By Joseph Robertia
Bikers are known for their independent nature, mechanical craftsmanship and perpetual quest to harness more power into the throttle. Nikiski resident Scott Hamann’s new motorcycle — powered by an aircraft engine — speaks to all three.
“It’s a torque monster,” Hamann said. “It’s like putting a car motor in a lawnmower.”
His new bike is powered by a seven-cylinder, 172-cubic-inch, 2,800-cc radial engine, an internal combustion engine in which the cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft, like the spokes on a wheel. Most motorcycles rely on a two-cylinder engine.
“Putting it in a motorcycle is a unique use for the engine,” Hamann said.
The engine is more typically seen in World War II-era planes, such as B-17 and B-25 bombers.
“It sounds like an airplane when the engine is started,” Hamann said. “But it’s not revving a prop, it’s revving a clutch, so it revs really fast and smooth.”
Utilizing an airplane engine should also make the bike more dependable, Hamann said. He isn’t expecting any maintenance on the bike until it reaches more than 2,000 hours of running time, and even then it should only be valve adjustments.
As for uniqueness, Hamann’s got that covered.
“There are only three motorcycles in the world like this,” Hamann said.
The others are the “Lucky 7” bike in Virginia and the “Supercharged Scarlett” in Texas.
“But this will be the only one on the road,” he said.
For the motorcycle’s moniker, Hamann drew back to the more common crafts that utilized the radial engine.
“I went with ‘Blackjack,’ after the B-17 bomber,” he said.
The bike is nearly all black, with a black seat that is somewhat saddlelike. A mural on the gas tank, done by Kenai artist Bud Ashby of Ashby Designs, is a replication of the pinup
girl artwork — made famous by Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas — often seen on bomber noses.
“Bud did a Vargas girl, sitting on a bomb and holding up a blackjack hand,” Hamann said. “I liked it so much I got a tattoo of it on my arm this past week.”
The “radial chopper” has been a long time coming. Hamann first contracted a Lower 48 manufacturer to build the bike three years ago. After waiting what he figured was long enough, Hamann recently picked up the still-not completed bike and brought it north to finish in his spare time.
Hamann is experienced in motorcycle manufacturing and maintenance as a board member of Alaska Bikers Advocating Training and Education (ABATE) and the owner of Metal Magic, a North Kenai-based welding and metal fabrication shop.
“When I first got it, I put three miles on it. I found an oil leak and wasn’t happy with some of the nuts and bolts,” he said. “We stripped it down to the bare frame and started all over again. It has a lot more motor mounts and 1 ½-inch tubing, rather than just 1-inch. The tank and axle covers were all built by me. We re-plumbed it and re-wired it.
“It’s back together now, and it’s definitely beefier than most bikes. It even has a 12-inch-wide rear tire, which is wider than most car tires.”
Now complete, the bike is already drawing attention. Hamann’s radial chopper will be featured in the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas next month. The SEMA show is one of the premier automotive specialty products trade events in the world and not open to the public.
“I knew I’d get a big reaction from it and it’s cool to show it,” Hamann said. “But I don’t own anything I don’t ride, so that’s what I’m really looking forward to. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate so I can still get some miles on it this year.”