Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Paul Sleeman: “We aren’t changing what Hesketh is about, we just want to bring it into the 21st century…”

The new Hesketh 24 is a revial of the 1970s-80s Lord Hesketh-James Hunt legacy. Those red and blue stripes still look so cool

In 1972, when he was all of 22 years old, Lord Thomas Alexander Fermor-Hesketh founded his Formula 1 racing team and, with James Hunt, went on to win a few races in the early- to mid-1970s. Hunt, famous for his playboy lifestyle (Rolls-Royce cars, private helicopters, endless bottles of champagne and, of course, copious amounts of… er, “crumpet”), finished in 4th place in the 1975 Formula 1 world championship, driving the Lord’s Hesketh 308 F1 race car.

Shortly thereafter, Lord Hesketh withdrew from F1 but did go on to build motorcycles – the Hesketh V1000 and the Hesketh Vampire – in the early 1980s. It was all over by the mid-1980s (you can read the full story on Wikipedia) but now, after a 30-year hiatus, Hesketh are back. This time, with British entrepreneur Paul Sleeman at the helm, the company plans to build a range of new, Hesketh-branded motorcycles, starting with the Hesketh 24, which will go on sale from February next year.

As you can see in the photograph above, the Hesketh 24 gets a paintjob that’s clearly inspired by James Hunt’s 1970s Hesketh F1 race car, which also used to bear the number '24.' The bike, only 24 units of which will be built, is powered by a 1,950cc V-twin, which produces about 120 horsepower. Spec is top class – Ohlins suspension, Beringer brakes with 4-piston calipers at the front, BST carbonfibre wheels, TIG-welded chrome-molybdenum chassis, bespoke 2-into-1-into-3 stainless steel exhaust system and, interestingly enough, a 22.7-litre fuel tank that’s mounted beneath the engine.

We were quite intrigued with the new Hesketh 24 and fired off a few questions to Hesketh. Here are some excerpts from what Paul Sleeman had to say about the Hesketh 24 and his future plans for the brand:

Paul Sleeman talks about the Hesketh 24 and his future plans for the iconic British motorcycle brand...

On how, and why, he has revived Hesketh Motorcycles

When we took over the Hesketh Motorcycles marque in 2010, it was always in our plans to see a modern interpretation of the original machine. To put the Hesketh name on something that captures the essence of the original bikes, but with modern engineering to make it truly competitive in 2013. The Hesketh 24 is just the beginning of where we hope to take the Hesketh brand. Indeed, after the release of the limited edition 24 early next year, we will go on to produce a twin-seat, sport-tourer version of the 24.

On why Hesketh motorcycles are (justifiably?) expensive

The limited edition Hesketh 24 retails at £35,000. This takes into account the top quality components such Ohlins suspension, Beringer brakes, Brock’s carbonfibre wheels and other specialty parts such as the F1-grade fuel cell mounted beneath the engine and, of course, a massive 1,950cc V-twin engine. Hesketh Motorcycles was always a luxury brand that wanted to offer the highest quality motorcycle engineering in a British bike. We aren’t changing what Hesketh is about, we just want to bring in to the 21st century!

On the Hesketh 24’s engine

It is no secret that the engine is an S&S X-wedge. There was no doubt that we could not go any further with development of the original Weslake-designed motor, having worked on it extensively in original Hesketh restoration projects over the last three years. We spent a great deal of time considering the right thing to do, and explored many options, including developing our own V6. However, we came to the conclusion that it is cost prohibitive for a small company to meet the current emissions targets and the cost of validation for different countries. Unfortunately, a big V-twin is a difficult thing to get right, and that is why we are proud to be using such a reliable motor as the S&S. We know this will give the Hesketh 24 the ultimate edge when it comes to torque – something that the original bikes were often criticised for.

On whether Hesketh motorcycles will be available worldwide

The Hesketh 24 is available worldwide, the engine is fully homologated Euro 3 compliant and can be sold in all 49 states of the USA. We understand that this bike will appeal to owners around the world and we have already received positive feedback from countries such as Australia, Russia and the USA.

On the new Hesketh connect with those who love Hesketh motorcycles from the 1980s

We have a very strong relationship with the Hesketh Owners Club – we even host their annual meeting from our Kingswood showroom. The original owners have been very supportive since the brand passed into our hands in 2010, but it was always clear that our aim was to eventually produce a modern Hesketh motorcycle. We hope the Hesketh 24 retains enough of the Hesketh character, style and quality to ensure existing Hesketh owners and fans will move forward with us into this new chapter for the marque.

We thank Paul Sleeman for taking the time to answer our questions, and we wish him all the best for his future plans for Hesketh Motorcycles


BlueStrada said...

Wow... Really? a $35,000 motorcycle with an S&S engine? What's in the wind in Britain these days... first a $55,000 Morgan motorcycle (3 wheeler) with an S&S engine... and now this?

Mario said...

AND the new 24 doesn't look anywhere near as good as the 1980s V1000 and Vampire. Looks like a base-model Harley to me, which is probably the worst thing about the styling. And as for the engine, they should've given it an inline-four, inline-six or V6.

more mort ramblings said...

They're building a bike not a car Mario. V twins give a phenomenal power to weight ratio to get things moving

I'm not aware of any Harleys that look like that

Jake Hartmann said...

For such a very, very expensive bike, I'd expect much more than what the 24 offers. The styling needs to be less generic and a V-twin is definitely not on, this bike needs at least an inline-four, V4, straight-six or V6. It's not about whether a V-twin is adequate or not - sure, it might be, BUT it's simply not 'special' enough, so there.

Graham Huisken said...

Just another cobbled together S&S special which anyone could build.

Anonymous said...

What v6 would you put in the bike? There's only one built, the Horex.

BMW's inline 6 is canted so far forward it makes for a long bike.

@Jake - have ridden any v-twins?

Anonymous said...

"Hesketh Motorcycles was always a luxury brand that wanted to offer the highest quality motorcycle engineering in a British bike".
So slap an under powered off the shelf yank motor in it ?

"We have a very strong relationship with the Hesketh Owners Club"
Probably why the monstrosity looks purpose built for a beardy man who smokes a pipe !!!

I'm guessing there wasn't enough cash about to commission a design guru and this was cobbled together on the back of a cig packet, stick the parts together and then join the dots trying to avoid too many straight lines... job done !
Money and desire does not equal the skills needed to do it.

Anonymous said...

Well here we are in March and no sign of this behemoth ?
I'm guessing it is still in a shed somewhere being beaten into submission with a rawhide mallet !
Or maybe the launch has been postponed until April 1st when something that looks like that would be more fitting.



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