Pierre Terblanche‘s childhood passion for design and motorbikes has blossomed into a career as a world-leading motorcycle designer.
Having designed for the European and US markets, he still fondly remembers his early Port Elizabeth to Cape Town bike runs.
Custom motorcycle manufacturer BikeExif.com called him one of the most influential motorcycle designers in the world today. Norton Motorcycles chief executive, Stuart Garner, praised the man’s experience when he was hired to develop the Norton range.
And Confederate Motorcycles founder and chief executive, H. Matthew Chambers, referred to him as a rebel “who by nature is dissatisfied with the status quo” and “intimidatingly intelligent, fiercely courageous, and outspoken to a fault”.
Pierre Terblanche is clearly a trailblazer in the motorcycle design world and an early passion for bikes and design has fuelled his career.
Born in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, in 1956, Terblanche was exposed to design and building at his father’s woodworking shop at an early age.
After matriculating from Hoërskool Brandwag in Uitenhage, he went on to study graphic design at the Eastern Cape Technikon in the mid-1970s and began his career at advertising company Young & Rubicam, in Cape Town.
Here he was tasked with marketing Ford Motors, but needing to follow his passion for design, he enrolled in the Masters in Transport Design programme at the Royal College of Art in London. After graduation he joined Volkswagen’s advanced design studio before leaving for a design post at Ducati Rimini in 1989. It was here that Terblanche produced some of his finest work, including the Ducati 749 and 999, the SportClassic, the Hypermotard, and the Cagiva 600 Enduro, otherwise known as the Canyon.
About his switch from VW to Ducati, he told Faster and Faster.net that he had always loved bikes more than cars because the more hands-on approach meant there was more to do for designers. In Italy, particularly, designers are usually involved in the layout, packaging and the clay or hard modelling of the bikes.
Terblanche worked for two years with Massimo Tamburini on restyling the Paso and the Ducati 888. Tamburini is widely hailed as a world-class designer and was behind the Ducati 916, argued by enthusiasts as the world’s “most beautiful” bike.
It was when he moved to Ducati’s design centre in Morazzone, Italy, that Terblanche designed the iconic Ducati Supermono. According to Terblanche’s website the bike “is the inspiration for the powerhouse Superbike winner, the 916”.
After Cagiva sold the Ducati brand in 1997, Terblanche was appointed as the company’s director of design. Here he created the Supersport 900 and made the first online motorcycle sale, of the neo-classic MH900 Evoluzione.
By 2006, after 15 years with the Italian company, Terblanche left to work as an independent design consultant. He subsequently developed three motorcycles for Moto Guzzi which won the Motorcycle Design Association award for Best Design at the 2009 EICMA show in Milan.
When he joined Norton in 2011, Terblanche was tasked with developing a range of bikes that would appeal to the US market and in 2013, American company Confederate Motorcycles hired him as their head of product development.
Despite all he has achieved though, Terblanche still yearns to design the bike of his dreams, hoping to work on something with all his creativity and no limitations.
Even though Terblanche has been living outside of South Africa for over 25 years, he still finds pleasure in things that are very much South African. In an interview with BikeExif.com, he said enjoys watching the Springboks thrash the British Lions and taking a solo ride from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town – via the backcountry route past Oudtshoorn – on a sunny South African weekday.