Ever enviously watched motorbikes slip-streaming through traffic jams and wished you had the courage to ride instead of drive?
Dunedin designer Alex Hodge (23) has come up with a concept that incorporates the best of the two and four-wheeled worlds. Dubbed the Hawk, the futuristic-looking vehicle sits on three wheels and promises the performance and excitement of driving a motorbike, coupled with the comfort and safety of a car.
The Hawk was a side project completed in Mr Hodge's last year of studying product and industrial design at Otago Polytechnic.
After receiving positive responses from the public at his 2006 end-of-year exhibition, his foray into automotive design was consigned to his portfolio website, where it lay dormant until late last year.
"Recently it has just exploded internationally,'' Mr Hodge, a product designer at Escea, said.
He started receiving about 10 emails a day. The general gist of inquiries was, "Where can we find one?''
Performing the contemporary litmus test of popularity, he entered the words Hodge and Hawk into a Google search and was overwhelmed to see more than 300,000 results appear.
"It was a bit daunting feeling that famous,'' he said, with a laugh.
International motoring websites had swooped on the Hawk and it even received a mention in a Dutch Playboy magazine, Mr Hodge said.
A major thrill was his concept appearing on the Top Gear website, in an article predicting that 2009 will be the year the three-wheeler returns.
"So go on, Mr Hodge. Build it,'' Top Gear urged.
Unfortunately for prospective buyers and Mr Hodge, the Hawk exists purely in a digital realm.
"It's not real but I would like it to be.''
He contacted the Otago Daily Times hoping more exposure could lead to the "right person'' seeing it and wanting to develop a prototype, and eventually producing the vehicle.
"To me it's just a showcase of what I can do, and I had no intention of it going further than that, but it seems the rest of the world wants to see it on the roads,'' Mr Hodge said.
Powered by a Honda RC51 V-twin 999cc engine, with a redline of 10,000rpm, the concept has a theoretical top speed of 233kmh, Mr Hodge said.
It perches on three 19inch lightweight alloy wheels and has twin rear and front disc brakes.
"[The] fibreglass outer shell and alloy chassis give you the aerodynamics needed to achieve the level of performance you expect from a roadbike; with the comfort of a car,'' he said.
The concept's interior has moulded plastic and leather trim, a steering wheel (not handlebars), and a wrap-around LCD screen providing digital information.
A one-person-only cabin, its down side is that the dimensions - about the length of a motorbike and the width of a Smart car - do not allow for any luggage space.
Mr Hodge has already had success with another of his projects, a high-end paintball gun.
In 2007 he started freelance work as a product designer for Gun-limited, a UK based company producing the guns and accessories for its Vanguard brand. The company now makes 700 guns a month, Mr Hodge said.
"There's no reason the Hawk couldn't do the same thing.''
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