Call us romantic, but we love the idea of old-school craftsmanship. The process of starting a project on a piece of paper, and bringing it to life with English wheels and planing hammers. It’s how this beloved scene of ours was built: by hand.
But although we’re enamored by the tools of the past, we’re equally captivated by the tools of the future. And this futuristic Buell is the poster child for cutting edge techniques. Instead of being built in a dusty old shed, it was created in a modern studio with CAD software and a 3D printer.
It’s the brainchild of Paolo ‘Tex’ Tesio—an Italian automotive designer with over 20 years industry experience. Tesio spends his days at a design and engineering firm, working for a major auto manufacturer. But when the sun sets, he drags himself into his ‘Tex Design’ studio to cultivate his passion for two wheelers.
Tesio first landed on our radar five years ago with this beastly Ducati S4R. The 2006 Buell XB12 Firebolt he used for his latest project is a vastly different machine, but the result is no less radical.
“For a long time I’ve been trying to get on the American twin-cylinder,” he says. “I’m fascinated by its exaggerated proportions, and its strong personality. It’s full of (more or less) logical and functional innovations.”
Tesio’s process with the Buell was as digital as you can get. The project spanned 18 months—12 of which focused solely on design and development, using Autodesk Alias CAD design software.
“Normally you start out with a piece of paper.” he says, “You scratch your first ideas and then switch to converting into three-dimensional volumes. But if you combine the two phases, working directly in the third dimension, it allows you to have a perfect command of volumes and proportions.”
“On a motorcycle, style and functionality go hand in hand—every aesthetic element must be in perfect harmony with the mechanical one, and vice versa. Not surprisingly, the Buell’s superstructures are all extremely tight and perfectly paired with each other.”
“For this reason, it was necessary to 3D scan every single element of the bike down to the smallest detail, to avoid any surprises during assembly.”
With the CAD done, Tesio turned to his Italian-made I3D Playmaker 2 3D printer, and extruded the new plastic bits. His design also called for a spread of aluminum parts; these were CNC-milled by a specialist, using Paolo’s digital drawings.
Best of all, everything you see here has been produced in kit form: it all bolts onto an XB12 with no cutting or welding required. In fact, the Buell still retains its original suspension, wheels and brakes—all parts that perform well enough not to need replacing.
So the front forks are still stock, though they’re now hidden behind a clever telescopic fork cover system. Hiding underneath the beefy panels is an aluminum framework that allows the headlight—a Husqvarna 701 Supermoto item—to slide up and down. It hugs the front wheel at all times, giving the Buell an aggressive, hunched over look.
At the opposite end of the Buell is a new bolt-on subframe and tail unit. TES opted to leave parts of the subframe exposed for a more mechanical aesthetic, but he’s ditched the stock battery in favor of a small Lithium-ion unit, which now hides away in the tail.
The original airbox is gone too. It’s been replaced by a sophisticated system that uses inlets up top to channel air into the filter, and ‘outlet’ vents to help expel heat generated by the motor. All the ‘tank’ panels (the XB12 carries its fuel in its frame) are new.
Tesio also spent some time neatening up the wiring to take up less space, and creating little touches like the little illuminated logo above the headlight. Off-the-shelf parts include a digital Motogadget dash, and a GPR reverse muffler.
So is this a glimpse into the future of customization? If it is, Tesio’s Buell sure makes a strong case for it. “I find the technology wonderful,” he says. “There is no waste of material, and if you’ve done a good job with your design, everything comes back without any surprises. It’s the future in the design field.”
Of course, it also means that every single part for an XB12 kit is now prototyped and ready to go. Which makes us wish we had one in the garage right about now.