Continued from Locost, the introduction.
I had just joined the Locost USA forums and found not only a wealth of information about building a Locost, but also a bunch of information about building so-called “non-traditional” vehicles. Ooooh! Some of these were Locost-based vehicles, but used a FWD drive train from a donor vehicle placed behind the driver to make a mid-engined rear-wheel-drive vehicle (also known as an MR layout). The alluring logic of that is that, as I’ve noted previously, the number of available FR layout, manual transmission vehicles is extremely small as compared to when (and where) the Lotus Seven was first designed. Being able to chose a vehicle with front wheel drive (FF layout) provides one with infinitely more opportunities in terms of donor vehicles. What’s more, a FWD drive train combines the transmission, drive shaft, and axle into a transaxle, saving precious space and weight on your vehicle. Well, that sounds like a slam-dunk decision, doesn’t it?
It did – until I learned about BECs – Bike Engined Cars.
If you are even moderately familiar with motorcycles, you have probably heard of the Suzuki Hayabusa. If not, allow me to sum up: stupid fast. No, really – more power than a typical family sedan, with a top speed of 300 km/h. Yeah – stupid fast. Anyhow, apparently a lot of supersport bikes like the Hayabusa are wrecked by riders who get in over their head, creating a healthy supply of high-power, high-revving motorcycle engines to be had at very affordable prices (encased in broken plastic and bent metal that used to be an expensive sport bike). What’s even better, a full motorcycle engine/transmission combination can weigh just half of what a typical four-cylinder car engine/transmission weighs, all while putting out significantly more power (and with a much higher redline to boot – if you like hearing an engine scream with power is something you like, of course).
As much as my enthusiasm could really run away on me at this point, I do manage to moderate myself. Seeing as I’ve never in my life undertaken such a large project, I know that there are going to be barriers to not only starting, but finishing it as well. In order to maximize my chance of success, I decide that the path forward is the one that is well-traveled, with lots of people having gone before me, leaving me lots of documentation, pictures, and feedback I can use. To that end, I decide that using a Mazda Miata donor is the way forward. There are 20 years’ worth of Miatas out there, and are the hands-down favourite donor vehicle for North American Locost builds. Miatas even have a rear subframe that can be unbolted from the donor vehicle and into a Locost frame, further simplifying the build. Great! How much simpler could it get? How about twice as simple?
One of my co-workers is a motorcycle guy. (Actually, there’s a bunch of them at work, but only one is within my immediate work group.) He’s generally an all-around car guy, what with his parents having built a street rod, so he’s a good resource to chat with about such things. I’d been keeping him abreast on my thoughts on building a Locost. One day he puts forward a suggestion I’d read about before, and had put aside; build a cockpit on the front of a motorcycle frame to build a reverse trike (a.k.a. delta trike). Instead of selecting a high-powered, -revving, and -maintenance sport bike, I could choose a sport touring bike instead, which would give me slightly lower power and revs, in exchange for something designed for long-distance cruising, comfort, and reliability.
Yeah, OK… so I don’t have to live with a caffeinated hyperactive teenager. That’s one plus… and soon I realize there is another huge one; halving the amount of work I’d have to do to build a vehicle!