Campagna Motors' T-Rex has Corvette styling and a Kawasaki engine that helps it hit 60 mph in about four seconds. (SHEILA VEMMER / STAFF)
Andre Morissette, president of Campagna Motors, drives a T-Rex in Ashburn, Va. (SHEILA VEMMER / STAFF)
It looks like a souped-up golf cart crashed into a Cessna and then someone tried to put it back together. It's called a T-Rex, but there's nothing prehistoric about this three-wheeled genre-busting cycle.
There are plenty of surprises with the T-Rex: It's street-legal in the U.S., for instance, but not in some parts of its native Canada. It will go 140 mph, courtesy of a four-stroke inline, 197-horsepower Kawasaki engine. It is a two-seater that costs $53,000 if you order it without the shiny chrome.
It is a roaring example of the industry trend of building cycles that are faster, meaner, leaner and more extreme. Manufacturers are adding wheels, bumping up horsepower and performance, and creating bikes that defy classification.
David Neault, a key engineer of the T-Rex and vice president of Campagna Motors, said that the rise of the "alternative" bike is a reflection of the changing tastes of the market.
"I think that people just want something new," he said. "For the last 10 years, it was the big chopper, with all the TV programs," such as TLC's hit show "American Chopper."
The motorcycle industry is vulnerable to the economy, and all segments of the market are down right now, Neault said, but those who are buying are looking for something different, more comfortable and safer.
"One of the good things is that your wife can sit side by side instead of being on the back," Neault said.
"Everything has been done with the bike, you know? Like with choppers," he said. "You can rake it, you can stretch it, you can do this and that. It's still going to be a bike."
But Shane "Hickory" Higgs, a former Marine gunnery sergeant and a member of The Proud Few Motorcycle Club in Waldorf, Md., says that traditional bikers look at this new breed of cycle as a novelty.
"People get nervous about two wheels because they think they're going to lose control of it," he says, "especially among newer riders."
These specialty machines will sell, he says, because "they're so new and futuristic looking, and that appeals to people."
"It's a fun, thrill-ride machine. It's a unique piece of art," said Andre Morissette, president of Campagna Motors. "It will give you the performances of a Formula car, right there on the street."
The T-Rex wasn't the first to break the motorcycle model, but it might be one of the flashiest to do so. It handles like a sports car — albeit a tiny one in which you sit about five inches off the ground — and it'll clock 60 mph in just shy of four seconds. Don't even think about racing one of these bad boys off the line in your Callaway Corvette. You'll get smoked.
Oh, and speaking of Callaway, its designer also penned the lines of the T-Rex. That explains the sleek fiberglass body panels and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
"The T-Rex has a full roll cage, it's got a wide stance, it's got a very low center of gravity," Morissette said. "This thing will behave like a street-legal go-kart on steroids. It will pull 1.3 Gs lateral in a curve."
It will also take you half an hour to get a tank of gas, he said — five minutes to fill up and 25 minutes to answer questions.
"If you don't want to be seen," he said, "don't buy one."
An early adopter and avowed fan of the bike — er, "vehicle" — is Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who said the T-Rex often gets more attention in public than he does.
"Everybody wants to know, what is that? Where'd you get it? How much did it cost?" he said.
Randle El, 30, added LED lights, carbon pipes, an iPod adaptor and custom wheels to his.
"I always wanted a motorcycle, but they're somewhat dangerous," he said, "so the next best thing is the T-Rex.
"The first time driving it was sweet," Randle El said. "You've got the wind blowing in your face, that kind of thing. You're driving much like a motorcycle, but you're sitting low, and to me, you've got a little bit more control and it's much safer."
"Have you had a chance to push the machine a little bit?" Morissette asked Randle El.
"Yeah, I got up to 110, and I did a couple of donuts," he said.
Here's what else you need to know: It's street legal (though you can expect some delays when you try to drive it through the front gate of your base or post), it's got a six-speed transmission, it's sold at a dozen dealerships in the U.S., you don't have to wear a helmet to drive it (but you should), and it has reverse.
"Most of the time when people see this thing," Randle El said, "they're just amazed at the vehicle and what it does."
So, despite its price tag, is the T-Rex a good choice for someone in the military?
"It's a vehicle for somebody who likes power," Morissette said. "I would say, yes, [it's perfect] for the military type. They're used to playing with big toys, they're used to playing with big machinery, they're used to having things that overpower everything else. That's what this is."