If the lines of the bike featured here ring a bell, it’s likely you’re thinking of the ‘Bronco Racer’ that was featured in JUST BIKES back in 2015.
That bike, in turn, was inspired by the Lotus C-01 concept that debuted in early 2014, but disappeared off the radar soon after.
Frustrated, as many others were, by the C-01 never advancing past the rendering stage, the crew at Smoked Garage in Bali and Sovereignty Smoked Motorcycles in Brisbane (now known as Smoked Garage Australia) decided if Lotus weren’t going to build the bike, they’d do it themselves!
The Bronco Racer (so named because it was bought by Brisbane Broncos star Josh McGuire partway through the build) was the result. A radical departure from the late-model Kawasaki ER-6n it was based on, the full story on that build is covered in JUST BIKES #316.
That bike created a lot of buzz, with interest from around Australia, as well as motorcycle and lifestyle magazines worldwide.
For all the innovation in its custom frame, bespoke swingarm, hand-beaten aluminium body and cooling system, the Bronco Racer did have a few flaws, so when it came time to build a second bike in the same style, Smoked Garage knew they could make this one better.
As Shane Covill, the boss of Smoked Garage Australia explained, the biggest knock on the Bronco Racer from armchair critics back then concerned the bike used for the build.
“A lot of comments were made around why we used a smaller capacity [650cc] bike for the Bronco, so of course we had to ramp it up for the next one,” Shane laughed.
While the Brisbane arm of Smoked Garage do plenty of projects themselves, from minor modifications to ground-up builds, the Bali workshop has the runs on the board with this particular type of custom, so they were entrusted with building the successor to the Bronco Racer.
The initial problem was that large capacity street bikes aren’t exactly thick on the ground in Bali. If a 125cc tiddler was required, Smoked would have had millions to choose from! However, after a bit of searching, a potential donor was found.
“We happened upon a Speed Triple with low kms that was in good condition - the rest is history.”
That base unit was a 2010 version of Triumph’s powerful naked, and with 94.9kW and 105Nm from its 1050cc three-cylinder engine, it’d be sure to silence the haters.
The increase in capacity – an extra 400cc compared to the Bronco Racer – would bring obvious advantages in terms of acceleration and top speed, but with respect for the Triumph’s corner-carving abilities, some of the changes made to the previous build were dropped for this version, which has been named ‘Ghost’.
It doesn’t look it, but Ghost is quite authentic mechanically to its Triumph base. That extends from the engine and 6-speed gearbox to the electrics, swingarm, wheels and a number of other components.
Beating the Heat
That bodywork is what makes the Ghost look so cool, but unfortunately, looking cool and being cool are two different things. Even with a modern liquid-cooled engine, heat retention under all-enveloping bodywork like this is a problem.
That made itself known early on in the Bronco Racer project, but lessons learned there resulted in solutions applied to the Ghost.
“Heat extraction was a big issue,” Shane explained. “On this build, we changed the vents around to force more air into the body, and fitted an extra thermo fan - it now has two - to aid hot air extraction.”
On the Bronco Racer, rear-facing scoops pulled air out, but on the Ghost, forward-facing scoops suck cool air in, working more effectively without comprising the slick lines of the body.
Obviously, Bali is a good pace to test the heat dissipation qualities of such a bike and it performed well there, then exceeded expectations when put to a similar test in Brisbane, but more on that later.
New Body, New Bones, Same Agility
The bodywork, including the fuel tank, ducktail, headlight shroud and front guard, are all metal and all formed by hand. Critics may be thinking that much aluminium must add a lot of weight and negatively affect handling, but Shane says that’s only partly true.
“While heavy, the centre of gravity is quite low, so it’s relatively easy to handle. Really, the Ghost is no more difficult to master than a typical sports bike.”
Fibreglass or carbon fibre would obviously make for a lighter bike, and Shane adds that there are plans to use the latter in future builds.
Under that hand-formed aluminium body, there’s not a lot of the original Triumph frame left. This follows the template set by the Bronco Racer.
“The original neck tube, swingarm and the swingarm mounts are all that remain – really, the entire frame was reconstructed.”
That was done by the Smoked Garage crew under the direction of project manager Nicko Eigert and master fabricator Gus Wi. You may not be able to see it, but that new frame was executed to a high standard, with its quality verified by an independent engineer in Queensland.
Following the lessons learned with the cooling, similar knowledge was applied to the bike’s geometry and general configuration.
The Bronco featured a shallow rake and custom swingarm that allowed for an increase in rear tyre size from 160mm to 240mm: “That made it great for cruising, but not so good through the twisties,” Shane laughed.
To make the Ghost handle in a fashion similar to the Triumph it’s based on, the rake is less extreme and the swingarm is stock.
“We opted to not increase the width of the rear wheel/tyre and retain the single sided swingarm.
“Not having the big rear wheel, it handles tenfold better than the Bronco - it’s much easier to throw around corners!”
Aiding that handling is an Ohlins suspension upgrade at both ends (in place of the Showa factory set-up) and a set of stickier Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres, while Brembo calipers on the factory discs handle the stopping.
Add Ons and Upgrades
As mentioned, the Ghost remains largely authentic to its Street Triple base mechanically. A Power Commander has been added to the 1050cc triple, but the engine internals and cooling system are unchanged.
That bodywork did require a change to the exhaust system, though, which like the body, was made in-house.
The rearsets and clip-on bars have been completely scratch-built, with the alcantara and leather custom saddle done in-house, too. In fact, everything was done by the talented crew at Smoked Garage in Bali – nothing was farmed out.
Less obvious bespoke touches including hand-turned bushings, covers and end caps in brass and aluminium.
LED lighting has been added at both ends, including the very subtle tail light, with the indicators better integrated on this build, too.
The levers, switchgear and instrumentation are the Triumph originals.
Perfect Paint and a Distinguished Ride
Close to the completion of this six-month project, the crew at Smoked Garage had to start thinking about the finish they’d apply to the Ghost. The body of the Bronco Racer had been left almost entirely in raw aluminium, but it was decided this build needed something more sophisticated.
“The boys sketched up around 40 different designs before falling in love with the white, blue and black scheme it eventually became,” Shane explained.
You may think that the predominantly white scheme led to the ‘ghost’ moniker, but Shane said it came from the fact that when people saw it riding past, the expression on their face was like they’d seen a ghost!
With its distinctive stripes, there are touches of the iconic Martini livery in the design, as well as ’70s muscle cars, while one of the JUST BIKES crew described it as Tron lightcycle meets a Scalextric track!
Shane said that achieving the finished result was a 14-stage process, all painstakingly done by hand.
There’s no denying that the paint – both the choice of colours and their application - looks great, with the bare metal inserts between the stripes adding a real sleek, almost ‘liquid’ look to the bike that mirrors its smooth performance on the road.
Speaking of road performance, the Ghost’s first Aussie test once it arrived from Bali was on last September’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. It drew plenty of attention, as you’d expect, but the bike also performed admirably, which the local Smoked crew were much more pleased about.
“It was a typically hot Brisbane day, so we were worried it would suffer and overheat at some point,” Shane recalled.
“But even though it was a good two hours’ ride at relatively slow speed, the Ghost was actually more than up to the task and didn’t suffer any cooling issues at all.”
The first Smoked build in this style was good, but this one is undeniably better. As that level of finish, style and finesse improves, we’re looking forward to seeing the next machine to roll out of the Smoked Garage!