This is the Whitelock “Tinker Toy,” it’s a 48 cylinder motorcycle that was built in 2003 by Simon Whitelock and it holds the Guinness World Record as the functional vehicle with the most cylinders.
Now just to be clear, the record covers all motor vehicles not just motorcycles, and amazingly the bike is 100% road legal in the UK. That prodigious engine was built using 16 Kawasaki KH250 three-cylinder two-stroke engines arranged into six banks of eight.
Fast Facts – The Whitelock “Tinker Toy” Motorcycle
- The Whitelock “Tinker Toy” 48 cylinder motorcycle was built by Simon Whitelock of Britain and first unveiled back in 2003. Videos of this motorcycle being started up and run have been circulating online for over 20 years now, always attracting a great deal of attention.
- That wildly complex engine is made up of 16 Kawasaki KH250 three-cylinder two-stroke engines arranged into six banks of eight. The total displacement is 4.2 liters and though the power isn’t listed, each of the engines was originally capable of 32 bhp. Theoretically the Tinker Toy engine could produce 512 bhp, though this seems unlikely.
- There is actually a 49th cylinder, a single 125cc two-stroke that is used as the starter motor. The bike has a custom frame, a Honda Goldwing front end, and a custom rear.
- The Whitelock Tinker Toy holds the Guinness World Record as the functional vehicle with the most cylinders, a record that seems unlikely to be broken any time soon. The bike is now being offered for sale by Bonhams as part of their Spring Stafford Sale in April. The price guide starts at $51,000 USD.
Building The World’s Most Preposterous Motorcycle
Simon Whitelock started out building unusual multi-cylinder motorcycles years before he embarked on his 48 cylinder motorcycle project. His first build was a Kawasaki inline-three that he converted into an inline-four. He then built a nine-cylinder motorcycle made from three connected Kawasaki triples, followed by an inline-seven.
Above Video: This is a somewhat low-resolution image of the engine being started and running. The audio and video quality isn’t great, but it does give you the general idea.
By the time he decided to build the world’s most complex motorcycle engine he already had a lot of experience working with Kawasaki two-stroke engines, and in grafting them together to create new engines.
Exactly why he decided to build the 48 cylinder Whitelock “Tinker Toy” isn’t known, but there can be little doubt that the world is a better place due to the bike existing. Unless you’re a member of Extinction Rebellion, in which case you’re probably supergluing your anatomy to Simon’s driveway every time he starts the engine.
The Whitelock “Tinker Toy” 48 Cylinder Motorcycle
The Whitelock Tinker Toy is arguably the most complex custom motorcycle ever made. The project to build it started with the engine, with the rest of the motorcycle essentially built around it. As noted further up the engine was painstakingly assembled from 16 Kawasaki KH250 three-cylinder two-stroke engines arranged into six banks of eight.
This engine has a displacement of 4.2 liters or 256 cubic inches and initially it used a 50cc two-stroke “donkey engine” as the starter. This was deemed insufficiently powerful, and later a 125cc two-stroke single replaced it, remaining on the bike today as the starter motor.
A custom frame was fabricated around the engine, along with a stretched fuel tank that runs along the top between the upper-most banks of cylinders. This fuel tank is actually just a cover for the Luminition ignition system – the actual fuel tank is tucked away discreetly and it feeds the carburetors through a system of fuel lines.
An automotive alternator is used, and the front end, including forks and brakes, from a Honda Goldwing while the rim was made by Hagon. The rear end was built custom specifically for this bike, and it also uses a Hagon rim with a single rear disc.
Amazingly the bike is road legal in the UK and it has been ridden, though it requires long arms to reach the handlebars and carefully placed legs to avoid touching the exhaust headers on either side of the engine.
The actual top speed and horsepower figures aren’t known as the bike has never been checked on a dyno, it’s doubtful it would fit. The original Kawasaki KH250 three-cylinder engine produces 32 bhp so theoretically 16 of them together could make 512 bhp, though this is unlikely as they’re not each going to be running at optimal power levels in their current configuration.
The one thing that is clear is that this bike is a proper two-stroke, with plumes of blue smoke roaring out of the exhausts each time it’s started. The sound the bike makes is difficult to describe, it’s somewhat reminiscent of hearing an Avro Lancaster flying past, with its four V12 Merlin engines all thundering along together for that unmistakeable 48 cylinder sound.
The Whitelock Tinker Toy is now being offered for public sale, it’s due to roll across the auction block with Bonhams at the Spring Stafford Sale in April. The price guide is £40,000 – £60,000, or approximately $51,000 – $76,000 USD.
The lower end of the price guide is only around $1,000 per cylinder which isn’t bad considering just how famous this bike is, and the fact that it’s a Guinness World Record holder. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here, if you’d like to see Simon talking about the bike you can visit the YouTube video here.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.