A whole lot of British marques came about in the motorcycle industry over last century and today only a handful of them remain. This was largely due to the Japanese onslaught on the global motorcycle industry during the seventies and eighties that saw several classic British motorcycle companies eventually shutting shop. Right then, the wealthy aristocrat Lord Alexander Hesketh, a Formula One team owner, decided to start his own motorcycle company and thus gave birth to Hesketh Motorcycles in Daventry, Northamptonshire, England, in 1981. It was always his dream to start his own motorcycle company and he was looking for the opportunity since mid-seventies.
Having mingled long enough in the Formula One pit, Lord’s Hesketh had met engineering genius Harry Weslake in 1977, who by then had carved a niche for himself in the automobile and motorcycle industry having worked on Nortons, Triumphs, Jaguars, Bentleys and many more iconic companies and was known for developing race-winning machines. Lord Hesketh was quick to commission Weslake and his aide, Ron Valentine, to develop a 992cc OHC 8-valve air-cooled 90-degree V-twin engine for the first motorcycle that Hesketh Motorcycles would eventually produce later in 1981, called the V1000. Interestingly, the 900cc V-twin engine was chosen largely because the team believed the Ducati 900SS was the most established and well engineered European motorcycle back then plying on the British roads and that is the one they had to beat to establish Hesketh Motorcycles.
Lord Hesketh’s Formula One outfit had some notable achievements and was responsible to build a race-car that gave James Hunt his victory in the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix. So, a lot of people were having hopes that the Hesketh V1000 would be a reborn Vincent and could help revive the ailing British motorcycle industry. Designed by John Mockett, who later went on to craft most of Triumph’s new range of motorcycle’s under John Bloor’s direction, the V1000 was acknowledged for its classic British motorcycle styling and the grunty V-twin engine. Although, a highly erratic gearbox and a plethora of niggles surrounding it, the V1000 failed to impress the motorcycle world and Hesketh Motorcycles was forced to shut down in 1982.
Lord Hesketh acquired all the liquidated assets in the sell-out and started a new company Hesleydon Ltd. to restart the production of the V1000. A sport-touring fully-faired updated to the V1000 was released, called the Vampire, which too did not appeal to the motorcyclists who were now getting used to the technologically advanced, lightweight and well-mannered Japanese machinery available at an alluring price point. Eventually, Lord Hesketh’s second attempt to get his motorcycle business running too hit a roadblock and Mick Broom, the development engineer behind the V1000, took over the operations on a small scale, catering service to existing Hesketh owners and gradually addressing all the troubles ailing the Hesketh V1000 and the Vampire models.
Eventually, even Broom could not sustain the business and he too put it out in the market, where entrepreneur Paul Sleeman showed interest and bought the Hesketh Motorcycles brand in 2010 to revive this British classic marque. Sleeman, revealed a limited edition Hesketh ’24′ V-twin model in 2014, of which only 24 units would be made. Each costing close to a whopping $44,000, Sleeman successfully managed to sell all 24 units. Encouraged by the response he has received so far, Sleeman plans to revive the Hesketh brand with two new models, consisting of a neo-retro cafe racer model called the Sonnet, which will be on the affordable side of things. On the other side though will be a gut-wrenching 2100cc supercharged V-twin machine called Valiant, named after the cold war bomber – positioned as an exotic limited edition Hesketh motorcycle and is scheduled to go on sale in the summer of 2018, with an expected price tag of just $50,000! Pocket change anyone?
Coming back to this gorgeous Hesketh featured here – this one is listed on Bonhams and is one of the original models from Hesketh Motorcycles’s initial production run which saw only about 150-odd V1000 motorcycles ever made – which makes it a ridiculously rare machine to own today. Previously owned by the National Motorcycle Museum in the UK, which acquired the motorcycle in 1984, shortly after the company shut down, it is now with a vendor and was last run in the summer of 2016.