My conversation with Steve Wellman as we stood in the sweltering Bonneville heat was like facing machine gun fire. I was not totally prepared. Thoughts, ideas and visions of the future were shot at me thousands of ideas per minute, propelled by the passion of someone whose brain runs on high octane dreams. I couldn’t help but think that if this creativity and drive were focused, if this rate of fire could be harnessed, the effect would lay waste to any foe.
Well, it has been focused. The bike is called the Nagual. Bonneville is the enemy.
“Nagual” is the Aztec name for a sorcerer or shapeshifter and like it’s mythical namesake, the motorcycle’s origins were forged in the magic of Steve’s imagination. His studio displays his other design talents: race car bodywork, surfboards and golf clubs.
But it has always been about the motorcycle. Steve met his first race car when he was 6 years old and since then, the Nagual has been building itself in his subconscious. For decades it lived and grew in his imagination as he built it and re-built it until like a siren, he could no longer resist the pull. Now, he decided, is the right time to bring the bike to life.
Modifying an existing bike was never even a consideration, so the Nagual is a clean sheet design. It begins with a custom aluminum frame of single spar design that traces a clean line back to an extended swingarm, making the bike a lengthy eight feet. The tank cover and seat are one piece of carbon fiber, as are the fenders. The engine and its custom covers hang artistically beneath with form and function.
As I laid hands on the bike in Steve’s garage in Wenatchee, Washington, the immediate impression is that this bike is pure in its focus and its elements. Nothing is cheap, frivolous or superficial. The TIG welds are beautiful. Carbon fiber gleams with poise and purpose. It is literally, Steve’s dream come true.
The current powerplant is a turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa motor tuned to 350 horsepower with the goal to punch a massive hole in the Bonneville atmosphere deep past 200 mph.
“Bonneville is death, but it’s extremely powerful and I am just enthralled by it,” Steve said. “There’s death out there. People have died trying, attempting to do something great. That attracts me. Not to die, but the fact that you would lay it all on the line. That people would risk everything. Typically, people would call you crazy.”
Bonneville attracts crazy. However, after his Bonneville attempt in 2020, one might think the story would end there. Mission accomplished. Dream come true, right?
Not exactly. Bonneville is only the beginning, merely the proving ground for a production of Nagual street bikes. Production bike? Indeed. Steve’s dream is to see the streets of America teeming with his creation.
“If I use the Hayabusa motor, everyone’s going to think it’s just a kit bike. That’s not what I want. That’s not me,” Steve said. “The production bike plans call for a 2000cc V-4 powerplant housed in the same frame.”
Picture this: the streets of your hometown teeming with American-designed and built eight feet long brutes of aluminum and carbon fiber capable of Bonneville speeds, or scorching quarter-mile times right from the showroom floor. Yet, civil enough to ride to your local cafe for your daily dose of caffeine and motorcycles. It’s the bike you (and everyone else) will stare at as you sip your coffee at the sidewalk cafe.
The thought of Nagual bikes roaming the street, seat pans only 26” off the asphalt, gleaming aluminum beam frames and beautifully TIG welded swingarms reflecting the morning sun should make any motorhead grab their wallet.
I saw the blueprints for the production V-4 motor, but when I asked for horsepower numbers Steve just smiled, meaning its current specs are well beyond that of the temporary Hayabusa powerplant. But the best part of the Nagual? Not the horrendous power, not the well proportioned and stretched chassis, not the gleaming aluminum frame and carbon fiber.
It’s American. With the V-4 powerplant in place post-Bonneville testing, it will be a half a V-8 powered gun of all-American craftsmanship from a country in the middle of a resurgence of the 60’s horsepower wars as Dodge Hellcats, Shelby Mustangs and mid-engine Corvettes prowl the streets. But what about the motorcycles? Where are they?
Leave that to Steve Wellman.
“It is the supercar of motorcycles,” Steve said.
We plan to keep in touch with Steve, follow his “Burt Munro” style dream as it hopefully becomes reality. This could get quite interesting…