Malcolm Oastler, former technical head of several Formula One teams including BAR and Jaguar, nowadays spends a quieter existence in the NSW Blue Mountains. His brother Mark was founding editor of our sister magazine, Australian Muscle Car but you can’t k
“The idea for the bike was born out of a search for a Triumph Thruxton in a “bikes for sale” mag. As it happened, there wasn’t a single Thruxton in the mag, but there was a picture of a bloke sitting on a bike with a longitudinal flathead V8 in it. A bit more searching around revealed that the bike was some hideous chopper thing, but by then I had the idea of a V8 Café Racerish bike in my head, so it had to happen. I was extremely lucky to find a Simca Vedette engine for sale. They’re not common! The Simca engine is based on the Ford V8-60, but when Simca bought Ford France in the 60s, they refined the engine and put it in their version of a Yank Tank, the Simca Vedette. Most of the rest of the bike is a BMW R100/7, cut in half and rebuilt around the engine. I found just the right bike locally, with the tallest final drive and twin disc front brakes. The frame is now in two halves, built onto the front and rear of the engine, and is vastly stiffer and stronger than the original. There was a lot of engineering and fabrication to do to get it all to work and be nice and tidy. I made the tank, bars, sump, bellhousing, flywheel, radiator, seat, exhausts, and all of the extra little bits needed to finish a one off project like this. The engine has had a full rebuild, with new pistons, rings and bearings, and now displaces 2.5 litres. The heads got a shave, which brought the compression ratio from a lazy 7.2 up to a screaming 8.5:1.
When I first rode it, it wasn’t that flash, to be honest. But over a couple of years I’ve refined it, and now it’s lovely. Silky smooth, and goes anywhere in 5th. Uprated springs and shocks were a big improvement. It weighs in at just on 300kg, and has an engineering certificate and full NSW rego. There is more on YouTube, if you search Rat Café V8 bike. However, like all of my projects, I don’t use them once they’re finished (I only did 250km on it last year), because I get busy on the next one. So now it’s for sale to someone who might like to ride it a bit more often! It’s quite a head turner, and rarely gets parked without being photographed. I can be contacted at [email protected]pond.com for details. I’m looking for $32k for it.”
Malcolm Oastler with his “Rat Café V8”. Quite a step from svelte F1 machinery.