Much ink, both physical and digital, has been spilled about the twisty, turny tale of the great British hope, Hesketh Motorcycles over the years. The 1970s and ‘80s were a wild time over in the island kingdom, where Britain’s previous homegrown motorcycle firm dominance was in a massive state of disarray. As Japan’s motorcycle industry grew in most ways that mattered (by numbers, reliability, and affordability for customers, to name some big ones), former Formula 1 team owner Lord Thomas Alexander Fermor-Hesketh decided that he couldn’t just let the British motorcycle industry go quietly into that good night.
In 1980, hewing to the grand tradition of British chassis building partnerships that sprang up pretty much since motorcycling existed Hesketh teamed up with an engine builder called Weslake to supply a brand-new, 1,000cc V-twin design for Hesketh’s use. Lord Hesketh was impatient, though—and the resulting Hesketh V1000 ended up reinforcing the already-existing bad perceptions of the state of British-made reliability at that time. As a result, Hesketh quickly went bankrupt
Just two years later, Lord Hesketh somehow had the wherewithal to buy back the rights to the bankrupt company that bore his name, angering a number of his early financial backers who’d lost money in the process. Was that why Hesketh chose to rename its re-edited version of the V1000 as the Vampire? There’s probably no way to know for sure, but the name does feel a bit cheeky, given historic context.
Gallery: 1985 Hesketh Vampire
In any case, the Hesketh Vampire seemingly didn’t have a much happier ending than the V1000 had, just a couple of years earlier. This 1985 Hesketh Vampire, which auction site Collecting Cars says is believed to be the last one ever produced, is one of only 40 believed to have been made. (Records aren’t crystal-clear, so while the number produced is known to have been low, that nice, round ‘40’ appears to be a best guess rather than set in stone.)
It’s powered by that same Weslake 1,000cc V-twin engine, which made a claimed 82 horsepower and 78 pound-feet of torque when new. It’s mated to a five-speed gearbox, and each Hesketh Vampire was built by hand in the UK. This particular bike has been dry-stored for ‘many years,’ and the seller had the engine recently recommissioned by the existing Hesketh Motorcycles (now under different ownership in 2023).
This particular unit has just 4,326 miles on the clock, and is currently located in West Sussex. It’s had a respray, but the seller notes some blistering, cracking, and paint damage from the cover it was stored under for years, which was apparently not breathable. Some pitting and light corrosion are visible on some parts of the bike, although that’s not entirely surprising given its age. It does not have a current Ministry of Transport (MOT) certificate, so anyone who intends to ride this bike in the UK will need to obtain one.
As of April 10, 2023, the bid is currently up to £6,000, which converts to about $7,419. There are two days left on this auction, which ends on April 12, 2023. You’ll find a link to the auction in our Sources if you’re interested in checking it out or bidding.