A Trio of Cylinder Hacking Heroes

There are lots of people who can hot-rod bikes engines. Big carbs, loud exhaust, big pistons…if they’re good, stroker cranks, flowed heads. Hot-rodders change up lots of stuff in an engine. But only a few would seriously consider altering the number of cylinders the motor has. And do it successfully…multiple times. Three guys in particular have earned the title of Dr. Frankenmotor, and with it our hoontastic respect.

Cylinder Hacker #3:
Simon Whitelock

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Simon Whitelock is perhaps the most maniacal of our three heroes, thanks to his single-minded pursuit of one thing: attaching more Kawasaki 2-stroke cylinders to a single rear wheel than anybody else has. He started out adding a cylinder or two to Kawasaki triples, but some other folks started doing the same thing (one of which you’ll meet in just a bit). What’s a mad scientist to do? Add more. But when he got to nine (see the top photo), his mods started to subtly affect handing just a wee bit, and not in an altogether good way. So he started getting more creative, chaining multiple cranks together, like lining three 250cc triples behind one another. Fast forward to his masterwork: a 48-cylinder two-stroke with six eight-cylinder cranks tied together. Okay, so space considerations forced some horrific compromises to the intake and exhaust plumbing, but shock and awe, not raw power, was certainly what he was going for. A separate 100cc donkey motor (or APU for you mil-spec and aviation guys) is required to start the thing. But it does start.

Cylinder Hacker #2:
Geert Cuperus

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Unlike Whitelock’s gonzo-for-the-sake-of-gonzo philosophy, Cuperus’s motivation is much more subtle. He builds roadgoing replicas of legendary European Grand Prix racers from history. But, in the case of an MV Agusta three-cylinder or six-cylinder factory GP bike, where can one find an obtainable, affordable powerplant of the right weight, shape and dimensions to act as a suitable stand-in? The answer is surprisingly simple: A Suzuki GS550 engine is perfect. Okay, so it has four cylinders…. No big deal: chop one pot off and you have a 412cc triple. Graft two extra onto the end of the crank, and you’ve got a six. Geert gets the nod over Simon for the added complexity of working with four-stroke engines, as well as his less questionable sanity and more elegant final product.

Cylinder Hacker Numero Uno:
Allen Millyard

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Like Whitelock, Millyard is British, and started out building unnaturally cylinder-rich Kawasaki two-strokes. But then, like Cuperus, he moved on to the added challenge of four-stroke engines. But, unlike Geert, he didn’t lose the gonzo. He first built a V-8 out of two KZ1000 engines. I guess he did a pretty good job: the bike is now owned by the Barber Motorsports Museum (If you’re not familiar with it, let’s just say that there’s not much bodgery is in that place). Not finding that enough of a challenge, he then built a V-12 out of two KZ1300 liquid-cooled six-cylinder motors (each one already overkill for a bike and perhaps the most horrifically complex and elaborate designs ever). Oh, and he cuts up these motor without machine tools. He just measures carefully, goes at them with a hacksaw (yes, really), and then welds the pieces back up. Yea, as if it’s really that easy. Allen gets to wear the glittering tiara of our ultimate moto-hacking poster boy not only because of the absurd difficulty of his V-12, but for the nearly-production fit and finish of all his work. Read more about Allen here.

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