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The Beattie Files

boss hoss

Shock & Awe – it's a V8 mate!

In which young Beattie defies the natural order of things

(Ed's note: These are excerpts from young Beattie's book on some of the more colourful incidents in an action-packed life. See the end of the piece for more info.)

(by Chris Beattie, May 2024)

“Mate, there’s no way known on this earth that this thing is legal,” said the cop, shaking his head as he surveyed what he clearly regarded as a rolling mechanical insult. “I’ve seen plenty of modified vehicles in my time, but this is taking things way too far.”


As I would come to realise, some people are just not psychologically equipped to deal with the existence of machines that challenge everything they’ve come to hold dear. It seemed the cop had literally been offended by the mere sight that confronted him as he gestured me to pull over.


It wasn’t the first time I’d attracted the attention of the local Mornington Peninsula cops – and by the time I handed the keys back to the owner, I’d practically be on a first name basis with most of the highway cops in our area. They just couldn’t help themselves.


On many other occasions I would head out in search of ‘playmates’; local blokes who liked to show off their modified cars. This particular time, as I sat at the lights, I glimpsed across at the V8 HQ Holden, with the big hood scoop and fat tyres. It rumbled and shook and had “HOON” in big, wide capital letters written all over it. The guy at the wheel hadn’t seen me yet so he had no inkling that his world was about to be shaken off its foundations.


I gave the throttle a blip to clear the big engine’s throat in anticipation of the green light. My mount twisted violently with the torque. I was really beginning to like this outrageous machine, that seemed to defy all of the laws of physics, mechanics and common sense. Little did I suspect that it would nearly kill me on a couple of occasions, and actually succeed in claiming the life of its owner only a few weeks later.


I steadied for the green light. With a kilometre or so of empty straight road ahead, I was ready to give my young adversary a demonstration of the art of automotive street warfare – not to mention the element of surprise.


On the green I grabbed a handful of throttle and dumped the clutch. Initially I felt it skew sideways as the fat rear tyre surrendered to the gods of traction – and more than 300hp -- spinning wildly as I counter-steered in reply. I eased the throttle slightly and felt the rest of the bike straighten, before nailing it again.


With 350 raging cubic inches of Chevrolet V8 between my legs, the Boss Hoss Two Wheeled Terror Machine From Hell suddenly became a very angry, rampaging beast. With a beautiful, unmuffled – we’d earlier removed both mufflers for theatrical effect – thunderous bellow coming from its shiny chrome headers, it seemed to turn the earth beneath it as it ate up tarmac at an astonishing rate.


Having made my point, I slowed and pulled into a gas station for yet another top-up. The Boss Hoss’s adrenaline-pumping thrills came at a heavy price at the fuel bowser, but one that I was more than happy to pay.


“Mate, what the fuck is that?” I heard as I removed my helmet. It was the young bloke with the hot rod HQ. He’d followed me into the servo and was standing there absolutely gob-smacked as he took in the Boss Hoss in all its gloriously offensive black and chrome throbbing majesty.


Like every cop, and pretty much everyone else I came across while enthroned on the Boss Hoss, my new mate was having trouble coming to grips with the concept of a street-legal, 350 cubic inch V8 motorcycle. And fair enough, too.


While at the time, V8-powered motorcycles weren’t all that uncommon on the streets of the US, here in Australia there was only one American-built, street-registered V8 Boss Hoss. And for two glorious – and occasionally hair-raising – months, it was all mine to do with as I pleased. I’d cut a deal with the Perth-based importer to keep it at my place in Melbourne. The deal was I’d run a feature on it in my magazine, Heavy Duty and also arrange for other bike and car magazine journo’s I knew to take it for the odd spin to generate publicity. At least one scribe, upon confronting it in my driveway, decided his plans for a long and healthy life might be placed in dire jeopardy if he were to take up the offer.


“Fuck off Beattie. There’s no way known I’m climbing on that!” he said.


His refusal to take the Boss Hoss for a ride was entirely reasonable -- as I’d come to realise a few days later.


The term “agricultural” is being kind when attempting to describe the engineering, construction and safety measures incorporated into the Boss Hoss, remembering that this was in 1994. V8 bikes are a tad more sophisticated – and nowhere near as rare as they were back in the day. Particularly in Oz. The frame looked like it was made from left-over scrap from the Empire State building, the custom-built front forks did little other than connect the frame to the front wheel, and the brakes, well … they were nice and shiny.


There was no gearbox as none was really necessary. In the brochure it said there was only one forward gear – Fast Forward. The direct drive system relied on a conventional power-boosted car clutch and a toothed rubber drive belt – of which we shredded three during our time together – connected to the fat rear wheel and 15in car tyre. Because of its flat, rather than curved tread profile you’d normally find on a motorcycle tyre, the factory advised owners to run only 7psi of air pressure. This allowed riders to lean through corners as the tyre’s sidewalls deformed. Did I say “agricultural”? “Lethal” is probably more appropriate.


Apart from destroying drive belts and consuming vast quantities of 98 octane, the Boss Hoss also ate tyres at a prodigious rate. We went through three rear tyres and two fronts in our relatively short time together.


This particular day we -- as in myself and Heavy Duty photographer, ‘Doctor’ Ken S – were on a mission to complete a photoshoot for the magazine. We decided that a relatively quiet and straight section of freeway on the Mornington Peninsula would suit our purposes, those being to capture the stupidly fast and truly violent nature of the Boss Hoss.


“Mate, let’s give it one more try. Just hang on real tight and I’ll let you know when to take the shot,” I said to Ken. “Just try and get it as quick as you can before we run out of road.”


We’d already wound it up to the limit of the speedo, which was 240km/h (I estimated it had at least another 60km/h), but every time Ken, who was hanging on to me for dear life, slipped out to take the shot, the wind blast almost wrenched him off the bike.


With no traffic around, we gave it one final try. With the speedo needle on the 220km/h stop I yelled to Ken to take the shot. This time he stood up and shot over my shoulder. I felt the wind buffeting him as I held the throttle open for as long as I could. The sweet, unmuffled roar of the big Chevy was almost intoxicating as the scenery swept by in a blur.


“I reckon I got it,” yelled Ken as I eased off the throttle. I figured there was no more point in pushing our luck, especially given the local cop shop was just a couple of minutes down the road.


“Good effort, mate,” I said to Ken. “I’ll give you a lift home.”


We took it a lot easier on the ride back, although as we pulled up in Ken’s drive I noticed an odd squeaking noise coming from somewhere in the back. We spent a couple of minutes inspecting the rear wheel and brakes, but nothing seemed out of order, so I waved goodbye and headed home.


The next morning, I planned on a quick blat down the Peninsula just to blow a few more cobwebs – and possibly other road users – away. Just as I prepared to pull out of our driveway, the Boss Hoss lurched violently to one side. If I hadn’t had both feet planted firmly on the ground it would have tipped over.


Gingerly, I lent it on its sidestand and climbed off, looking to the rear when I noticed the wheel seemed to be at an odd angle. As I looked closer, and to my amazement, I realized that the entire drive-side wheel bearing had disappeared! Fine aluminium shavings were all over the wheel and tyre then I noticed some shiny metallic shrapnel on the driveway. As I bent down I realized I was looking at shattered pieces of the rear wheel bearing, which we had only yesterday relied on to support us as we wound the speedo off the clock.


As Kenny Rogers sang in The Gambler:


Every gambler knows

That the secret to survivin’

Is knowin’ what to throw away

And knowin’ what to keep


I decided right there I’d used up all my luck with the big black V8 hulk and it was time to call the importer and have him ship it over to his Perth factory.


Only a few weeks later, I heard he’d ridden it into the side of a truck at high speed. Both Boss Hoss, rider – and truck -- didn’t survive the impact …

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