Tim Cameron and the legendary V-Rex (top) and renderings of Tim's latest project (above), the supercharged BMW Shadow Boxer. Damn cool, eh...?
Remember the Travertson V-Rex? Sure you do. The futuristic-looking cruiser came out a few years ago and pretty much rocked the establishment with its outrageous, over-the-top styling. We loved this bike, which was designed by one very talented Aussie – Tim Cameron. So when we recently stumbled upon his latest design sketches for a supercharged BMW, we thought this is a good time to catch up with Tim for a quick chat. Here are some excerpts from what he had to say to Faster and Faster:
On whether the V-Rex made him rich and famous
Hah! Rich and famous! Yeah well... not quite but it came close! For a while there it looked like it was going to be in Transformers 2 – the toy deal alone would have been incredible – but alas, it didn't happen. The V-Rex did however make it to the silver screen with a bit part in Fast and Furious 4, and has also starred in a US TV ad for Dell computers.
I got a lot of work from the publicity surrounding the V-Rex, including design work for an electric motorcycle and a second and third machine for Travertson. A lot of the work was not at all bike-related, which I don't mind – it is a lot of fun designing anything. I've done such things as Cigar cases, 3D printers, wall murals, desk lights and some model toys, and had a blast!
On his love for bikes and how he got started with motorcycle design
I fell in love with motorcycles at age 14, on a moonlit ride through a lonely forest, on a dented and faded borrowed 100cc trail bike in the middle of the Australian wilderness. Since I turned 'legal,' I have always owned at least one bike. I ride almost every day. I stumbled into motorcycle design when I started learning 3D computer graphics and modelling back in the late ’80s, on the earliest programs, for which no formal training courses existed. I decided I needed a subject for modelling, which I would not give up on, as it was very tough to learn, and so started building from the gigantic pile of sketches I had been keeping in my desk drawer.
The bike I dreamed about as a kid was the first Kawasaki Z900 in original burnt orange livery. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I remember my big brother going for a test ride on one as a trade up for his bright orange Kawasaki 500 Mach III – a scary machine. The Mach III (love that name) was my very first encounter with a bike, when my brother took me for a couple of rides that I can still remember.
On his favourite bikes from the design perspective, and his thoughts on the evolution of motorcycle design
Some of my design favourites include the Triumph Hurricane, Kawasaki Z1, Suzuki GT380, Honda CX500, Britten V1000, Ducati 916, Gilera CX125, Yamaha MT-03, KTM Duke 250 and Ducati Paso.
The evolution of motorcycle design is being driven by one main set of factors – computer software, and more importantly, the skill base of digital-savvy designers and engineers to take these new tools to amazing new levels and places. The way seems to now exist for a more direct line from what is in the designer's head to what is rolling down the street, which is very encouraging!
On hybrid and electric bikes
I like hybrids, full electric not so much. I designed a hybrid motorcycle called the Cafe-E, based around the Toyota Prius battery pack, and I believe Yamaha built a prototype based on a scooter platform. Utilising an I.C.E. developed specifically to charge the batteries is an obvious sort of a setup to me. Pure battery alone seems rather impractical at present.
On European vs Japanese motorcycle design
Europe rules. The thought that Japan would one day be eclipsed in motorcycle powerhouse is an incredible thought, but every time I walk into a Triumph, Ducati, BMW or Guzzi dealer the evidence is right there on the showroom floor. I see design that is so much more coherent, integrated and innovative than anything coming out of Japan right now. I would buy the contents of the nearest Triumph dealer if funds allowed, having ridden the entire range and literally found it impossible to choose one over another. BMW's S1000RR came out of nowhere to outgun the Japanese in their own show and made it look easy, and Ducati constantly surprises with shrewd new extensions of their range.
On the bikes that he currently rides, and on electronic safety aids on bikes
Having slightly bagged the Japanese manufacturers, here's my hypocrisy – I ride a ’03 Kawasaki Z1000 almost every day. It has 130,000km on it and has seen dirt roads, mountain snows, horizontal rain and burning heat. I love 'naked' bikes, when I was a kid bikes without fairings were just 'bikes.'
I've ridden a wide selection of styles of motorcycle, the most recent being some Victory cruisers. I'm really at home on a pared-down streetbike. The cruiser is too restrictive in weight and maneuverability. I had an SRX600 thumper (second-generation, monoshock) and it influenced my design work by being something of incredible simplicity and really good to look at. I'm not big on ABS and traction control, but if it means keeping the safety nazis from banning bikes outright, then so be it.
On the future of motorcycle design
The market is currently full of excellent machines. I think technically, there's not a lot of room left, but there is much more road to travel stylistically. Design work has had to be much sharper to get more prolonged model runs when there's not a lot of cash to replace models with clean sheet designs every three years. I think it will continue to evolve this way with models staying on the market for longer and longer periods. Of course there will be more and more electronics I guess, which to me is a little disappointing – I ride my bike to get away from all my smartarse electronic gadgets!
I think the use of new tech such as 3D printing could bring new builders into the market, where prototyping for production can be accomplished far cheaper than in the past, and allows incredible freedom in design. Perhaps more bespoke models and one offs will be possible. I also think that a lot of cross-pollination could occur across motocross, streetfighter and tourer, which has already given us such interesting niche markets as the supermotard.
On the ‘dream bike’ that he’d like to build, in the absence of any constraints
I think the VR-3 design would be my choice. The money to realize some of the wilder aspects of the design, such as the moving bodywork and using a radical bespoke powerplant like a square four, I think would be about it as far as ultimates go.
On his latest design, the BMW Shadow Boxer concept
Once upon a time, in 1928, a chap by the name of Ernst Henne supercharged a BMW R37. This machine took 76 world records and at the end of the 6 year development cycle, it was good for an astounding 216km/h. I didn't know this was part of BMW history until I looked it up after this project [his latest project, the BMW Shadow Boxer concept bike] had been completed. All I thought was that the boxer engine, so long a part of BMW's heritage, would benefit nicely from being bored out say to 1.5-litres and having a nice, big supercharger bolted on. Little did I know that this marriage had already taken place.
As the design unfolded, it was a natural requirement to rotate the entire engine 30 degrees to open up the space behind the engine, extending beyond the swing arm pivot – a great place to install the blower, gearing it conveniently straight off the back of the engine.
I've spent plenty of hours riding big Beemers and I have great respect for the layout, but I've always wanted to have a bit of a go with the boxer design-wise, having enjoyed other attempts such as the outrageous hub-centre steering Harrier from Swedish builder Stellan Egeland.
We thank Tim for taking the time to talk to Faster and Faster, and wish him all the best for his future work. Do visit Tim’s website for more of his work