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Hesketh Vampire

Hesketh Vampire

May 31,2021


Hesketh Vampire

Hesketh's ambitous attempt to produce the ultimate Brit twin

This rare Hesketh V1000 popped up on the auction circuit in 2021, with Donington in Melbourne, Australia.

Hesketh Motorcycles was established by the third Baron of Hesketh, aka Lord Hesketh, in the early eighties. He was better known for his 1970s foray into Formula One, setting up a team without outside sponsorship. Its most famous driver was James Hunt, who won the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix with the crew.

Here's Ian Falloon's backgrounder:

Hesketh dreamed of another Brough Superior or Vincent Black Shadow, and envisaged a two-wheeled Aston Martin, classy, expensive, and built to last.

Hesketh Vampire

Like Ducati, Hesketh decided on a 90-degree V-twin, offering perfect primary balance, excellent cooling, and a low centre of gravity when mounted in a frame with the front cylinder almost horizontal. At launch, the Hesketh was a more up-to-date in design.

Hesketh vampire

Designed by Weslake and displacing 992cc (95 x 70mm), the massive vertically-split sand-cast crankcases contained a one-piece forged crankshaft. The cylinder heads featured four valves per cylinder (set at a Cosworth-like 40-degree included angle), with chain-driven double overhead camshafts.

The primary drive to the five-speed gearbox was by helical gear, and the lubrication system was by a semi-wet sump type.

A pair of Dell’Orto 36mm carburettors fed the cylinders, and each bench-tested engine produced between 79 and 86 horsepower at 6500rpm. 

Supporting this imposing engine was a nickel-plated frame constructed in Reynolds 531 chrome molybdenum tubing, long recognised in Britain as the finest frame material.

Like the Ducati twin, the engine was incorporated as a stressed member with Marzocchi suspension; a 38mm front fork with Brembo brakes, and a pair of Strada shock absorbers.

Hesketh Vampire

Loyalty to British products included composite Astralite wheels, a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear.

Rolling on a 1511mm wheelbase, and weighing 250kg, the Hesketh was no lithe race replica, but a luxury grand tourer par excellence. A close look at every component revealed that this was a machine built to last and, if you ever managed to wear an engine, out eight sizes of piston overbore were available.

In 1981 a purpose-built factory was built in Daventy, with 100 examples of the V1000 produced before Hesketh went into receivership. 

Hesketh Vampire

In 1982 production moved back to Easton Neston, under a new company, Hesleydon, to produce the Vampire. Designed with export in mind following requests for a touring version, only 50 examples of the fully-faired Vampire were produced.

John Mockett designed the fairing at the MIRA wind tunnel, the fairing body a hand laminated GRP box structure.

The updated engine was initially titled the EN10 (Easton Neston one/0), becoming the EN11 and eventually EN12 for the Vampire. These updates incorporated many improvements to overcome reliability problems, mainly to the main bearings and oil cooling system.

Unfortunately, spiralling costs and a general downturn in motorcycle sales in the early 1980s saw the market for expensive hand-built classic motorcycles disappear. The Hesketh remains a legacy of the British motorcycle industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

Hesketh engine numbers began at 0050 and the first V1000 was this example, sold to Eddie Faulkner (Velocette Owners Club PRO) in Northampton on 10 February, 1982. The V1000 shown here was subsequently converted to the later Vampire and EN10 engine configuration at Easton Neston.

A special edition Hesketh 24 was produced in 2014...see the profile here.

Hesketh continues to exist today, offering a single-cylinder 450 road bike and recommissioning services for the original twins.

Hesketh Vampire

See our Hesketh 24 backgrounder


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