Monday, 14 July 2014

Hunwick Hallam / Hunwick Harrop - Aussie Innovation

Hunwick Hallam X1R Motorcycle
Photo Courtesy Richard James

There has been a remarkable amount of innovation in motorcycle design that has come from Down Under. Australian and New Zealander designers and tinkerers seem to have a particular penchant for crafting some of the most interesting and forward-thinking machines the world has seen, all in isolation from the existing networks. These clever displays of ingenuity often seem driven by a variety of factors – perhaps it is their distance from existing industries, or their down-home ingenuity brought on by that isolation from the rest of the world, and more than likely it is their strong fondness for all things loud and fast. One company came to the fore in the late 90s with the promise of putting an Australian-made motorcycle on the world stage, with a radical clean-sheet design that made the rest of the industry take notice. The Hunwick Hallam almost single-handedly kickstarted an Australian motorcycle industry that would have dusted the competition the road and the track, but the realities of the market would doom it to obscurity.


Hunwick Hallam X1R Motorbike
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Hunwick Hallam began as a partnership between Australian businessman Rod Hunwick and engineer Paul Hallam. Hunwick was well known in the Australian motorcycle market as the owner of the Action Motorcycles dealerships in Melbourne and Sydney, achieving notability for introducing in-house financing and on-site financial and insurance advisors. Rod achieved success after having moved to Australia from New Zealand in the early 1980s, building his empire of two- and four-wheeled dealerships beginning with the purchase of a Suzuki dealer in Sydney. Following the old cliché Rod would serve as the business end of the partnership while Paul Hallam would be the talent – Paul was a gifted designer and the son of Frank Hallam, a man famous for his work as chief engineer of the Repco-Brabham Formula One V8 in the mid-1960s. The senior Hallam would go on to found Frank Hallam and Sons Engineering in Geelong, where Paul and his brother Andrew would learn the trade and develop their abilities as engine builders. While the Hallam family was inextricably linked to automotive exploits, with the success of the Repco engine in the 1966 and 1967 F1 championships earning their place in history, Paul gravitated towards two-wheeled endeavours as well as two-stroke marine racing.

Hunwick Hallam Steve McQueen Cafe Sketch
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Paul Hallam was not the first designer to be courted by Hunwick. The first design proposed in 1994 used a steel trellis frame built by New Zealander Ken MacIntosh housing a Ducati-like V-twin designed by Peter Smith (mocked up in wood but never built), though both ideas would be abandoned in subsequent development. The story goes that Hunwick had seen one of Hallam’s projects, a heavily reworked Harley-Davidson Sportster with a more sporting chassis and running gear, in a 1994 issue of Australian Motorcycle News and contacted him to discuss the possibility of designing a home-grown Australian machine. Another version has Sir Jack Brabham, who well acquainted with Frank Hallam from the Repco V8 project, recommending Paul as a candidate. Soon after a partnership was formed and work began in secret on a new design that would be the first all-Australian production motorcycle designed and built in the country.

Hunwick Hallam Design Sketch
Photo Courtesy Richard James

The initial brief proposed by Hunwick was to produce a street-legal design based around a proprietary V-twin engine. The first machine would be the Boss, a modern cruiser aimed at taking on Harley-Davidson with a high-performance muscle bike that would eclipse anything coming out of Milwaukee while retaining laid-back ergonomics. It was a curious choice of target market and one that seemed a bit naïve in hindsight, especially considering the technology and design principles that would be put on offer once Hallam was on board. Soon after the initial brief a second flagship machine was added to the roster – the X1R would be a 1000cc sportbike aimed at pushing the limits of Hallam’s engine and chassis design with a machine that would be eligible for competition in World Superbike. A few tweaks of the chassis would yield the geometry necessary to build a sportbike, while the engine would be reworked significantly to product competitive horsepower. A third design was also proposed: the Rage would be a semi-naked streetfighter with an 1100cc engine splitting the difference between the X1R and the Boss that owed a debt to the popularity of the Ducati Monster. The Rage would utilize the basic architecture of the Boss with modified suspension and bodywork and a different state of tune for the engine. Thus a single chassis and one engine design would serve three distinct purposes, each more extreme than the last, and all were hoped to be capable of blasting the competition away.

Hunwick Hallam Motorcycle Engine Test
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Development of the machines was kept in strict secrecy for three years while the engines and chassis were built and tested. When the project finally broke cover in January 1997 Hunwick Hallam was already well established and the machines in a late stage of development, with production capacity claimed to be largely ready for setup. Initial press releases quoted HH motorcycles as being 85% Australian in their construction, a remarkable figure for a small company with no precedents in the market. At this stage no firm date was given for the commencement of production.

Hunwick Hallam Motorcycle Engine Test
Photo Courtesy Richard James

The engine was a proprietary design developed by Paul Hallam. The basic architecture was relatively conventional at first glance, featuring a liquid-cooled 90-degree V-twin layout with four-valve heads and double overhead cams. The true genius was in the details. Despite liquid cooling the cylinders were heavily finned to improve heat dissipation, to the point where an oil cooler was deemed unnecessary. The cylinder heads were a three-piece design, with the combustion chamber machined separately from the upper and lower cam boxes. The combustion chambers were designed by Hallam based on his experience tuning two-stroke marine engines; dubbed the Axial Targeted Combustion Chamber, the heads and piston crowns were shaped in a manner that directed the fuel mixture towards the centrally placed spark plug. Details of the system are scant (and drawings are nonexistent) but the concept is sound.

Hunwick Hallam Motorcycle Engine Test
Photo Courtesy Richard James

The idea behind ATCC seems like common sense but proper combustion and flame propagation within the cylinder has been an often overlooked element in engine design – if one blindly pursues the notion of flowing air through the cylinder as quickly as possible (the old concept of every engine being little more than an air pump) with no regard for actually burning the fuel mixture efficiently, you are losing power and tossing unburnt fuel straight out the exhaust. Swirling the fuel mixture past the spark source, combined with a shallow pent-roof combustion chamber with tight squish bands to force the mixture towards the plug on compression is the ideal in a multivalve head - a turbulent mixture always burns better than a stagnant one. A good example of the cunning application of fuel swirling is the recently released EBR (don’t call it a Buell) 1190RX. The hand-built limited production 1190RS produced a claimed 175HP and 97LB/FT, while the mass-produced RX puts out a claimed 185HP and 101LB/FT. The only difference between the two engines is a special staggered inlet camshaft that opens one valve slightly ahead of the other with both reaching full lift at the same time. This creates the swirling effect within the cylinder that improves combustion and gives more power, despite having a lower compression ratio than the RS, all the while lowering emissions via a more thorough burn.

Hunwick Hallam Motorcycle Engine Test
Photo Courtesy Richard James

On the Hunwick Hallam downdraught inlet runners were fed by a pressurized airbox, with fueling via an electronic fuel injection system developed by MoTEC featuring single injectors on the Boss and a sequential twin injector setup on the X1R. A specially developed exhaust port with a cast-in “reverberation barrier” aimed to improve exhaust flow dynamics within the head itself. Valve sizes were 38mm intake and 34mm exhaust, set at a shallow 26-degree included angle. Belt-driven camshafts acted on shim under bucket tappets and conventional valve springs. Interestingly the timing system on the Boss engine was a non-interference design, meaning that a cam belt could snap or the engine could be assembled incorrectly without any risk of the valves hitting the pistons – ask any Ducati owner who has had a cam belt failure why this might be a good idea. Many elements of Hallam's design were catered to improving long-term reliability and ease of servicing/modification. HH projected a 15 year service life for their machines with an emphasis on quality and potential resale value in maintaining the customer's sizable investment, with retail pricing expected to be north of $30,000 AUD.

Special attention was paid to minimizing weight in the valvetrain to improve performance, with overall weight claimed to be half that of comparable production machines, but Hallam had bigger ideas: the X1R powerplant was intended to use pneumatic valves fed by gasses drawn from the cylinder, integrated into the cylinder head to keep the system compact and free of external pressure sources. Had this bleeding edge innovation made it to the production stage the Hunwick Hallam would have had the distinction of being the first (and so far only) production engine in the world to make use of the hitherto Formula 1 exclusive technology.

Hunwick Hallam Motorcycle Engine Test
Photo Courtesy Richard James

While a 90-degree V-twin layout ensured excellent primary engine balance, it would still suffer from some rocking couple effects and secondary vibrations. As the engine was a stressed member and required rigid mounting within the chassis, Hallam sought to address this vibration by incorporating a torsional vibration damper on the crankshaft. Unlike a bulky counterbalance shaft, a torsional damper is far more compact and usually resides in line with the crankshaft, serving to dissipate vibration, harmonic resonance, and irregularities in the motion of the crank with a mechanical or fluid disc. The range of damping varying according to the design: hydraulic dampers having a wider range of damping while fixed mechanical items are tuned to lessen specific frequencies of resonance. They are semi-common in automotive applications to reduce perceptible harshness and vibration from passenger car engines, but are almost nonexistent in motorcycle designs. The exact details of the system used in the Hunwick Hallam engine are vague but it appeared to be a hydraulic damper fed by oil drawn through drillings in the crankshaft.    

Hunwick Hallam Boss 1350 Cruiser
Photo Courtesy Richard James

The first engine destined to be slotted into the Boss displaced 1350cc via a 102.5mm bore and 82mm stroke with a 8.6:1 compression ratio (confusingly some period reviews and the company website noted 105x80mm and 1385cc), while the X1R featured a 998cc 97x67.5mm mill with an 11.8:1 compression ratio (14:1 in race tune). An 1127cc, 102x67.5mm version was proposed for the Rage and was set to be released following the introduction of the Boss and X1R. Initial horsepower claims for the Boss engine were 109 HP at 7000 RPM, while the X1R pumped out an impressive 141 HP at 9500 RPM (some sources quoted 142 HP at 10,600 RPM), both figures measured at the rear wheel. With modern engine management and Hallam’s clever cylinder head designs these engines were claimed to be fully emissions compliant in Australia, Japan, the United States and Europe (though it was unclear if the X1R power figures were the result of a street-legal state of tune; with 14:1 compression power was supposedly in the 170 HP range). These figures would have placed HH well ahead of the competition they faced in the late 1990s – this was long before the Harley V-Rod would come along and slap a modern, high performance engine into a cruiser chassis, and no other V-twin in the power cruiser segment offered triple digit power in a modern chassis with reasonably light weight. If cylinder count was ignored the Yamaha V-Max could still claim to be king of the horsepower wars, but it was an ancient design that tied itself in knots at the first corner. Meanwhile the X1R engine had enough power to make the competition sweat.  The newly introduced crop of Japanese sporting V-twin like the Suzuki TL1000S and the Honda VTR1000 were knocking out around 110 HP on a good day, while the quickest Ducati on offer was the expensive and finicky 916 SPS pumping out a claimed 123 HP.

Hunwick Hallam Boss 1350 Cruiser
Photo Courtesy Richard James

The transmission was another unique element, featuring a removable gearbox assembly that remained in unit with the engine. The two gearbox shafts were stacked vertically to improve packaging, previewing the recent trend towards vertical gearboxes in production sportbikes. The first gearbox intended for the Rage and Boss was a five-speed design, with a six-speed reserved for the X1R. The transmission casing supported the swingarm pivot independently of the rest of the chassis, allowing the entire gearbox and rear suspension assembly to be removed without disturbing the engine. Plans were announced for an electro-hydraulic semiautomatic transmission that would use excess oil pressure from the engine to drive a hydraulic shift mechanism of an unspecified design, with semi and fully automatic modes and an integrated traction control system – heady stuff for an upstart company in the mid-1990s, and ideas that have only recently become production realities.  

Hunwick Hallam Boss 1350 Cruiser
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Both designs shared a remarkable chassis design that was largely underappreciated, even in the contemporary articles that profiled it. With Ducati’s recent and much-publicized “introduction” of a production frameless design using the engine as a completely stressed member in the Panigale series of sport bikes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that “frameless” motorcycles are a new thing. The reality is that frameless or monocoque designs have existed for decades, and Ducati is not breaking any new ground. Go back far enough and you’ll note that from the Series B onward Vincent was a pioneer in the use of the engine as a stressed member, with only a box-section oil tank/spine supporting the steering head. Similarly the Hunwick Hallam chassis made full use of the inherent strength of an engine’s crankcases to make a virtually frameless motorcycle. Hallam’s solution was to bolt a cast aluminum casing supporting the steering head to the forward cylinder and using the engine as a fully stressed member.

Hunwick Hallam Australian Rider Article
Australian Rider Autumn 1998

The rear suspension was notable for mounting an adjustable WP coilover shock just behind and below the steering head, bracketed onto the front cylinder. A long alloy beam, which at first glance might be mistaken for a frame spar, ran along the right side of the engine and connected the alloy box-section swingarm to the rising-rate linkage of the shock. This system, dubbed RamRoc, freed up valuable clearance around the rear cylinder and allowed the engine to be tilted back without compromising the wheelbase or exhaust routing, which allowed the fine tuning of weight distribution within the chassis. The RamRoc solution would be adopted in Europe by Pierluigi Marconi while designing the Bimota SB8 chassis; he referenced the Hunwick Hallam rear suspension as his inspiration for moving the rear shock up beside the front cylinder of the Suzuki-sourced TL1000 V-twin, with a linkage rod connecting it to the swingarm.

Hunwick Hallam Australian Rider Article
Australian Rider Autumn 1998

Adjustable 41mm WP upside down forks were used on the prototype machines, with the Boss featuring a 30 degree rake and the X1R 23.5. Wheelbases were 61 inches for the Boss and 52 inches for the X1R, with the X1R’s adjustable geometry allowing an extension of up to 55 inches - handy for improving traction when you have a fire-breathing motor threatening to spool up the rear wheel.

Hunwick Hallam Australian Rider Cover
Australian Rider Autumn 1998

Each component of the Hunwick Hallam, apart from the forks, wheels, shock and brakes, was designed from first principles, meaning the chassis and engine were designed from a clean slate as a harmonious whole rather than two distinct objects within the machine. Hallam incorporated many clever engineering solutions throughout his design, his process more or less unhindered by the considerations that plagued larger manufacturers who worked within a framework of conservative adherence to existing ideas. Individual components served multiple functions whenever possible. This methodology drew repeated and slightly awkward comparisons to that other mould-breaking V-twin powered motorcycle from the other side of the world - the Britten V1000.

Hunwick Hallam Rage Motorcycle Mockup
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Two running engines, one Boss 1350 and one X1R 998, were completed and tested in early 1996. A running Boss prototype hit the road in the fall of the same year. When the project was unveiled to the press in early 1997 the curious looking Power Cruiser was met with reserved enthusiasm. The styling was decidedly strange, a mixture of advanced technology and high-quality running gear saddled with dumpy looking bodywork, a bobbed solo seat surrounded by a massive shroud (a necessity as the radiator was placed under the seat), an off-the-spares-shelf exhaust, Fat Boy -esque solid disc wheels, and wide cruiser bars that would have looked right at home on a Duo Glide parked outside of a roadhouse bar. The machine appeared to be more of a test bed than a polished machine ready for production, with some crude detailing and half-finished components making things look a little less than ready for primetime. Stripped of the bodywork the Boss looked like a cutting edge design, a testament to Hallam’s work on the engine and chassis. Clothed it looked like something hastily made ready for the road, the engineering masked by the strange aesthetics. Period reports hinted at the advanced technology that was being presented, but a lot of the impact was lost when you gazed upon the styling. Hallam wanted to build an advanced and competitive Australian machine from first principles and his attempt at satisfying the cruiser design brief seemed forced. Hunwick wanted to build a bike that Americans would buy if they suddenly decided that their Harleys were too fat and slow and the Boss deviated considerably from his vision. This is not to say that the Boss was entirely a result of Hunwick’s desires – it was very much a product of Hallam’s vision of what a cruiser should be, while Hunwick expected a more traditional-looking machine.

Hunwick Hallam Rage Motorcycle Mockup
Photo Courtesy Richard James

While the Boss had hit the road, for good or ill, a mockup of the proposed Rage streetster was assembled in the HH design studio but was put on hold while work continued on the X1R prototype. Here there was more promise for something earth shattering and a worthy exhibit of Hallam’s engineering that was more in tune with his design principles. If the Boss was Hunwick’s idea, the X1R was entirely Hallam’s. While spreads of the Boss were showcased in the press, small sketches of a sleek, fully faired superbike were inserted into sideboards hinting at what was to come. When the completed prototype was unveiled at Phillip Island in March 1997 during the first race of the World Superbike Championship, it caught the world by surprise. The sleek, organic curves of the initial sketches were translated into carbon fibre and metal faithfully, with a long nose extending to the leading edge of the front wheel serving as the defining characteristic of the otherworldly machine. A shapely belly pan hid some of the mechanical bits, but left a central swath open revealing the exposed cam belts and snaking exhaust headers. The radiator was hidden at an angle in the massive nose, visible through the central duct that fed it cool air. Here comparisons to the V1000 were more appropriate, with a menacing V-twin clothed in highly aerodynamic bodywork with snaking exhaust headers that looked unlike anything else.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike
Photo Courtesy Phil Aynsley

Phillip Island proved to be the first test run of the X1R, which had never been run in public and had been limited to nothing more than dyno testing prior to its unveiling. Company insiders noted that it was truly a last minute all-or-nothing gamble, with final assembly of the priceless prototype happening on site in the hours leading up to the moment that Paul Hallam bump started his creation for the crowds. Veteran rider Malcolm Campbell was handed the X1R for some parade laps around the circuit, where it performed flawlessly despite never having run under its own power before that Saturday afternoon. The X1R proved to be a hit with the home crowd and an instant sensation that was mobbed by curious onlookers for the remainder of the race weekend. It was a menacing-looking threat from an underdog upstart to the existing manufacturers. They would waste no time in putting the X1R into competition despite the early stage of development.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike
Photo Courtesy Phil Aynsley

Given that Hunwick Hallam had not yet produced the requisite number of machines needed for homologation (they had in fact only produced one, and that machine was going to be their entry) the X1R was entered into the 1997 Australian Superbike Championship as a prototype. To compete in this category the X1R had to meet all existing Superbike regulations except for production numbers. No points would be awarded for wins, but the company would earn some much needed development testing in the heat of racing, and some good publicity, in the hope that by 1998 they could build enough production examples to qualify for full homologation in the series. Unfortunately things did not begin well. To fill the grid at the opening event at the Winton circuit, Supersport 600 entries were allowed into the Superbike race. While Campbell was able to qualify in 9th position in wet conditions, a collision with a Supersport rider on a Kawasaki ZX6 in the first corner on the first lap of the race led to a fall that sent the silver-liveried machine sliding unceremoniously into the gravel trap. During subsequent repairs a Kevlar chip jammed the fuel pump, putting the X1R out of contention for the following heats. Most recall this ignominious start, but few remembered that the X1R would go on to complete events for the next two seasons, even landing a 2nd place finish at a Thunderbikes event at Eastern Creek  - a result made even more impressive by the fact that Campbell missed qualifying and was forced to start at the back of the grid. That victory was offset by a spectacular mishap in a later round - an ECU glitch caused a lean condition which overheated and blew apart the exhaust, starting a fire that scorched Campbell’s leathers as he continued around the course in flames to get the machine back to the pits to extinguish the inferno.  Later events in the Superbike class netted some respectable 8th and 9th place finishes; nothing to sneeze at considering the X1R was an unproven one-off prototype.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike Racing
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Road tests of the X1R noted good handing (though Wayne Gardner complained about the rear suspension) while nobody had any complaints about the engine, which produced a very useable powerband and a significant spread of torque. Power tapered off around 9000 RPM, which was fine for a street motor but a bit limiting for a racing machine. Hallam noted he was aiming for stable Honda VFR-like handling characteristics, which spoke to his desire to build a useable street machine despite the extreme specs and racing mandate of the X1R.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike
Photo Courtesy Phil Aynsley

The 998cc machine was soon joined by a second example, referred to as the “Phase Three” or the “Titanium” bike - the first X1R was dubbed “Phase One”, while a proposed future prototype incorporating Hallam’s pneumatic valve design would be “Phase Five”. Phase Three had a short stroke layout with a 102mm bore and 61mm stroke, giving 996cc. The “Titanium” moniker came from the fact that the engine incorporated titanium conrods, valves and valve springs, which along with several other revisions pushed claimed power up to 176 HP at 10,800 RPM and allowed the engine to breath a bit better at higher revs compared to the Phase One. Combined with a 370lb wet weight the extra power was enough to impress noted journalist and seasoned racer Alan Cathcart, who was fortunate enough to ride the Phase Three back to back with the original X1R in 1998 and note the significant progress that had been made by the tiny company.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike
Photo Courtesy Phil Aynsley

Despite the wowed reactions and impressive figures surrounding the X1R, it could not be forgotten that the meat and potatoes of the Hunwick Hallam venture was the Boss, which was expected to make up at least 60% of the company’s sales, and a lot of press coverage was devoted to the cruiser rather than the Superbike. Early reviews of the Boss noted that the machine had excellent power and good handling for a cruiser, but often noted that the machine was a strange concoction in search of a niche. It had the motor and chassis to get the job done, but was hampered by the very elements that defined it – cruiser ergonomics and weird aesthetics.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike
Photo Courtesy Richard James

By this point Hunwick Hallam was behind schedule. An analysis by the Australian Graduate School of Management pointed to some serious issues with the HH business model, noting problems like the overly ambitious plan for a worldwide introduction and the immediate entry into several overseas markets, and the projected $30,000-$40,000 AUD price tag for a product that had no current market niche. The report closed with a verdict that the company was aiming far too high given their current situation and that they would have difficulty securing the capital needed to fund their plans. While the initial setup and prototype construction had been funded by Hunwick (to the tune of several million dollars), more capital would be needed to establish production and a sales network. Hunwick was cagey with the details of where the investment money was coming from, but it was revealed that the majority was from Asian investors. Some disappointment was noted that local Australian backers could not be secured, but in any case Hunwick claimed that all was well financially.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Superbike
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Further complicating matters was the fact that the company had become split into two bases of operation, one based in Melbourne and the other in Sydney. The Sydney location, set up close to Hunwick’s Action dealer network, was the operational centre of the company. Meanwhile Melbourne was the site of Hallam’s workshop, where Paul worked on the design sketches and prototype machining during the early stages of the project. The considerable distance (600 miles) between the two sites complicated the process, with sketches and parts being shuffled back and forth between the locales, often by Paul himself. Problems emerged when Hallam’s designs were being altered without his permission in Sydney during his absence.

Hunwick Hallam Rage Test Mule
Photo Courtesy Richard James

This situation came to a head when a competing prototype was built. While the Boss and the first two X1Rs had been assembled in Hallam’s workshop, a street-legal Rage test mule was put together in Sydney without Hallam’s input and revealed to the public without his knowledge. Presented to the press in a barely finished state, with slapdash bodywork, datalogging equipment everywhere, and half-finished components intact, the reviewers were not impressed despite the performance on offer. Local press praised the machine but UK testers were not swayed by the home-grown pride and derided the machine. This publicity stunt highlighted the growing schism within the company, a dangerous revelation when investors were still being courted - especially when the situation became so dire that mediators were forced to step in to ease the growing tensions between Rod Hunwick and Paul Hallam.

Hunwick Hallam Rage Test Mule
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Richard James, a member of the HH design team who would also work on the Vincent RTV and the Norton 961 Commando, provided these photos of the mule taken in his parent’s backyard in Sydney, just before he rode the machine 950kms to Paul’s workshop – he noted “The engine went like a train and the bike handled beautifully. It was a bit of a handful to hold onto at high speed though”.

Hunwick Hallam Rage Test Mule
Photo Courtesy Richard James

Series production of the Boss and X1R was slated to begin by 1998, with a hope of 350 machines in the first year scaling up to 800 examples by 2001, but delays and internal issues pushed the date further and further back. By 1999 promises were still being made but no new machines were forthcoming and investors were beginning to get worried. A “factory” was established in Sydney but was little more than a warehouse with offices and a machine shop, with the empty space serving as storage for Action Motorcycles inventory.

Hunwick Hallam Rage Test Mule
Photo Courtesy Richard James

In addition to the rift between the two centres of operation, tensions were on the rise between Rod Hunwick and Paul Hallam. A gulf was forming between the visions of the two men as time went on, with Hunwick focussing on the marketability of HH products while Hallam wanted to develop the engineering and performance of his designs. It became a classic case of marketing trumping innovation, of the considerations of production compromises that plague large companies driving a wedge between the two partners. Despite their upstart status HH was already settling into the patterns that limit larger companies and stifle innovation – Hunwick wanted to sell cruisers and turn a profit, Hallam wanted to build the best possible machine and develop the X1R. Later on, Hunwick would reveal:


So it was that in 2000 that Paul Hallam left the company and Hunwick Hallam was reborn as Hunwick Harrop, with Hunwick retaining Hallam’s engine design and reforming the company in partnership with Melbourne-based automotive engineering firm Harrop. Harrop was (and still is) a well-established supplier of high-performance parts and engineering to the Australian Ford and Holden crowds and the Harrop family had a long history of participation in motorsports. In the new arrangement it was proposed that Harrop would function as a supplier to HH - complete engines and some ancillaries would be produced by Harrop in Melbourne, while the final assembly of motorcycles would be performed in Sydney.

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser
Australian Motorcycle News February 2001

The first product of this partnership was the Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser designed by Jeff Haggarty, which could be summarized as a heavily reworked version of the Boss concept that was more in line with Hunwick’s original vision. Hallam’s engine architecture and frameless chassis were retained but the styling was completely revised. The engine featured a 101.6X92.1mm layout giving 1493ccs, producing 106HP at 6250RPM and 101 LB/FT at 4250RPM with a 9.25:1 compression ratio. The five-speed gearbox of the Boss was retained, while the radiator was moved up behind the steering head. The chassis remained frameless, using a U-shaped alloy steering head bolted to the front cylinder, but dropped the long rising-rate lever and head mounted shock of the earlier machines in favour of a Koni monoshock in a straight-rate arrangement pivoting off the rear cylinder. The right-side up 51mm front forks came from Paoli, while braking was courtesy of Harrop-produced four-piston calipers and 320mm Beringer rotors. The 17-inch disc wheels, shod in sportbike-sized rubber, were also produced by Harrop.

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser
Image Source

Styling was a radical departure from contemporary production cruisers and foretold the coming of the factory chopper style that plagues the market today. The rear was shrouded in a shapely binnacle that enveloped the rear of the machine before arching above the motor, with only the seat and speedometer recessed into the “tank” (actually the airbox cover) ahead of the rider disrupting the flowing curves. The 18 litre fuel tank was hidden beneath the seat along with the collector for the dual Staintune exhausts. It was a modern design that earned the company accolades from numerous sources as well as a Good Design Australia award, a far cry from the damning-with-faint-praise that the Boss had received upon its unveiling. With a low, wide butt and a lithe front end the proportions gave the machine a stance that looked far more aggressive than the 31.5 degree rake, 17 inch wheels, and 67 inch wheelbase would suggest. The Phantom looked more like a custom showpiece than a production motorcycle and it channelled the spirit of the new crop of highly-polished custom American machines that were popping up, in advance of the mass selling-out of chopper culture that would soon occur (see OCC et al). Unlike those eye-catching show machines the Phantom had a modern engine, a proper chassis, quality running gear, functional brakes, and the ability to go around a corner. And it wasn’t powered by a ubiquitous Harley-clone motor.      

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser
Image Source

The Phantom was in line with Rod Hunwick’s vision of producing a modern power cruiser and it was a machine that was admittedly built with the American market in mind. EPA certification for the driveline was high on HH’s priorities. It was hoped that 70% of the production run would be exported, a clear sign of whose dollars Hunwick was chasing. Early plans were to only sell the Phantom in the USA and Australia, though interest from the European and Asian markets expanded the mandate. Retail pricing was announced at $38,900 AUD, which during the record drop of the Aussie currency around 2001 would have put the Phantom under $20,000 USD.
Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser
Image Source


The press was impressed with the style and performance offered by the Phantom, noting that it possessed ample power and tidy handling in spite of the long and low geometry and 530 lb dry weight. The styling was seen as fresh and was largely well-received. All looked promising and a goal of producing 325 units in 2001 was announced, with production gradually ramping up afterwards. Once the Phantom was in production it was hoped that the Rage concept would finally come to fruition after languishing on the back burner for several years, while the company website hinted at an upcoming “1350cc sport motorcycle”. Curiously the official Hunwick Harrop website continued to list specifications for the Boss and X1R despite the apparent end to those projects, as well as including quotes from earlier Hunwick Hallam reviews that were edited to refer to the company as “Hunwick Harrop” - a transparent attempt at distancing themselves from the earlier partnership.

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser Melbourne Show
Image Source

The Hunwick Harrop was to be sold through unconventional means. Customers would place their orders with the company through an online process and have their Phantom delivered directly from the factory. Brick and mortar dealers would be limited to “Stocking Service Providers” who would carry limited inventory and act as a liaison for prospective customers. Each machine would be built-to-order to customer specifications and colours. Preparation and servicing was supposed to be performed by volunteer “Delivery Service Providers”, existing dealerships around the world who would take on the task of caring for the machines without joining a traditional distribution/sale network or holding inventory. Requirements to become a Hunwick Harrop “dealer” were, according to the official website, “SSPs and DSPs will need to be Internet and email connected, have a digital camera for processing claims, have access to a notebook computer to simplify engine servicing, and have a credit card.” It was a new concept driven by the possibilities offered by online marketing and sales, but one that seemed rather half-baked for an upstart company that had not yet delivered any finished motorcycles.

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser Indianapolis Show
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It was clear that Hunwick Harrop was seeking to capitalize on the recent “Business to Consumer” sales model that had achieved some limited but notable success in the motorcycle industry.  Ducati gambled on B2C as a motorcycle sales tool by offering their limited edition Pierre Terblanche-designed MH900e up for grabs online in 2000, and again when they sold the entire run of 996Rs online in 2001, but those experiments were backed by a major company producing tasty bits of hardware that were well and truly desired before the online sales started. Selling an unproven product from an unknown company that had been consistently behind schedule was far from appealing to sceptical consumers and it made Hunwick Harrop’s B2C model look suspicious rather than revolutionary.

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser Indianapolis Show
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Four complete machines were exhibited at the 2001 Dealer Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, marking the US introduction of the Phantom and an optimistic move into the North American market. The upstarts from Down Under received a few curious inquiries, but no commitments were made and no dealers were signed. The four machines were then sent back home to be displayed at the Melbourne International Motorshow where they proved to be a hit with the crowds, though the company website repeatedly parroted the self-deprecating comment “that the Phantom looks better in the flesh than in photos”. The Melbourne show was followed by the public introduction of the Phantom at the opening of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island in October, where Sir Jack Brabham was handed the keys to a red example for a spirited parade lap around the circuit – four and a half years after the Hunwick Hallam X1R had been piloted around the same course by Malcolm Campbell. Apparently no one dared make the connection between Brabham and Paul's engine despite the history of Sir Jack’s Formula 1 exploits with Frank Hallam’s Repco V8.

Sir Jack Brabham Riding the Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser
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After a brief period of renewed interest in the media and some optimistic reports HH faded into obscurity. The venture limped along, with a claim of 51 orders and an announcement of test rides for “those holding reservations and other interested riders”, but it eventually fizzled out with a whimper.  An undisclosed number of machines were produced (some say only the four that were shown in Indianapolis and Melbourne, along with one pre-production prototype, with no evidence of any customer deliveries) before the funding ran out and the company was quietly shuttered in 2002.

Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500 Super Cruiser Indy Dealer Expo
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Rod Hunwick would go on to co-found Deus Ex Machina in Sydney in 2005 with surfware magnate Dare Jennings, cleverly capitalizing on the nascent custom café-styled motorcycle scene that had been brewing in sheds and back alleys for several years  - most notably in Japan where the duo had admittedly pilfered inspiration for their stripped-down and marked-up hipster rides. In a nod to Hunwick’s previous venture visitors to the new shop had the opportunity to see the Phase One X1R on display in the showroom, looking remarkably out of place alongside the various tarted-up Japanese bikes it shared space with (today it sits in the Deus Cafe in Camperdown). Deus would go on to become a successful worldwide chain of shops and cafes supplemented by the sale of branded wares and lifestyle items (“Would you care to peruse our selection of surfboards and pomade while you sip our fair-trade espresso?”) that have become the model for modern custom shops looking to cash in on the grease and nostalgia fad.

Hunwick Hallam X1R in Deus Ex Machina Showroom
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After leaving HH Paul designed the Ecoforce EcoH horizontally-opposed twin, a fuel-injected four-stroke that used crankcase induction like a two-stroke. Crankcase pressure forced the mixture into the cylinder through a sidevalve head, harnessing the considerable pumping forces of the reciprocating internals to create an integrated supercharging effect. Gas-charged pneumatic valve control used a conventional camshaft to open the valves but closed them via pressure bled off the combustion chamber that was directly proportioned to engine speed in an attempt to remove some of the efficiency-robbing resistance of conventional springs. By their nature valve springs apply heavier resistance than necessary at lower engine speeds, as the spring rate is fixed and determined by the force needed to close the valves at the maximum engine speed. By eliminating this resistance, the EcoH exhibited better thermal efficiency and lower emissions while remaining simpler than traditional four-strokes, despite using a supposedly obsolete sidevalve cylinder head. The Ecoforce engine achieved some notoriety for its interesting mix of old and new technology applied in a unique fashion, and the claims of power and efficiency offered by the design appeared promising, but the engine ultimately never progressed beyond the prototype stage where a 86x68mm 790cc version produced 80 HP and 80 LB/FT of torque with a 8:1 compression ratio.

Paul Hallam's Ecoforce Engine Patent
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Today Hallam continues to work as a tuner and engine builder alongside his brother Andrew, with Frank Hallam and Sons Engineering in Geelong now operating as Hallam Boyz. Hallam seems to be best known for his work tuning Harley-Davidson engines, a strange twist of fortune after his work on what was ostensibly going to be a Harley-murdering street rod that could do double duty as a Superbike contender.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Racing
Photo Courtesy Richard James

The Hunwick Hallam and Hunwick Harrop ultimately proved to be yet another overly ambitious business venture that failed to secure the funding and support needed to crack into the fickle motorcycle market. What could have been the birth of a world-beating Australian product instead became a poster child for broken dreams and the grim realities of the marketplace – no matter how good your product is, you still need to be capable of producing it and selling it to survive, and the demands of the marketplace are often at odds with the cultivation of innovation. Paul Hallam’s pioneering design work and his attempt to push engine and chassis design forward have proven to be tragically underappreciated, particularly in light of recent advances in motorcycle construction that echo the ideas he was developing in the mid-1990s. The failure of Hunwick Hallam and Hunwick Harrop has relegated the novelty of their prototypes to obscurity, their clever elements becoming a footnote in the infinite register of unsuccessful motorcycle ventures and ambitious “could have beens”.

Hunwick Hallam X1R Motorcycle
Photo Courtesy Phil Aynsley

Interesting Links
Hunwick Hallam X1R Reviews
Motorcycle.com Hunwick Hallam Technical Details
Motorcycle.com Hunwick Hallam Articles
Ian Falloon's postmortem summary of the Hunwick Hallam
Phil Aynsley's photographs of the X1R Phase One at Phillip Island in 1997
Review of the X1R Phase Three "Titanium" bike
The Kneeslider on the death of Hunwick Hallam
Archived AGSM analysis of Hunwick Hallam
Richard James' photo collection
Paul Hallam's Ecoforce engine patent
Archived Ecoforce homepage
Video coverage of the 1997 Winton race, with Malcolm Campbell's crash
Archived Hunwick Harrop homepage
Good Design Australia award for the Phantom 1500
Alan Cathcart's review of the Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500
Bob Jenning's review of the Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500
Jim Duncan's review of the Hunwick Harrop Phantom 1500

Hunwick Hallam X1R Cockpit
Photo Courtesy Phil Aynsley

6 comments:

  1. Outstanding research as always Jason. You continue to set the bar for excellent journalism quite high. Great work!

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  2. Well written. I have spoken to Richard James about this before so its nice to see the full picture. I hope that anyone hoping to do something similar in the future can learn from HH mistakes so the public get to see more innovation. Thanks Alex

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  3. Fabulous! Some amazing stuff you have public here .continue posting more blog posts like this.

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  4. Thanks for your article, Rod, his father, Paul and the whole team deserve full marks for their achievements. Albeit Rod being a Kiwi he had an amazing run on the track. and with Paul's mechanical and engineering prowess, they managed to give the establishment a wake up call from Downunder. Well earned praise upon you all.

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  5. funny how things happen I just received my fathers brief case on this project. He was the pattern maker that did some of the work. I always wondered what happened to the project.

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  6. Rod Hunwick is no better than a thief. I transferred the deposit for a bike on the first eligible day, then nothing. I rang him some months later to be told "everything's OK" then nothing.

    I have seen him being associated with the word innovation, but for me it was just "obtaining money by deception"

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