The mean dream machine

It's as much a work of art as a motorbike, but this fantasy could be yours for £150,000. Simon de Burton reports
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Indy Lifestyle Online

If you had £150,000 to spend on some new wheels, what would you buy? It won't get you into the ultra-car territory occupied by machinery such as the Pagani Zonda (£481,500) or the Spyker C8 (£187,500) but it is sufficient to secure, for example, a Bentley Continental GT with enough left over for a mid-range BMW sports saloon.

Alternatively you could go for a motorcycle, but even the most expensive production bikes struggle to break the £25,000 barrier, so in order to stop that money burning a hole in your pocket it would have to be something hand-built - such as the Dreamcraft Studios DCS-001 pictured here.

This remarkable example of 'rolling art,' which at first appears to be little more than an engine hanging from a pair of curving tubes with a wheel at each end, is the creation of Californian engineer Larry Nagel and designer Paul Yang.

Far from being long-time working partners, the pair only met in mid-2002 after Yang answered a postcard advertisement pinned on the noticeboard at the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California. It read: "Wanted: designer to help design a concept motorcycle. Call Larry, Dreamcraft Studios, 909 673 1588."

Despite never having worked on a motorcycle in his life, Yang answered the advertisement and Nagel agreed to look at his portfolio.

"I talked to other designers, but one look at Paul's portfolio blew me away and I asked him to help me create the bike. One of the reasons I wanted him to do it was that, because he had never designed a motorcycle before, he didn't have any barriers to overcome - he could just create whatever was in his imagination," said Nagel, who has been designing and building outrageous vehicles for more than 20 years.

His past projects include a machine called "Voltar," a full-sized version of a child's transformer toy which can 'grow' into an 80-foot monster which breathes fire through a pair of steel 'nostrils.' Nagel has also built a 300mph rocket-powered car and numerous drag racers and alcohol-fuelled 'funny cars.'

But having spent so long working alone, forming a partnership to create the DCS -0001 Saga was not easy.

"I only really understood how to work alone and, at first, I didn't really think I would be able to operate as part of a team, particularly with such a young designer," said Nagel.

"Paul kept coming out with all sorts of wild ideas which I said simply wouldn't work, but in the end, I just said dream up whatever you like and, if it's physically possible, I'll make it - after all, I did originally say that I wanted to create a motorcycle which would ignore every typical design idea, so it was never going to be easy."

The entire project was completed without the use of modern, computer-controlled tooling - the handlebars, for example began life as a length of three-quarter-inch diameter metal tubing which Nagel packed with sand before sealing at each end.

He then attached the tube to a hand-made jig and heated it up with a welding torch until the metal began to bend and droop in the right places - it took him just a few minutes, but the complex handlebar structure is perfectly symmetrical and appears to have been machine-made.

But probably the most remarkable feature of the 695-pound Saga, which took seven months to construct, is its lack of metal or plastic bodywork. It uses a frame which, as well as providing the structural backbone of the machine, also gives it its overall form.

"That lack of bodywork or sheetmetal is what makes the bike unique," explained Nagel.

"All other motorcycles and cars made today use some type of bodywork to cover their frame and other unsightly imperfections. By doing away with sheet metal we think we have changed the common perception of how a motorcycle should look."

Fuel is carried in a practical and good-looking transparent tank while the engine (a standard, factory-built Harley-Davidson unit has been used for reliability) hangs from the curving frame tubes supported by four massive, steel 'axles.' Three slim, metal rods cushioned by a trio of miniature, nitrogen-filled shock absorbers provide a vertical support for the seat which gives the impression that the rider is floating on air, while the triple headlamps and matching rear lights are blended into the frame tubes.

Those hand-made, crossover handlebars conceal all the machine's operating cables and electrical wiring,with the right-hand lever operating both the front and rear brakes simultaneously through a balancing valve system. The left-hand lever operates a hydraulic clutch, with up and down gear changes being made from a pair of thumb-activated buttons linked to a compressed air shifter.

As outrageous as the DCS - 001 Saga appears, it is said to be surprisingly practical and comfortable to ride - although its wildly angled and stretched front end must make it no fun at all on the twisting back roads beloved of sports bike riders.

Yet perhaps the strangest aspect of Nagel and Yang's project is the fact that they spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars building the motorcycle without ever having the intention to sell it. However, the pair debuted the machine at an open-air motorcycle show

on Rodeo Drive last summer and were immediately offered blank cheques by two separate, but equally wealthy, motorcycle fans who wanted an example of the bike for their collections.

Among the machine's admirers was a representative of the luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report which subsequently featured it in the latest edition of it's annual 'ultimate gift guide' with a $300,000 price tag.

Compared with some of the other items in the guide, however, the DCS-00 seems relatively cheap. The most expensive comes from the British designer Andrew Winch who is offering to create matching, bespoke interiors for a private jet and a yacht. The price? A cool $100 million - but you do get the jet and the yacht thrown in.

Feeling rich? Dreamcraft Studios has space for six 'rolling art' commissions in 2005. The firm can be contacted on 001 909 673 1588 or see www.dreamcraftstudios.com.

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