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William Shatner embarks on Route 66 trek on supercharged Rivet tricycle

Set phasers to stun as William Shatner launches Route 66 trek on 500-horsepower three-wheeler.

William Shatner is once again boldly going where no man has gone before on a vessel never before seen in our galaxy.

"It's not a jet, and land cruiser is already taken so we're looking for a term," Shatner said over coffee in the headquarters of Aurora-based American Wrench, builders of customized motorcycles since 1995. "Land craft, outlandish craft."

It's called Rivet and the three-wheeled outlandish craft uses a supercharged 6.2-liter direct injection V-8 engine that churns out 500 horsepower in a 2,000-pound body, which is less than half the weight of the Cadillac CTS-V performance sedan made for that engine.

Call it warp factor unfathomable.

Yet it needed to be comfortable and ridable enough to transport Shatner on a 2,400-mile, cross-country trek along historic Route 66 to film a documentary and raise awareness for the American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veteran organization that helps military members and their families.

"If it helps get Americans on board to honor our military families, their sacrifices and our troops, then it's worth every bit of energy and bugs on the face," said Elizabeth Shatner, who married William in 2001, and will be riding along.

Most road trips start with some anxiety.

The problem for Shatner at 7 a.m. on this sunny morning is he still hadn't seen the Rivet prototype he'd be captain of for the next eight days.

"I've been worried about the weather for a week," he said in the wake of a night — and week —filled with torrential storms in the area. "Last night we hear the tornadoes and my worst nightmare is realized, so we went to visit the bike and it's still being put together."

Shatner paused, stared and dropped into a solemn whisper. "It's not ready. It's not here. I haven't been on the bike. Last night we went to a psychic, we filmed it, I said, is it going to start and she said, 'let me see, I see a delayment.' A delayment!"

"The bike isn't here, I'm not messing with you."

Shatner arrived five days earlier to get a feel for Rivet but it'll have to happen on the road, which will have a delayed start due to travel problems from the weather and time needed to acclimate the Rivet.

Its eventual arrival at the shop later in the morning was met with cheers by the 100 or so American Wrench employees and family members on hand. The roar of the V-8 engine rumbled something deep in the souls of the motorcyclists on hand, but the looks stirred something even deeper.

"The bike is poetical," Shatner said, while waxing poetic about Rivet's inspiration.

"I got out of an airplane in Winnipeg in the twilight of a 30-below-zero area, and as I descended from this private plane I caught a glimpse of the silver steel tip of the wing in this frost clear air and the mechanics of it just enlightened me," said the 84-year-old actor, author, pitchman, gearhead and charmer. "I wanted the bike to look like this wing because the wing suggested man's toolmaking to its ultimate point."

The plane was a World War II B-17 bomber, and the Rivet is a riveted steel body that might be the beautiful byproduct of a marriage between Mad Max and steam punk.

Kevin Sirotek, owner and designer at American Wrench, and his team have made many mind-blowing and gorgeous customized motorcycles. But Sirotek set phasers to stun because the handmade Rivet is otherworldly.

"We customize the bike to the customer, to fit the rider," Sirotek said. "To design and build a custom machine for William Shatner, we knew it had to be nothing short of amazing."

It has a 24-inch front wheel half-covered by the body, larger rear wheels measuring 26 inches that are completely covered with a silver disk.

It had to be a three-wheeler for added stability. A couple years ago, Shatner said, he was on a country road when his Harley Davidson came out from under him. He was alone and considers himself lucky to walk away with just a bleeding back.

"I left a lot of skin on the road," he added with a raised eyebrow.

The seat is custom made for Shatner out of Italian leather, with a five-point safety harness similar to Nascar, and essentially a rumble seat directly behind him for Elizabeth. A snub straight bar controls the steering, and the hand-throttle foot-brake is more like a motorcycle setup. The silver steel body with the broad tail is nearly 15 feet long and under 5 feet high.

Torque, top speed and 0-60 mph speed haven't been released because Shatner is the first one to road test the prototype. It's unusual in the auto industry to let a customer do the testing.

"It's a prototype so it won't be without its challenges," Sirotek says of the trek that will be made with American Wrench mechanics and support team, as well as two volunteers and two staff members of the American Legion. Rivet Motors is taking orders for a limited run of a craft expected to cost over six figures.

"It's a work of art," Shatner said. "There are hopes and dreams of a great many people that are riding on this ride."

The entourage will be filmed as part of a documentary on Rivet, Shatner and the American Legion, with stops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Las Vegas and ending in Los Angeles.

It's a trip Shatner thumbed as a 19-year-old on his way out to Hollywood, and it will enable him to interview the veterans riding alongside to help raise money for a scholarship fund for the children of fallen soldiers. The trip will be live streamed on Rivetmotors.com.

"Anyone as notable as Bill Shatner, who spans generations from Star Trek to T.J. Hooker to Priceline is a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of what the American Legion does every day," said Scott Miller, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, who is director of marketing for American Legion and a native of Frankfort, Ind. "It's very, very cool. I'm going to learn a lot from American Wrench and Bill Shatner. But I hope he gains a lot from us, a stronger appreciation for the American veteran."

That's not all Shatner will gain. He's filming a reality-based travelogue show with other older stars that will air this fall on NBC. It's called "Better Late Than Never."

"Why now?" Shatner preemptively asked of the Rivet trip, which was slated to end June 30. "Before it's too late. It's the never part that frightens me. This is the 'delayment' of never."

rduffer@chicagotribune.com

Twitter: @DufferRobert

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