Back in 1969, the Yanks stripped down a Pontiac GTO to make a low-cost muscle car they called the Judge. Now they are at it again, but this time the Judge is a Victory muscle motorcycle.
Like all Victory bikes, the Judge will be priced between its direct competitor and compatriot, Harley-Davidson, and the Japanese. Victory Australia sales and marketing manager Peter Harvey says it will cost $22,995 ride away when it arrives in May.
That's $2000 less than its main style rival, the Harley Fat Bob, which is the fifth-best-selling cruiser on the showroom floor. But the value is also in Victory's standout level of fit and finish and the quality of components. There are no rusted or dull bolts to be found anywhere.
Yet it's built to a price, so there are no extras either, and the white-lettered tyres look good, but they have a hard compound and as external relations manager Robert Pandya confesses, they are cheap.
All Victory motorcycles are powered by a "106" or 1731cc V-twin engine with the cruisers tuned down a bit. Still, it has about 13 per cent more torque than the Harley. It is driven by a six-speed overdriven gearbox and a quiet and low-maintenance belt drive. So, nothing too radical.
There is no technology to speak of although there are options such as heated grips and a 25mm longer rear shock for greater clearance and sharper handling. It's basically the underpinnings of a Victory Vegas with different wheels and styling cues.
Only Victory's touring models have ABS, which is a shame. The brakes are one big 300mm disc up front with stainless steel lines for feel and performance. There is also a 300mm rear rotor that is very effective. It has cartridge forks and a progressive single rear shock with pre-load adjustable for heavy or aggressive riders and the extra load of a pillion.
The Judge is all about a menacing, muscular design like the Pontiac and even comes with a hero orange "suede" color option and five-spoke "mag" wheels like its namesake '60s muscle car. This no-frills "brat" bike features drag-style handlebars, small cast headlight, mid-mount foot controls, a flatter-than-usual rider's seat and that high and fat front tyre with the white lettering.
Another strange feature is the board tracker styled number plate on the side. Without a number or some sort of decal it looks strange. Victory head designer Greg Brew says they came up with a range of sticker designs, but only four will be available as options because he believes people will want to design their own. The rear LED taillights are modern and cool, but not quite retro like the rest of the bike.
Polaris makes its Victory motorcycles at Spirit Lake in Minnesota in the frozen north of the US, but for this launch, we headed to the much warmer climate of Palm Springs and its famed canyon passes.
Here, the issue of clearance was quickly highlighted.
The aggressive riding position encourages the rider to dig into corners, but the footpegs protest by grinding into the tarmac. Many owners should be opting for that longer rear shock. The footpegs can also be adjusted which may provide slightly better clearance angles.
Victory's engines have become smoother and quieter over the years and this is yet another step up. It comes on with a seductive frisson of torque - as much as some small cars. We climbed over 1800m into the San Jacinto mountains and the fuel-injected engine never protested once.
The brakes may seem underwhelming, but they perform well if you apply front and rear stoppers together. Like the engine, the transmission has become smoother and quieter, although it is difficult to swap cogs on any big V-twin without a clunk Despite the aggressive riding position, it is easy to get comfortable but after a long haul, your shoulders and backside may need a good rub.
The low seat should widen the bike's appeal. Victory promises 13 new accessories specifically made for the Judge such as luggage and a solo seat, but there are also 70 in the catalogue that will fit including heated grips.
Be the coolest dude on your street. It's a great bike even though its purpose - aggressive cruising - is an oxymoron.
On sale: May
Price: $22,995 (ride away)
Warrenty: 2 years, unlimited kms
Engine: 1731cc V-twin, 73kW/153Nm
Fuel: 17-litre tank
Transmission: 6-speed, belt drive
Dimensions: 2337mm (L), 1647mm (WB), 658mm (Seat), 120mm (Clearance)
Dry Weight: 300kg
Suspension: Telescopic forks, single shock rear
Brakes: 300mm floating rotors
Tyres: 130/90 B16 (front), 140/90 B16 (rear)
Colours: Black, "Suede Nuclear Sunset", "Sunset Red"