engine variations and various turbo setups, two wheel drive and four wheel drive as well. The only limits are imagination, creativity and skill.
Motorcycle engine car companies
There are a number of companies worldwide in the business of creating complete motorcycle powered vehicles. Some are very well known, others a bit obscure but over time we intend to have a fairly comprehensive list.
Many of the cars below are variations on the Caterham, Lotus and Super 7 from England, but the problem on this side of the Atlantic is they're all right hand drive. Super7Cars, up in Canada, builds a Super 7 in left hand drive powered by a Hayabusa engine with lots of available options, including turbo and intercooler.
Performance? Well how's 0-60 in 3.78 with roof, spare wheel, tools, jack, side curtains, mirrors and all-season tires, and fitted with a completely stock engine? It can be ordered in configurations up to 340hp. I'm starting to get a real warm fuzzy for these things, you get the performance of a superbike with full weather protection and a heater along with room for a passenger and luggage. Just imagine what this sounds like at full song on a twisty road ...
This company, which is basically one person, Dennis Palatov, has almost completed the DP1, an extraordinary Hayabusa powered track car. His web site documents in extreme detail the progress from initial concept to mockups and every step of the building process. He projects first delivery in February of 2006. If you are looking to see a very capable design engineer at work, visit his site, you will be amazed. I am definitely impressed. Don't take my word for it, check it out.
Formed in 1996 to build racecars powered by superbike engines, they have been very successful with a constantly evolving series of cars. Radical is also the creator of the SR8, powered by their own V8 engine, created by joining the top ends of two Suzuki Hayabusa engines to a common crankcase. This Hayabusa based V8 in original form is producing 363hp and looks stunning. Their newest SR9 is a larger displacement version, growing from 2.6 liters to 3.0 liters with a commensurate increase in horsepower.
Z Cars makes the motorcycle powered Mini, one of the most "gotta have" cars around as well as the Tiger. Several configurations are available, both single and twin engined R1 power, Hayabusa and turbo Hayabusa in the Mini and all sorts of Tiger variants.
And just for good measure, their web site says they're working on a conversion for a Smart car. Remember those? Stock power output is 60hp. News Flash!! This just in... The Smartuki has now been built. It's a GSX-R1000 powered Smart Car with 180hp, 0-60 in 4.2 sec. and 12.4 quarter miles. I like it.
See it here : The Smartuki