The EICMA show in Milan is a great event for putting the cat amongst the pigeons. If a motorcycle manufacturer wants to get feedback on a concept bike, the Italian show is where they bait the hook and see who bites. The Fantic Caballero is no exception in that sense, yet it is exceptional.
FANTIC CABALLERO: NUDGING INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
The Suzuki B-King was nudged into the spotlight in this way at EICMA, as was the V-Strom, not to mention Yamaha’s quirky but mega-cool MTO1. This venture is expensive and risky though, and success isn’t guaranteed; ask the Suzuki Falcorustyco!
Anyway, apart from Keanu Reeves’ high-speed hog and the gorgeous Brough Superior, the 2017 EICMA event saw several manufacturers stepping back from the cubic capacity race. This fact was particularly noticeable in the mid-size adventure class, where BMW and Triumph both showed off new models.
FANTIC CABALLERO 500 – A BLAST FROM THE PAST
In amongst all the glitz and glamour was a stand whose name is a pure blast from the past; Fantic. The company is currently enjoying its 50th anniversary, which is as good a time as any to launch their brand new baby, the Caballero.
Offered in three engine sizes; 125, 250, 500cc and two models; the Scrambler and Flat Track.
Let’s take a look at the largest of the three, but before we do, there’s something you need to know. In 1972 Fantic launched a full-blown chopper with extended forks, peanut tank, king and queen seat, and a big back wheel. “So what!?” I hear you say, but listen to this, the engine was a 49cc 2-stroker! Sweet 16-year olds everywhere thought all their Christmases had come at once.
The Original Caballero Scrambler
This same year also saw the launch of the 125cc Caballero Scrambler, which is how the current 500cc version acquired its name. Italians always enjoy a homegrown hero making a comeback – who shouted ‘Rocky?’. Nostalgia aside, the 500cc Scrambler and Flat Track are seriously handsome bikes.
Although both bikes appear to have an individual look and character, Fantic has pretty much carried this off with little more than a paint job and an updated seat.
A production-driven modular concept is clearly in evidence for both bikes. They share the same Chrome-Moly single downtube frame that splits into a twin cradle at the bottom. Suspension components are 41mm inverted forks with a vertical monoshock, adjustable for rebound on the back.
FANTIC CABALLERO POWER-PLANT
The 1 into 2 Arrow designed exhaust is common, as are the 2-channel ABS brakes, which can be disengaged. The Scrambler and Flat Track, built in Italy, both share the same engine, but the choice of power-plant may surprise you.
I’m not talking about the layout of the SOHC, fuel-injected, 4-valve single thumper. Or even the fact that Fantic has stretched poetic license close to breaking point by labelling the 450cc unit a 500. No, I’m referring to the fact that the engine produced by Zongshen to Fantic specification, is built in China.
Before you go stereotyping the power plant though, the Chinese brand is a regular winner of the China Superbike Championship and came second in the World Endurance Championships.
Furthermore, the company has five entrants in the Dakar Rally using the same 450cc engine as the Fantic and make parts for H-D, BMW, Piaggio, and Vespa.
FANTIC CABALLERO FLAT TRACK 500
FANTIC CABALLERO SCRAMBLER 500
The Competition had Better Watch Out!
Convinced? I certainly am. Despite serious competition in this market sector from the likes of the Ducati Scrambler 800, BMW’s RnineT, and the Triumph Scrambler the Fantic Caballero remains a standout bike.
Pre-production models have been built and handed over to Italian journalists to mistreat and appear to have come through with flying colours. With a suggested price of £6199 (for the UK market), let’s hope that Fantic gets the Scrambler and Flat Track on the showroom floor before they lose too much momentum.
Meanwhile, if you want to see some Fantic scallywag slicing through twisties and vineyards, check out the Fantic website.
- Images Courtesy of FANTIC