A Fighting Spirit is a new column featuring people, companies and products that may not be fighter-specific, but still, in some way embrace the streetfighter attitude. First up is a unique, high-end American motorcycle company with a passion to deliver raw power in a pure mechanical form: Confederate Motorcycles.
The first time I saw a picture of the Confederate Wraith, I was immediately drawn to its raw mechanical look and menacing presence. Its overall shape incites visions of a predatory cat, ready to pounce on its unsuspecting prey. The use of carbon fiber and unfinished metal adds stunning visual contrast and elegance. The Wraith’s new big brother —the Fighter—features a much more angular look, and a longer wheelbase better suited for fast launches and straight-line dominance.
From the moment Matt Chambers answered the phone, I was blown away by his enthusiasm. He has the aspect of a man who sincerely loves motorcycles and everything about them. We easily could have talked for hours about two-wheeled history—and come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we did. His passion for automobiles started in the ’50s, with a lust for American hot rods, and with his current daily driver being a Dodge SRT-8, I’m guessing that hasn’t changed much. He makes it very clear that he is a big fan of torque and leaving the line in a hurry, which is why they spend a lot of engineering time perfecting the launch of CM bikes.
To Chambers, a motorcycle is a lot more than a cleverly crafted arrangement of parts; “A motorcycle should have a living virility” he said. “It should feel like an extension of your soul.” Hearing him speak proudly of his designs, as if they were his children, one realizes that he puts a little bit of his soul into every bike they make.
While Confederate bikes are definitely not streetfighters by definition, they do incorporate a bit of the ‘fighting spirit. CM engineers work very hard to produce bikes with amazing power-to-weight ratios (Fighter: 2.68 lbs/hp; Wraith: 3 lbs/hp), they don’t have any bodywork, they are stripped of anything that isn’t essential, and they can reflect their owner’s individuality. How can a factory motorcycle reflect your individuality? Simple… these are NOT really factory bikes. Every Confederate bike is built to the customer’s specifications; that’s why most of the pictures you see online have variations from one to the next. There is no list of options or accessories available on the web site, simply because there are no set options—if you have something special you want done, they’ll do whatever they can to make it happen. The cool thing is, as time goes on, the look of the bike begins to transform. Its unfinished aluminum parts will develop a natural patina over time, and every one will be different. Everything you do and everywhere you go with your bike will affect the patina. You can lightly scrub the metal with fine steel wool, and the scrubbing pattern you use will affect the formation and overall look of the patina. Your bike will literally show its history with you as it ages, and no one will have one that looks exactly like yours.
The road has not been easy for Confederate, on Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, completely destroying the CM facility, and so much more, in its wake. Due to the sheer devastation—the loss of what took 14 years to build— anyone would have been tempted to call it quits, but Chambers and his Fighting Spirit pushed on. He searched for a suitable location to rebuild, but could not find anything near his New Orleans home. He finally decided to move the company to Birmingham, Alabama, home of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum—a source of constant inspiration for Chambers.
Positioning himself so close to such a remarkable, publicly accessible motorcycle collection would allow him to study styling cues and mechanical elements from some of the finest models in two-wheeled history. “Every motorcyclist should go,” Chambers said. It’s an opinion he takes to heart, as he regularly convinces CM clients to go to the museum with him for a personal tour of the current exhibits. The new location is also close to the Birmingham International Raceway (now closed), which was used extensively for real-world track testing of their motorcycles.
Throughout our conversation, Chambers enthusiastically and passionately spoke about motorcycles as if nothing else in the world mattered. This is no ordinary company, and these are not ordinary motorcycles. Each is built to the buyer’s specifications, with no two machines being exactly alike. As with anything custom, minor fit and finish issues may arise, but Confederate is quick to offer solutions and will help rectify the situation at no cost to the buyer, Chambers said.
The thing to remember is, these are not sportbikes, they are not choppers, they are not cruisers. They are motorcycles, built with one purpose in mind: having fun. And with a 120-cubic inch radial twin propelling you across the landscape, I’m guessing they do it quite well.