Governor Bob Riley Commemorates the First Production Motorcycle Ever to Be Made in Alabama - the 2006 F131 Confederate Hellcat At Barber Motorsports Park
|An Experienced Rider Himself, Governor Riley Celebrates the Unique Capabilities That Confederate Motor Company Adds to Alabama's Growing Automotive Industry by Riding the New Hellcat into the Dawn of Alabama's Automotive Design Era|
The first production motorcycle ever to be made in Alabama made its official debut at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham on Monday with Alabama Governor Bob Riley proudly atop. The youthful Republican, himself an experienced motorcycle rider, fired up the first official 2006 F131 Confederate Hellcat to be produced in the company's new Birmingham plant since Hurricane Katrina knocked its New Orleans plant out of commission last August. He then rode the visually stunning Hellcat around the Barber racetrack and into the press conference at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as a surprise for the assembled group of civic and business leaders.
"This is a fantastic bike and a world-class product," the Governor added. "Confederate's decision to move here demonstrates that Alabama is becoming the epicenter of new design. It also confirms that Alabama can be a leader in anything that we put our minds to."
"Eleven years ago, we did not produce a single automobile," the Governor noted, "but this year, we will produce nearly 800,000 of them. Alabama is the place to be if you want to be efficient and cost-effective. Confederate couldn't have made a better choice."
Since Mercedes chose Alabama over all other states for its first American manufacturing plant in 1989, Honda and Hyundai have followed suit with modern manufacturing plants of their own, along with Toyota's construction of a very prolific engine plant. But Confederate is the first automotive company to bring the special capability of automotive design to this New South state.
According to Confederate's founder and managing director, H. Matthew Chambers, "Our mission is to make history's greatest motorcycles by leading a new American design initiative that embraces principled individuality." This can only be accomplished, he believes, with courage and boldness and a willingness to rebel against ordinary designs that often are the result of design compromises and mass marketing. Thus the motto of this dedicated, small-batch manufacturing company - "The Art of Rebellion."
Judging by Confederate's successes to date, it seems that Chambers' unconventional cause is attracting an impressive group of supporters. These luxurious machines already are owned by such movie stars as Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, by rock star Bruce Springsteen, and by at least one crown prince. They have been called "the Lamborghini of motorcycles" by Cycle World and were featured in a list of "76 Perfect Things" in a special Style & Design issue of Men's Journal. Perhaps MPH magazine says it best: "You'd be hard-pressed to find any vehicle that delivers this level of pure cool."
Just this month, in fact, Tom Cruise, who owns an earlier Confederate model, requested a new Confederate F131 Hellcat for his dramatic entrance at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to promote his latest movie, Mission Impossible III. Photographs of the jubilant actor on the Hellcat quickly appeared across the country and around the world, thanks to Access Hollywood, USA Today and many other media outlets.
So unique and visually arresting are the designs of these Confederate bikes that they have been sought not only by motorcycle enthusiasts around the world, but by motion picture producers as well. Recently, a Hellcat F131 built in Birmingham returned from a film shoot in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the set of the new Jet Li/Jason Statham thriller, Rogue, which is scheduled for release next Spring. This historic Hellcat was also displayed at the Barber Motorsports Museum during the AMA SuperBike Classic.
The rebellion began in 1991 when Chambers, a Baton Rouge attorney, left his successful law practice to concentrate on making the finest motorcycles on the planet. He wanted a machine that was uniquely American, that redefined the concept of motorcycle design, and that spared no expense in execution and craft -- ideals manifest in tenets of the company's mission statement: Never compromise passion, time, intensity, or money. Invest absolute faith. Relish the challenge. Persist eternally. "The bike is distinctive," says Chambers. "It makes a statement about what American design can be."
Following the production of several Hellcat models and the creation of a striking new model christened the "Wraith," Chambers and Confederate faced their biggest challenge after the New Orleans factory was destroyed in August 2005. Ever persistent, Chambers and his closely-knit team began to seek a new base of operations for Confederate.
After conducting a nationwide search that included such cities as Atlanta, Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Dallas, Jackson, Pittsburgh, Shreveport and Santa Fe, the new Confederate plant opened this January on Birmingham's Southside at 2222 Fifth Avenue South, just across from WorkPlay Theatre. Chambers credits George Barber and the Barber Motorsports Park and Vintage Motorcycle Museum as key reasons for choosing Birmingham.
"The major catalyst for our decision to move Confederate Motor Company to Birmingham was George Barber and the remarkable museum he created. Mr. Barber is a design genius and his commitment to motorcycles is second to none," Chambers said. "The special team that he presented to us was by far the most professional group that we met anywhere across America, and it can only be described as a brain trust for automotive excellence."
"Since moving to Birmingham, we have found many more reasons that have reinforced our decision as a wise one," Chambers added. "Not only is there a tremendous tooling and manufacturing capability - where we can get new parts produced almost as quickly as we can design them - but we have also discovered tremendous business development and marketing support services in Birmingham. And we have uncovered some real gems in the city's quality of life - from WorkPlay and the growing loft developments downtown to the amazing Highlands Restaurant and the New Orleans-like quality of Southside. Our former home, New Orleans, is a very romantic and historic place, but Birmingham is clearly on its way to being 'way cool.'"
With a new home, a growing workforce, and the classic motorcycle collection inside the Barber museum to provide inspiration for future designs, Confederate is looking boldly ahead with the production of its first F131 Hellcat and B120 Wraith models. The fact that Confederate motorcycles are not only being manufactured - but designed - in Alabama makes this company unique in the state's automotive industry.
According to Ted vonCannon, president of the Metropolitan Development Board, "Confederate made a very important business decision - they literally shopped America and they chose Birmingham. The company brings renewed passion to our city and to our region - and signifies that some of the finest automobiles in the world are not only made in Alabama, but now are also designed in Alabama. Confederate's rebirth is testament to the courage of Matt Chambers and the Confederate team in the face of disaster, and to their uncompromising dedication to the vision that has created these wonderful machines and works of art."
Don Erwin, vice president of corporate development for The Barber Companies, described Confederate Motor Company as "a very high profile company with cutting edge design capabilities that take the automotive industry in Alabama up to a whole new level. The company also represents what we hope will be the beginning of a new design and development culture that will attract other automotive designers to our state. Confederate is the right first step in that direction, and we welcome the energy and excitement that the company brings."
Following the challenges the company has faced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Matt Chambers is more confident than ever about Confederate's future and the ongoing rebellion. "This was a great challenge," he says, "but we're back and this is a tremendous occasion. It just makes perfect sense to be here. We will overachieve."
Part of this overachievement is the new F131's radial twin engine, which allows for more powerful acceleration, higher revving ability, and a smoother ride - making the F131 the greatest model Confederate has produced to date. And the first official F131 is the bike that Alabama Governor Bob Riley was proud to commemorate. Due to some unexpected challenges in establishing its supply chain for several components in the new F131, the bike that the governor rode on Monday became even more historic than originally planned when he first agreed to ride it. As fate would have it, Jet Li and Jason Statham rode it first in Vancouver during the filming of Rogue, and Tom Cruise rode it in New York as his "paparazzi bike" for the Mission Impossible III premiere. And then on Monday, clearly the "way coolest" governor in the country officially rode the Confederate F131 Hellcat into history.
For more information about Confederate motorcycles, visit the company's website.