Top 10 Vehicles Powered By Motorcycle Engines

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Sometimes the best car engine comes from a bike

The history of motorcycle engines powering other vehicles goes back a long way. Look at the original Morgan 3 Wheeler, for example. Almost a century ago, J.A.P. bike engines were plunked onto the front of a strange piece of machinery with two wheels in front and one in the back. It proved to be popular and a rather high-performing vehicle in its time. For this Top 10 list we take a look at other applications for motorcycle engines. As you can imagine with a list like this, there are a wide variety of vehicles. Some are production cars, while others are one-offs or boutique items. And yes, even though this is, I want to get behind the wheel of every single one of these! So, if you’re a rep from one of the below companies (or are simply a kind soul who owns one), give me a jingle and let’s make it happen!

10. BMW i3 with Range Extender

BMW’s i3 and i8 make the German automaker one of the leading players in the EV game when it comes to four-wheel transport. For this list we’ll focus on the smaller, commuter-oriented i3. Powered entirely by batteries, the i3 relies on electricity to drive the rear wheels. However, BMW claims the i3 is good for “only” 81 miles on pure battery power. To ease the range anxiety many EV drivers struggle with, the i3 comes with what BMW calls a Range Extender. What is a Range Extender? It’s the 647cc Twin normally seen in the C 650 GT BMW scooter. As the name implies, the Twin is only used to extend the range of the batteries and at no point does it actually drive the wheels. BMW claims, with the Range Extender, the i3 can travel up to 150 miles.

9. Campagna V13R

More widely known for its T-Rex model, Campagna Motors is well versed in how to make appealing reverse trikes. Its less expensive model, coming in at a “mere” $53,999, is the V13R. With a face resembling the alien from the famous Predator movies, the rounded shapes of the V13R contrast with the sharp angles of the T-Rex. Underneath the skin of the two-seater is a Harley-Davidson Revolution V-Twin – the same one you can find powering the V-Rod. Campagna says in this trim it puts out 84 lb.-ft. and 122 hp. It’s surrounded by a tubular steel frame, with roll bars and three-point harnesses. Suspension is comprised of unequal length A-arms with coil-over shocks in front, with a more traditional motorcycle-like swingarm and monoshock in the rear. Huge wheels (205/45-17 front, 295/35-18 rear) mean there’s plenty of grip. Now, if only we could get our hands on one…

8. Scorpion P6

The classification of a vehicle with less than four wheels as a motorcycle may seem a little far fetched to some ( including E-i-C Duke), but this apparent loophole in the system makes it possible for radical vehicles like this Scorpion P6 to exist. The race car influences are obvious on this three-wheeler. From its exposed wheels, carbon fiber body, racing pedals, and race car-like suspension, it’s clear the Scorpion is meant to provide a thrill ride. Power for the P6 comes from a 599cc Kawasaki ZX-6R engine, and Scorpion claims 0-60 mph is achieved in 3.5 seconds. Looking at videos of the P6 on the internet, the thing looks like a handful, prone to snap oversteer if you’re not careful, a claim Duke can confirm after a brief stint driving one. Still, I’m sure the experience would be exhilarating.

7. Volkswagen XL Sport

Volkswagen’s limited-production XL1, with its diesel hybrid powertrain, might be great at producing ultimate mileage, but hypermileage doesn’t normally equate to a thrilling driving experience. In an exercise to flex its engineering muscle, and to take advantage of its recent purchase of Ducati, VW debuted the XL Sport concept car at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. Instead of the diesel hybrid in the XL1, however, VW stuffed the 197 hp V-Twin from the 1199 Panigale Superleggera! VW claims the car weighs 1962 lbs, has a drag coefficient of 0.258, can hit 168 mph top speed and 0-62 mph in 5.7 seconds. VW also restyled the car to make it look less science experiment and more sportscar, updating it with paddle shifters, sport suspension and ceramic brakes along the way. It’s too bad this is only a concept.

6. Morgan 3 Wheeler

The one car on this list I’ve actually had the pleasure of driving, the modern day Morgan 3 Wheeler, is not meant to be a performance-oriented machine. And that’s what makes it special. Whether you drive it at a leisurely speed or wick up the pace a bit, the 3 Wheeler is a rewarding drive guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Powered by a S&S X-Wedge 1983cc V-Twin, the slow-revving lump may not be the most technologically advanced engine on this list, but the X-Wedge pumps out plenty of tire-spinning torque, and the 5-speed trans from a Mazda Miata is “buttah” smooth. It’s a rather impractical car, too – with a limited amount of storage space and minimal protection from the elements – but I don’t care. I want one.

5. Campagna T-Rex 16 SP

It would have been foolish to include the V13R without also throwing the T-Rex into the mix. Campagna has been in the business of making unique three wheelers since 1988, and the T-Rex is the company’s bread and butter. The distinct look of the angular T-Rex combines race car styling with a slight nod to street comfort in the form of a roof, bucket seats and even side panniers. But the heart of the T-Rex sits behind the occupants, its 1649cc inline-Six sourced directly from the BMW K1600 series, an engine we at MO rate in high regard. We tried to get our hands on the $66,999 T-Rex as part of our “ Is This A Motorcycle?” Shootout, but our requests came back unanswered. Despite the snub, we’ll gladly accept the offer, if it ever comes, after the fact.

4. Radical SR1

The Suzuki Hayabusa engine has long been a popular candidate for transplanting into car applications. When it comes to racing applications, however, UK outfit Radical have taken the ‘Busa engine and built an entire bespoke race car around it. The SR1 is the product of that development. Built to resemble a miniature Le Mans prototype racer, the SR1 is actually Radical’s entry-level racing car. It’s claimed to make 185 hp, have a max speed of 138 mph and be able to attain 2.3 cornering Gs. Paddle shifters row through the six gears. In the UK, Radical has a dedicated series for the SR1, with aspiring racers piloting identical SR1s while getting comprehensive training and coaching through the entire eight-race season. All this for £37,500 (roughly $57,000 USD). That’s a (relative) steal!

3. Motus RCR

You remember Motus, right? Makers of the MST and MSTR all-American Sport-Touring bikes powered by a “Baby Block” 1650cc pushrod V-4, basically a small-block Chevy V-8 cut in half, Motus had a little fun and collaborated with Michigan-based Race Car Replicas to place its distinct engine inside this replica of a 1958 Ferrari F1 car. It took four weeks to build the car, and then it was shuttled off to Austin, Texas and the Circuit of the Americas track for the MotoGP race in April 2014. Check out this video to hear the wonderful roar from the V-4. While clearly a one-off (though you could always purchase the engine and replica body kit yourself), the combination of classic F1 styling mixed with the character-rich Motus engine, makes for a strange yet perfect combination of car and motorcycle.

2. Triumph Rocket Streamliner

I’m breaking the rules slightly by including the Triumph Rocket Streamliner, but then I feel anything powered by two Triumph Rocket III engines is worthy of being on this list. Each heavily modified engine is actually reduced in size so the total displacement (2,970cc) meets the 3,000cc class requirements for its class, but then each also gets a turbo to help make up for that lack of displacement. All told, the streamliner makes around 1,000 hp, all in an effort to break 400 mph and take home a new land speed record. AMA roadracer, and all-around nice guy, Jason DiSalvo is the Streamliner’s pilot, and though I said I’d love to have a go on all the vehicles on this list, Jason’s horse jockey size means even my scrawny 5-foot, 8-inch frame likely wouldn’t fit in the cockpit.

1. Ariel Atom 500 V8

Earlier on this list, I mentioned the Hayabusa engine in the Radical SR1 was a popular platform for car transplants. Well, if one Hayabusa engine is good, then two must be even better! That’s just what we have with the Ariel Atom 500 V8. Hartley Engineering built this bespoke 3.0-liter V8 specifically for the Atom by mating two Hayabusa engines together. Specifications include dry sump lubrication, forged internals, individual throttle bodies and sequential injection. It even revs to 10,500 rpm. All this is good for 500 hp and 284 lb-ft. Consider the Atom only weighs 1200 lbs, and we’re talking 2.3 seconds to reach 60 mph. In case it wasn’t clear by now, the Ariel Atom 500 V8 is a wild beast, delivering a kind of visceral sensation of performance unseen even on most motorcycles. To experience anything faster will likely require a racing license. Unfortunately, only 25 Atom V8s were made, and even at $225,000 they are all spoken for.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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4 of 22 comments
  • Priap1sm Priap1sm on Mar 30, 2015

    There's a neat single-make race series for the Radical going on. I know the West Coast group is based at SMMR and a group makes it's way around some tracks in the southwest.

  • James Stewart James Stewart on Mar 31, 2015

    Add another rear wheel to the Scorpion and you have a Formula SAE autocross car. 600cc sportbike engine and maybe 400lbs. Geared for tight autocross courses but some of them have added Sprint car wings and thrown away the 20mm intake restrictor. They produce illegal adrenaline levels. Sneak into your local university's Mechanical Engineering Labs - maybe the team will sell you last year's car...