Frank Stephenson ranks among the most accomplished living auto designers with a portfolio that includes the revived Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and the McLaren MP4-12C. How does such a talented man spend his free time? By trolling for fights on an Internet forum.
To document his obsessive rebuild of a Ducati 1198 S into a track-day monster, Stephenson started a thread on a Ducati owner's forum last month that's now about one-third mechanical and aerodynamic details and two-thirds troll cage match with Stephenson punching at anyone who criticizes his choices. While touting his own talents and noting that "my brain can't shut down regarding more innovation," he calls critics "faggot," "sissy" and "powderpuff wussie chicken poop."
While Stephenson has never acknowledged his identity in the thread, posting under the user name Sabaudia, it's clearly him; at one point he references a speech he gave in Pebble Beach, one that I happened to attend. Stephenson describes a host of exotic tools and carbon-fiber materials for his "Sophia" well outside the reach of most mechanics; even his office chair, which looks like a Barcalounger pulled from a trailer fire, is actually a "shape memory polymer...the future of all ergonomically superior and ventilated chairs."
Shortly after his first post, other users begin to question one of Stephenson's major alterations — the addition of a winglet to the front fairing. Used by a couple of teams in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Stephenson says his winglet will add downforce and stability thanks to a design adapted from a shark's fin. (His speech in Pebble Beach focused on how the MP4-12C borrows from sailfish.)
When one user challenged his upgrades, Stephenson swung hard:
Out of my curiousity to see if you might've recently escaped from the Alcatraz Mental Ward I checked out your Ducati site profile info. But no, not Alcatraz, you're from Wollongong...c'mon dude, admit it, you made that name up, right? Rhymes with "Bong"... easy on that stuff dude, it ain't good for your reflexes!...And what do you mean with "tarts handbag" and "garage queen"? What does that have to do with my bike? Do you not like me? : ( Or are you just a generally miserable ol' nag?
Another user who questioned Stephenson's aerodynamics as "fuck-all" and that his bike would "perform at it's optimum whilst in the garage" got a fusillade of aerodynamics theory and personal hits:
Please warn us what is the name of your aeroplane so that we never run the risk of being driven in it by you. Life is short enough as it is without guys like you around to scare the crap out of us with your aerodynamic incompetence and disregard for precision work. Now go drive your aeroplane and try not to fukall the innocent passenger's lifes.
Stephenson does respond to polite questions about his design with fulsome answers and a peek into how he sees his talents:
How fun to get something to work that the guys at the factory haven't been able to optimise. Not boasting but I am pretty adept at this kind of stuff and I will make it perform as I intend it to, I'm quite intense and fanatical about design and engineering at the highest levels of development. I'm sure you'll enjoy following how far I'll be taking this whole project, it's not only a simple high-end bolt-on project but also a "this is the way they could've done it with 10% more effort" project. I guess it only takes a bit more passion, capability and the means and equipment to get the job done. Always satisfying to raise the bar to a higher level, I'm not wired to work at anything less than at 110%.
As the thread exploded to nearly 70 pages over the past month, Stephenson remains as enthusiastic as ever, saying "each tightening of a bolt is a labour of love." While the board's administrators temporarily banned at least one other user who mentioned his real name. And Stephenson has kept after the tougher critics:
Where'd you get your data by the way, "The Big Book of Understanding What Air Is" at your local pre-school library? Or did you spend your hard earned cash recently on that "The Perfect Glider" at Toys R Us? Now quit bugging me, I'm busy building a bike that will give you nasty wet dreams. [Another member] says you're fast, you flying faggot. You must be! If I ever see you in front of me you better forget about braking because I'll be using your head for traction. And I don't mean the helmet on your head. I mean the helmet on your one-eyed snake head, you wussy.
Like the best build threads, Stephenson's detailed look at his in-progress motorcycle proves he knows as much about fast, beautiful machinery as anyone in the world — and that such sterling brillance comes in a skin that could use some carbon-fiber reinforcement.
H/T to Simon!