Like so many ground-breaking inventions, the Savic Motorcycles C-Series began with two mates, a sketchpad, and a single great idea. The friends were Dennis Savic and Dave Hendroff, two Perthians linked by a serendipitous family connection, as well as a deep personal passion: their love of beautiful motorcycles.
Dave and Dennis first met at a wedding in 2000, when Dennis’s aunt was marrying Dave’s cousin. Dennis was just eight, cheeky and precocious; Dave was an established designer with a successful design business. Although Dave’s main line was interior architecture, his other great love was motorcycles – and particularly custom bikes.
Fast forward to March 2017 and Dave gets an email “out of the blue” from Dennis, now working as an engineer with Ford, but committed to a decade-long dream to design a unique electric motorcycle.
“So we met up,” says Dave, “and talked about café racers, which is what Dennis wanted to build, and we compared notes and immediately saw eye to eye about what was possible, and within a week I’d come up with a rough hand-drawn sketch which we refined together on screen.”
Since then, the pair – gradually joined by other CAD designers, surface modellers and optimisation engineers – have steered that design through six further design iterations, in a journey that Dave has mapped out in the illustration below.
The inspiration for the C-Series actually dates back much further, to Northwest London in the 1960s, where the iconic Ace Café – “the world’s most famous motor café” – was heralded as the birthplace of leather-clad rockers and their “stripped back” café racers.
“People would take their Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs and strip them of their mudguards, chain guards, and other unessential features to make them as light as possible,” explains Dave. “Two of the most famous were the Grand Prix motorcycles of Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini, who everyone remembers from the Isle of Man race in 1967.”
Dave designed the original C-Series with several features typical of those early café racers, including a rear cowl, low handlebars, and a body “stripped to the bare necessities”. The starting-point was the unique backbone – arched like the top of a question-mark – which delivered extra room for the giant battery both he and Dennis knew would be critical for the powerful performance they aspired to.
Two further editions followed in 2017 and 2018 – when Dennis presented his first prototype to great acclaim at the Melbourne Moto Expo – but it wasn’t until 2019 [version 4 above] that they had their “eureka moment” to incorporate the battery pack, motor and motor controller – collectively known as the powertrain – into the frame as the bike’s main structural member. The faux ‘fuel tank’ above would also provide room for additional components required for the bike’s complex electronics.
“By attaching the motor and battery pack to the backbone, and making the swingarm concentric to the motor, we were able to make the whole machine more integrated and compact,” explains Dave. “In 2019 I made a crude plasticine model based on Dennis’s CAD drawings and developed a new sketch [version 5]. From there it developed into the 2020 pre-production prototype [version 6], with an angular bellypan with air vents in the front, which provided greater ground clearance and better lean angles.”
The other major change was the single-sided swingarm, cast in aluminium on the left side of the bike, which provides the distinctive ‘floating wheel’ design associated with classic endurance racers – and allows for much simpler and faster wheel changes.
So what is Dave Hendroff’s favourite feature of the C-Series? Like so many master designers, he says it would do the vehicle – and its creators – a disservice to single one out.
“From a design point of view, it’s the whole machine that matters,” says Dave. “If someone focuses on one particular feature or part of the bike, then it wouldn’t be a great design.”
That said, the curved backbone that Dave sketched out in that first drawing in 2017 – perhaps the part of the bike that’s changed least in the six iterations since – makes him singularly pleased. “That backbone is now an integral part of the Savic DNA,” he says. “You’re going to find that curve in one form or another on all our future motorcycles.”