What is the vehicle with an engine with the most cylinders? I wouldn’t fault you for answering this question with a tank or perhaps an aircraft with a radial engine. However, you would be very far off. The vehicle with the Guinness World Record for “vehicle engine with the most cylinders” is a motorcycle, or, specifically, this motorcycle. The Tinker Toy is a gargantuan custom creation that’s all engine, featuring 48 cylinders from 16 Kawasaki motorcycles and 4.2-liters of displacement. This motorcycle is so ridiculous that it technically has 49 cylinders because it has a spare engine that works as a starter motor for the rest of the engine.
If you’re as excited as I am right now, I have even better news. On April 21, this motorcycle will roll across Bonhams’ “The Spring Stafford Sale – The International Classic MotorCycle Show” auction in the United Kingdom. Sadly, I must also deliver bad news, because the motorcycle is expected to sell for between $51,000 and $76,000. Honestly, this is an expensive machine that’s probably worth every penny. So, if you aren’t one of our more wealthy readers, you have until April to sell a kidney, rob a bank, or sell your erotic taillight collection until you get enough cash. Of course, one of those is illegal, so don’t tell us if you’ve shown someone that ribbed Mercedes-Benz taillight.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, every fact about this motorcycle is absurd. It weighs 1,300 pounds, it needs a spare two-stroke engine just to start, and its builder, Kawasaki fan Simon Whitelock, has been building nutty bikes for decades.
The Tinker Toy is a work of art and madness, but it is not the only Whitelock motorcycle build out there. Simon Whitelock used to be the owner and builder at Hertfordshire Superbike Centre and in a video, says he’s been building astounding motorcycles for decades.
In the video, below, Whitelock says his passion for creating custom Kawasakis started in 1985 when he attended the Kawasaki Triples Club Rally there in the UK. As the name would suggest, this was a rally for fans of three-cylinder Kawasaki motorcycles. Some of Kawasaki’s most famous classic motorcycles, including the S1 Mach I and the H2 Mach IV, were all triples, and they have devoted owners all over the world. The Kawasaki Triples Club still runs rallies today!
Whitelock says he’s been going to the rally since 1985 and sometimes, someone would show up with a wild custom bike. This inspired Whitelock, himself a fan of Kawasaki triples, to turn classic Kawasakis into other, weirder motorcycles. He started by turning a Kawasaki triple into an inline four. Then, his obsession only grew from there.
As Whitelock explains, after creating the inline-four triple, he then combined the engines of three triples together to create a “triple-triple” 9-cylinder Kawasaki. His video is accompanied by this image, which tells a thousand words. This bike has a front, middle, and rear bank of cylinders!
Whitelock’s next design, which was completed in the late 1990s, was a Kawasaki “triple-seven” motorcycle. This one used cylinders from the 250cc Kawasaki S1 Mach I, but multiplied to seven and put into a line.
As a buyer of Whitelock’s triple-seven, Rick Brett, explains in the video below, Whitelock had to sacrifice six S1 Mach I engines to make the inline seven. The engine is essentially three of the 250cc engines cut in half. Two chopped engines sit at the ends with more proportions of different engines placed in the middle.
Whitelock didn’t stop with the engine, either, as the bike had to be modified to make the beast work. So, the front end of the triple-seven likely comes from a 500 while the frame was modified from a S3 400. The engine cases had to be modified to accept a 500cc engine’s clutch and clutch cover. The engine uses a car’s belt-driven alternator and custom-welded pipes.
Brett also explains that the bike had to be widened by about four inches. This required modifications to the frame, the tail, the seat, and combining two fuel tanks together. The triple-seven was last seen somewhere in the United States and is a great example of the custom fabrication work that Whitelock puts into his builds.
Back to Whitelock’s video. He explains that after building the triple-seven, he built a replica of a classic Kawasaki H2R racer. Whitelock’s also turned a Kawasaki KH250 into an electric motorcycle, too. The Tinker Toy would follow and this motorcycle would be Whitelock’s magnum opus.
The Tinker Toy
Whitelock explains that the 48-cylinder Kawasaki took around five years to build, with about 85 percent of the work being completed in the last 12 months of the process. He’s upfront in that the Tinker Toy was not built for speed or power, but just to win a Guinness World Record. The motorcycle also proves just what Whitelock can do with his own hands. With that in mind, Whitelock says its top speed is probably 120 mph or 130 mph. So, it’s not fast, just massive. Oh and that Tinker Toy name? It’s a reference to a B-17 Flying Fortress of the same name.
For the Tinker Toy build, Whitelock started with engines from the Kawasaki KH250. The KH250, which began production in 1976, is the successor to the S1 Mach I.
The two-stroke three-cylinder engine of this motorcycle is similar to the 249cc powerplant of the S1 Mach I, but detuned from 32 HP to 27 HP. Whitelock says his choice of the KH250 as a basis of the build was due to the fact that KH250 engines were readily available for cheap. That’s important because he’d ultimately need to combine 16 of them in six banks to create the Tinker Toy.
Even with the reduced output, going with the KH250 was a good choice. In the 1960s and 1970s, motorcycle manufacturers were obsessed with squeezing out as much speed and power from their bikes as possible. The era produced some legendary machines from the Honda CB750 Four and the Kawasaki H1 Mach III. These were motorcycles with 500cc and larger engines that often punched out more power than the bikes’ frames and brakes could handle. But the motorcycle manufacturers weren’t content with just letting larger bikes have all of the fun and over the years, small-bore rippers were also created to pad out lineups of quick motorcycles. Many motorcyclists in our audience would be quick to point out the “giant killer” Yamaha RD 350.
The S1 Mach I, a small two-stroke with a piston-port design, also punched above its weight. Some riders have claimed to have flirted with the ton (100 mph) on a S1 Mach I, but most people will top out around the low 90 mph range. Sure, there are 250s that’ll easily do that today, but this was a bike back in the 1970s!
While the S1 Mach I would have likely been a better base, I could imagine the classic Kawasaki triple community wouldn’t be too pleased to see 16 of them taken off of the road. Besides, the slower KH250 is more than good enough, especially since speed wasn’t even the goal.
In explaining his build, Whitlock starts by saying that the exhaust headers had to be made in sections. When he tried welding up one section, another would warp. So, the welding job was a time-consuming task. In the end, Whitelock ended up with a 24-into-1 exhaust system on each side, which terminates into two four-stroke exhaust cans at the rear. It is a bit amusing that a 48-cylinder motorcycle has just two cans. I would have expected something equally silly.
To make 16 Kawasaki three-cylinder engines work as one, Whitelock lumped the engines together in six banks of 8 cylinders. The cylinders are connected through a gearbox.
Whitelock moves to the top of the engine, where he shows off the tank. This started life as a regular KH250 tank before he started cutting, welding, and adding more metal. Under this tank sits a rather long electronic ignition circuit, plus a throttle splitter, a device that takes one throttle cable and divides it up into six cables, which trace to six carburetors. Each bank of cylinders gets one carb. As you can imagine, using one handlebar grip to pull six cables requires some force, but Whitelock says it’s usable.
As Whitelock continues his tour, he mentions that the motorcycle has a liquid-cooling circuit. The mammoth engine is still air-cooled, but the liquid-cooling loop helps cool the hot engine during repeated hot starts. Just like with the triple-seven, the Tinker Toy also uses a car alternator; this one came from a Ford Mondeo. The transmission and its switchgear are noted to come from a BMW this time around.
From there, we take a look at the wheels, which are custom Hagon Products aluminum rims with stainless steel spokes and riding on hubs from a Honda Gold Wing. The rest of the front end, from the forks to the brakes, also comes from a Gold Wing.
At the rear of the bike is the next weird part. So, how do you start a 48-cylinder Kawasaki? Apparently, an electric starter couldn’t do the job, so Whitelock sourced a 125cc scooter engine and mounted it on the back. All the little scooter engine does is start the 4.2-liter beast.
If you’re interested in watching Whitelock build the Tinker Toy, his YouTube channel has a build series detailing all of the custom work involved in building the engine with the most cylinders.
Big, Burly, And Amazing
Sadly, Whitelock does not know how much power the bike makes, but he does say it weighs 1,300 pounds. Earlier he said the motorcycle has an extra spring just to deal with the weight. If you screw up and drop this thing, you can kiss that trapped body part goodbye. Whitelock and the other builders involved have made it pretty easy to goof up on this motorcycle. At the end of his video, Whitelock takes a ride and it’s clear that you need a comically long reach just to touch the bars, let alone ride the thing. So, smaller riders, which may even include me with my short arms, may not apply. Also, the motorcycle started falling apart during the test ride, which was hilarious.
Back in 2018 when that video was published, the Tinker Toy had gone to a museum. Whitelock said he wasn’t really interested in selling it but it would appear that circumstances have changed. As I noted before, the Tinker Toy is set to roll across the Bonhams’ “The Spring Stafford Sale – The International Classic MotorCycle Show” auction in the United Kingdom on April 21. Thus far, Bonhams has no explanation for the motorcycle’s sale, just stating that it comes with a key, so the circumstances here aren’t readily known.
With that said, even in that 2018 video you could see that the tires were splitting from dry rot. If you zoom in close enough to the Bonhams photos, you can see cracking present. On top of the up to $75,000 you’ll pay for the motorcycle you will want to replace its tires. That is if you will ride it, which you absolutely should!
The Tinker Toy is an example of why I love motorcycles. People will build the most deliberately preposterous bikes just because they can, and the world is better for it. Sure, a Kawasaki Ninja 300 would eat the Tinker Toy’s lunch, but the Tinker Toy is just a giggle. It’s a middle finger to practicality and all things sensible and I’m glad it exists.
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