A Conversation With Ernest Lee of Confederate Motorcycles
A Unique American Motorcycle Company
Confederate Motorcycles is a company that stands out from other motorcycle companies in the world. It builds machines in low-volume and for high prices, and it’s motorcycles are unlike any other bikes on the road.
Recently, I wrote about a different company—Curtiss Motorcycles—and how the folks now running that company used to run Confederate Motorcycles. I assumed the Confederate brand was no more. I was wrong.
Ernest Lee, the man making things happen now at Confederate Motorcycles emailed me to let me know of my mistake. I responded and suggested that we set up a phone call so that I could learn what’s new with Confederate and to right my wrong. Here’s what I found.
Confederate Motorcycles Is Going Strong
Lee, an attorney, told me in 2017 the team behind Confederate Motorcycles brought him in to help them transition to Curtiss Motorcycles. During that process, they decided it would make sense to sell the Confederate brand. Lee was there to make that deal happen and made an offer that was accepted.
From there he took the company and began marketing and producing the motorcycles for sale worldwide. “I guess I sell 60 percent in the U.S. and 40 percent outside,” Lee said. “We’re still building the P-51 and the FA-13.”
He went on to say that business was going pretty well. Last year, Lee said they did about one motorcycle a month. This year, Confederate already has orders for 23 bikes. To help meet demand, the company will be opening a new manufacturing facility in Alabama.
“We’re gearing up a new manufacturing facility that we’ll have in Birmingham within the next 30 days,” said Lee. That new manufacturing facility will help the company continue to keep producing at its current pace and beyond.
Some Collector Pieces, Some Bikes for the Road
I’d always assumed that basically all of Confederate Motorcycles bikes end up in private motorcycle collections and never see the open road. Or if they do see the open road, I assumed they would only do so once or twice a year.
Lee told me that many customers do put the bikes in collections, but some of them actually ride them, “About 60 percent of them are collector’s pieces,” he said. “They won’t get any miles on them at all. About 40 percent, they ride them.”
Lee is one of those riders. He put 20,000 miles on his Confederate P-51 (the 2020 model is shown above) in the first year he owned it. This was before he owned the company. Lee was a customer long before he ever thought about owning the brand. “They said I had more miles on that P-51 than all of the other 30 built that year combined,” he said.
So, while many of the company’s bikes spend a lot of their time as eye-candy, there are several folks out there riding these bikes, and my hat goes off to them.
Lee said that the company provides all the support to the customers. This means warranty, parts, upgrades, service, and more.
He also said that the company has a trade-in program that will give Confederate motorcycle owners what they paid for their old Confederate motorcycle whether they bought that bike directly from Confederate or from another seller. “They will never lose money on their Confederate.”
There Are Bikes Planned for the Future
Confederate is still selling the FA-13 and the P-51, but it isn’t content to rest on its laurels. The company has new models in the works. There’s a new Hellcat coming up and a Lee said they would like to have another Wraith in the future.
“I don’t have a strict timeline,” he said. “The Hellcat could maybe happen later this year.”
The latest Hellcat concept is built on a Harley-Davidson FXDR frame. This was done because it allows a small company like Confederate to use all of Harley’s certification compliance for things like ABS and other features. To self-certify that stuff would be very expensive.
“I wanted to build a more entry-level bike that was accessible but also had ABS and all of the accouterments that Harley has with its bikes,” he said. “I can’t afford to put all of that stuff on the bike myself.”
He said any of those things like ABS costs a lot to certify and that only counts for that one model, so if Confederate were to change anything about the bike they would have to re-certify. Using the FXDR as a base makes good business sense. That said, Confederate is not ruling out its own unique designs altogether.
The Company Is Still Very Much In People’s Minds
Confederate Motorcycles is still active in popular culture, and I’m honestly a bit embarrassed I’ve missed the last few times the bikes have been featured on the big screen. Lee said media placement is an important part of the business, and the company is quite active.
He said one of the bikes from the brand was recently considered to be featured in a Super Bowl advertisement for this year, but things didn’t work out. “We get opportunities like that, and I get excited about those,” Lee said. “Sometimes they pan out, and sometimes they don’t.”
I was thrilled to be able to talk to Lee. He seems like a really down-to-earth guy. It’s cool to see a company like Confederate with only a small team making things happen. I’ll keep you all in the loop about Confederate Motorcycle’s future bikes and future moves as a company.