Motorcycles are unique conveyances defined largely by their engines – they are motorcycles, after all. The choice of engine in a bike dictates the chassis that must hold it, which has a direct input on the size and weight of the vehicle. The engine also – more than any other motor vehicle – provides a disproportionate amount of character to the riding experience.
Of all the motorbikes that have roamed the world’s roads, almost all of them have engines with four cylinders or less. A few six-cylinder bikes (from Honda, Benelli, Kawasaki and BMW) have added special flavor through the years, but they are costlier and more difficult to package.
Sixes are sweet, but perhaps no other engine configuration is as appreciated in America (and Australia, too) like a V-8. For decades we’ve loved ’em in our muscle cars, and their allure also extends to pretty much any vehicle with a V-8 powerplant. We love the way they sound, whether from the traditional cross-plane crank design most familiar to us in American cars to the more exotic flat-plane crank layout like in a Ferrari V-8.
Earlier this week we reported on the Australian-built PGM V8 that uses a pair of Yamaha R1 cylinder banks to create a 2.0-liter V-8, and that brought up the subject of other motorcycles that have been powered by V-8 engines. Of the ones I found, I’ve culled them down to my 10 favorites. Bonus points for not using an existing car engine, so all but two on this list feature motors that were engineered mostly or entirely by their creators. I’ve included video clips of each (but one) so your ears can appreciate the engines as much as your eyes will.