Words by Alan Cathcart
In a startling move within the resurgent American motorcycle industry, celebrated Italian-based designer Pierre Terblanche has signed a three year contract with Birmingham, Alabama’s Confederate Motor Company, the USA’s premier boutique bike manufacturer. Terblanche will head up Confederate’s product development division, and has already moved from Italy to the company’s home in the Deep South, where he’s purchased an award-winning ultra-modern home. The appointment of the 56-year-old South African-born progettista marks a key step in Confederate’s growing momentum as a world brand.
For Confederate president Matt Chambers, the appointment is entirely in keeping with his company’s promotion of the “Art of Rebellion”, which is responsible for such unique products as the Wraith, Fighter and Hellcat – many of which can be found in the garages of Hollywood’s rich and famous, from Tom Cruise to Bruce Springsteen. “Terblanche is a rebel who by nature is dissatisfied with the status quo, and this is imperative in advancing Confederate’s iconoclastic design precepts,” says the former trial lawyer turned motorcycle manufacturer. “He’s also intimidatingly intelligent, fiercely courageous, and outspoken to a fault, so as far as Confederate is concerned, what’s not to like? Pierre will continue to make an indelible and lasting mark on global motorcycle design culture, but now expressed through Confederate’s products rather than anyone else’s. We look forward to his journey with much curiosity and the anticipation of great fun, as he nails contextual 21st century American motorcycle design in a way nobody else has ever done before.”
It’s a challenge which Pierre Terblanche himself relishes. “As a designer, I’ve admired Confederate from afar for a long time, producing a series of motorcycles that have been truly groundbreaking and individual,” he says. “It was too good a chance to pass up, to be involved in taking the company further forward, as it expands production but without losing one iota of its unique character. I’ll be revamping some details of the existing models to make them more production-friendly, but I’ve already started work on a completely new bike that’ll give an alternative take on an American V-twin cruiser even compared to what Confederate’s done before. After working for large companies where you have to have a committee meeting before you add another bolt or washer, joining Confederate will bring real creative freedom to do some great design work in an unfettered, unstructured environment. I’m relishing having the man who takes the big decisions being in his office just the other side of the factory floor from where I’ll be working. Plus, in doing business, Americans have a refreshing can-do attitude where the glass is always half-full, and people here in the South are also extremely friendly and open, as well as courteous. Working here takes me back to my early beginnings in South Africa, where you just went ahead and got things done – I really believe that in a couple of years we’ll have some great new Confederate products out there, because this is a genuinely creative company focused on smashing the glass ceiling of convention.”
Pierre Terblanche is acclaimed as one of the world’s leading motorcycle designers, responsible for creating iconic desmo V-twin models for Ducati such as the Multistrada, Hypermotard, Supermono, and its trio of Sport Classics, as well as the controversial 999 Superbike, which has since become a prized design icon. As its chief designer in the ‘90s, his creations were responsible for fuelling Ducati’s resurgence in the decade following the 1997 takeover of the Italian company by U.S. investment house Texas Pacific/TPG. After leaving Ducati in December 2007, Terblanche produced several aquatic designs for South Africa’s Bobkat Boats, including an offshore patrol vessel to counter the piracy afflicting the African coast off Nigeria and Somalia. But his primarily focus has always been on motorcycles, and in November 2008 he joined the Piaggio Design dream team of former key Cagiva/MV Agusta employees headed by Miguel Galluzzi, creator of the Ducati Monster and a former colleague from the CRC design centre in Varese, Italy. Terblanche’s arrival gave added impetus in rejuvenating Moto Guzzi’s model range where he he produced three widely-acclaimed, radical-looking showbikes for the 2009 EICMA Milan Show. Sadly, none made it to manufacture. In January 2011, Terblanche headed to Great Britain where he was charged with the challenge of revitalising Norton, by developing a range of new models to supplement the Commando 961. But after six frustrating months at the undercapitalized company, Pierre opted to move on, spending the next year working on two projects for European manufacturers. Terblanche now joins Confederate to take on a new distinctly American challenge.