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British Industrial History

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Hesketh

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Hesketh are motorcycles that have been in production since 1980. Production started in Towcester, Northamptonshire, and, via a circuitous route over the years, has returned there.

1980 Having been involved with his own Formula 1 car, with James Hunt for many years, Lord Alexander Hesketh launched his own motorcycle. Although it ddid not work out that way, it was intended to be a high-class, high-speed tourer with modern features, designend to offer the best quality possible. It had a 992cc 90-degree V-twin engine with an almost horizontal front cylinder. It had a massive crankshaft, gear-and-chain drive to the dohc, opening four valves per cylinder, twin carburettors and a Lucas RITA electronic system. With no kickstart fitted, starting was electric only and the primary transmission was by gears to a five-speed gearbox with chain final-drive. This bulky and complicated unit fitted into a tubular frame, and although the whole machine was large, the finish was excellent and the overall result seemed impressive. Unexpectely there were very many problems including a noisy, leaky engine and poor gear change plus a host of other minor troubles.

1981 The machine eventually went on view but as it still suffered from many unacceptable problems, and was, by now, very expensive, it did not go into production.

1981 August: Opened a super bike factory at Daventry.[1]

1982 Finally, as the V1000, the first machines went on sale, as the first British bike with four valves per cylinder and twin camshafts (although commonplace in Japanese machines). However, the motorcycles still had too many problems and no special technical features. By now, the firm was in serious financial difficulty, and in June the Official Receiver was called in. Only 139 machines had been made.

"The downfall came when the directors very responsibly decided they could not continue to trade without further finance." - Philip Balwin of Price Waterhouse.[2]

1983 Having reformed, the company produced the Vampire. This touring version with fairing failed to revive interest, and production had stopped by the end of the year, with only forty machines having been made.

Development continued under Mick Broom until the end of 1986, and the company name changed to Hesleydon, with construction by Mocheck in London.

After that development continued, with the machines being built to order, where they had begun, in Towcester.

Broom Development Engineering has continued to provide support for Hesketh motorcycles, even making around a dozen bikes a year.

  • Note: Enthusiasts can find further information at the Hesketh Owners' Club. [1]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1982/06/17
  2. The Engineer 1982/06/17
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • [2] Ian Chadwick's motorcycle website