Twenty one years ago a relentless romantic passion for the American Way inspired the formation of Confederate Motorcycles in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The first nine months of existence were entirely conceptual. It was determined that the effort would be design driven and product focused. The creative approach would be organic. Our products would be the most exclusive, small-batch handcrafted thoroughbred motorcycles ever produced. The singularity of line memorialized by Oscar Wilde’s commentary concerning effective industrial design would inform joinder of the power, strength and beauty line in the form of American drag race industrial design architecture, which was benchmarked as our core competency. Our cultural cornerstone would be non-materialism. Our executive approach would emphasize principled individualism. Our goal would be to nurture diverse actualized creativity.
My father fought four years in the Pacific theatre of WWII. The F6F Hellcat was the American industrial and mechanical design masterpiece that ruled the airways in that theatre, helping preserve the American Way. For this glorious feat I chose to christen our first motorcycle the Hellcat.
The exhilarating yet challenging question was how the Hellcat would express “The American Way” aesthetically. I had three years of boiled down ideological and philosophical creative energy invested in this most vital translation. Super-abundant energy is the fountainhead of rebellion. This pre-ordained that the ride would be the most explosive. A primal, raw, living essence would predominate. An insanely wild imbued material spirit would require the deepest respect and consistent high level growth of understanding in order to tame the beast. The machine would ride like she looked. Over time, the man/machine interface would become holistic and the journey personal, intuitive and telepathic.
The importance of the Way relative to American industrial design is impossible to overemphasize. It is America true to concept. It is western civilization at its zenith. It is bottoms up, non-materialist principled individualism nurturing diverse actualized creativity.
For 182 years American culture and society were true to concept. The shift to the American System, the antagonist of the way, reached the tipping point when in June of 1958 the heads of the five families changed the priority of their early morning meetings. How to make the best Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, and Cadillacs became how to extract the most material gain from Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac. Such materialism always results in consolidation nurturing the power of the top over the bottom. The effect on industrial design is striking. From the 1948 Cadillac two-door sedanette, Virgil Exner’s body of work, Walker and Gregorie at Ford-Mercury and Mitchell’s modular, utilitarian, Corvair work of genius to wood tape, the false convertible top, false wire wheels, false leather, false brands (Saturn, Cadillac Cimaron), and weird oddities (Pontiac Aztec). The lack of conceptual truth is strikingly obvious, visually.
Bare, functional, scrupulous clarity, what we have hence dubbed skeletal minimalism, organically influenced by Bauhaus school precision hybridized by the primitive element was chosen to communicate non-materialism with cool sophistication at once made hotly expressive. The dark side negative energy of Caravagism, symbolizing the rebel’s unique existential rebellion of humility against pride in order to defend who he is, was chosen to illuminate and inform “letting go,” the cornerstone principle of cultural individualism.
These mindful, soul felt priorities meant there would be no covers. The motorcycle would exist au naturale as a rolling sculptural showcase for the best hand-craftsmanship. The massive backbone, heart-shaped fuel cell and seat integration would be laid bare. Here would live the beauty shot. The rear mudguard would ride the wheel, tire and long-travel control arm with precise symmetrical proximity. These negative spatial communiqués would allow the rider to float comfortably within the epicenter of the motoring experience while his machine burrowed into and flowed with challenging and ideal tarmac alike.
Because of my own resource deficiencies, first generation Hellcat gestalt lacks that final bit of polish and refinement. But it was noise free, negative-free, pride-free and true to the ideological and philosophical inspirational concept. Approximately 500 pieces were hand-crafted and sold from 2001 through 2006.
In 2004, from our home in the art district of downtown New Orleans, we introduced the second generation Hellcat. This effort was an exercise in refinement and evolution. We knew what the priorities were. The fuel cell, fenders, wheels, exhaust, lighting, electronics, geometry, ergonomics, brakes, linkage and power were all enhanced. Approximately 150 second generation Hellcats were handcrafted and sold through 2008.
In the interest of clarifying our unique design form language and further developing our craft capabilities we embarked on the creation of a new second generation chassis architecture in 2004. My design brief mandated growing skeletal-minimal transparency to the next level. Integrated aircraft technology featuring multiple load paths and the first structural carbon fiber motorcycle chassis, entirely exposed with bigger bone structure, was mandated.
One concept and two prototypes, named after a previous 1999 prototype heralded as the Wraith, a name derived to echo man’s notional denial of and rebellion against death, were created. There was truth in the effort. The vision of where our brand was leading accelerated.
Hurricane Katrina blew-out the west side wall of our 140 year old studio, collapsing the roof upon everything we owned. After the passage of many weeks, when finally allowed back into the city, we discovered what can only be described as a total loss. Our insurer was bankrupted by the event and FEMA refused us any consideration, whatsoever. A predictable mind shift on the part of several members of what had been a truly remarkable team was induced. Homeless and with no place to relocate within 300 miles of our home, our team was more determined than ever. This condition re-energized Confederate spirit. Crushed yet simultaneously liberated, the fate of flux over flowed our design levees. Minds opened, noise dissipated, and pride went down to defeat during those intense late night design sessions such that the actual feint yet resonant voice of undiluted truth was among us. Renovatio, the masterwork of Ed Jacobs, our lead designer, was our reward for all we had lost. This conceptual work has shaped our every thought, word and act since. It is transparent uber-cool skeletal minimalism oxymoronically on fire with romantic passion.
In the late winter of 2006 we got back to work. The forced stoppage had illuminated, in my mind, that the Wraith prototypes were not Confederates. They didn’t ride like they looked. I negotiated with an old friend, Jim Thysen, to supply his new balanced twin for Wraith application.
It was up to Jacobs to create an entirely new technical solution for Jim’s power based upon my original Wraith design brief. This challenge resulted in our second generation proprietary architecture and Wraiths which are thoroughbred Confederates. Delivery to our patient clients began in the fall of 2007.
Internally codenamed “Tri-Path,” (Triple Load Path) G2 chassis architecture was utilized as the foundation for a third model, the Fighter, conceived and briefed in late 2007/early 2008. Ed completed the prototype in time for a feature gift presentation launch in the prestigious Neiman Marcus Christmas book of 2008. The Fighter, named for E.E. Cummings commentary concerning the toughest fight you will ever fight and must keep fighting, the fight to be no one but yourself, was readied for production in 2009. The machine captured the imagination of motoring purists and aficionados worldwide.
Approximately 100 aircraft-derived Tri-Path spinal/fuselage/bulkhead fused Confederates have been crafted and sold, approximately 42 of which were Wraiths and approximately 58 of which were Fighters.
In our 18th year, we began the project we were conceived to execute. Having learned countless lessons and grown from unique, nuanced and varied experiences, our young brand was comfortable in its own skin. As we organized the effort to design and craft from a clean sheet of paper a new, from-the-ground-up, third generation Confederate proprietary chassis architecture, we had every confidence that we could deliver all we had ever dreamed of giving.
Fortuitous opportunity greeted our preparation. Our Tier 1 vendor, S&S Cycle, joined their professional engineering team with our design energy to form exactly the brain trust resource we needed to create the motorcycle we had always envisioned the Confederate Hellcat should be.
The X132 Hellcat architectural and engineering expression is contextual and strategic with our inspiration, purpose and culture. Twenty-one years in the making, it is the motorcycle we always wanted to make.
Founder, Chairman, CEO
Confederate Motors, Inc.