New Zealand may not be well known for manufacturing motorcycles, but the islands in the Pacific have produced some legendary bike builders over the years.
From the exploits of the intrepid Burt Munro, immortalised in the movie The World’s Fastest Indian, to the genius of John Britten and his innovative hand built V1000 racers, Kiwis are famous for their innovative engineering and never-say-die determination. Now they’ve brought a new motorcycle on the block, hoping to write a new chapter in New Zealand motorcycling history: meet the Engrich ART 1200.
It is a project that started with four men more than 20 years ago. Inspired by the classic British twins of days gone by, the team (John Appel, Warwick Richardson, his son Leigh Richardson and Peter Thompson) gave their initials to the project (ART) and set out to build a fully balanced, large capacity 360° parallel twin.
The traditional problem with 360° twins (where the pistons go up and down together) is vibration, and the team utilised an additional, centrally mounted, reciprocating tungsten non-firing piston between the two firing pistons to balance out these vibes and create a motor with super smoothness. The idea was not totally original (it was inspired by the ideas of legendary 20th century Triumph designer Bert Hopwood) but is brought to life for the first time in a big twin by the Kiwi foursome.
After five years working on designs for the engine in their spare time, Leigh moved over to the UK where he spent eight years working as a design engineer for a number of companies, including a two-year stint at Triumph, where he was part of the team developing the second-generation Daytona 675/Street Triple engine.
Leigh returned to Wellington in late 2012, when his family engineering company was renamed Engrich. With an investment in the latest CNC machining equipment at Engrich, and utilising the experience gained working for a volume manufacturer, the ART engine project was started on a dyno for the first time in 2014. After proving the motor on the road and dyno, a separate project was set up to build a high end motorcycle in which to house the silky smooth, 100bhp 1200cc twin.
The prototype chassis was completed late in 2019 and is dripping with high end componentry such as Ohlins suspension, PVM forged wheels and Brembo brakes, as well as beautifully crafted Rizoma mirrors and reservoirs, and a silencer from MotoGP exhaust builder SC Project. Australian company Motec, specialists in providing ECUs for racing on two and four wheels, supplied the electronics while other components have been sourced from more modest production motorbikes, such as the single sided rear swingarm from a Triumph Speed Triple and the Kawasaki clutch and gearbox.
Overall, the prototype exudes the quality of one of the finest custom bikes around, full of lovingly machined billet aluminium. It’s a beautiful machine but understated in a typically Kiwi way. There’s no word on when you’ll be able to buy one, or how much it will cost (it won’t be cheap!), but the Engrich team are looking to put their work of art into limited production in the not too distant future.
Watch this space!