Tagged: American

Rebadged Racer: 1975 Harley Davidson RR250

1975 Harley Davidson RR250 r side front

When is a Harley not a Harley? When it’s an Aermacchi, like this RR250. At different times during its history, American manufacturer Harley Davidson seemed to recall the perceived benefits of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” and attempted to rectify a lack of road-racing product by absorbing an outside manufacturer, using the truckloads of cash generated selling leather chaps and vests and protective bandanas.

While they’ve been active and successful in dirt-track racing, they’ve only rarely been competitive in road racing, and a purchase of Aermacchi in the 1960’s attempted to fill that role. Most Aermacchi Harleys you’re likely to come across were Sprints, bikes that handled well and were powered by their outdated, but extremely reliable four-stroke singles, distinctively laid-over for a low center of gravity. But the writing was on the wall and, by the late 1960’s, it was clear that anyone who wanted to compete in smaller classes needed a two-stroke if they wanted to compete in smaller categories of racing or on the street.

1975 Harley Davidson RR250 dash

In 1973, Aermacchi’s two-stroke twins were also rebadged as Harleys and the bikes won three 250cc championships in a row. Variations were raced as late as 1978. Aermacchi’s original two-stroke was based on a pair of dirt bike engines, siamesed together. It shared many internal parts with the Yamaha single on which it was based, keeping running costs for the high-performance machine under control. The bike was lighter than the Yamaha TZ available at the time, and proved to be very competitive.

Water-cooling was added for 1973 and power jumped from about 50hp to 58hp, and the Harley-badged bikes won three 250cc championships in a row.

From the original eBay listing: 1975 Harley Davidson RR250 Daytona Road Race Bike

Motor turns nicely. Overall bike shows little use.
2-stroke water cooled 2 cylinder
No race damage, excellent over all condition
#1F100xxH4
Race #53 raced at Daytona in 1970s, some history.
Has not been run since 1970s.
Dealer owned since new

There are five days left on this auction with a starting bid of $30,000 and no takers so far. The Buy It Now is listed as $35,000 so it’s pretty clear what the seller believes this is worth. It’s unrestored and a bit rough around the edges, but that’s the nature of true racing machines: ten-foot paint jobs and scuffed paint are the norm when the goal is speed.

A cool bike from another, slightly forgotten period of Harley’s racing history. I still hold out hope that they’ll shock me speechless and actually “build” something like this again. Plenty of custom shops are assembling Harley café racers and sporty retros are all the rage. I can’t imagine that a stylish, agile bike based on their new 750 wouldn’t find buyers.

-tad

1975 Harley Davidson RR250 L side

Ironhead: 1960 Harley Davidson Sportster XLCH for Sale

1960 Harley Sportster L Side Rear

While today’s Harley Sportster sells mainly on the basis of it being a Harley, that wasn’t always true. The original Harley Davidson Sportster was introduced in 1957 to stem the growing tide of British bikes that offered lighter weight and better handling than what HD was building at the time. These British machines offered a challenge to the American company on both road and track, with fierce rivalries being born as Harley, Triumph, Norton, and BSA all competed on dirt tracks across the country.

1960 Harley Sportster R Side

Unlike today’s Sportster, the new machine was right in the mix, and offered good power and nimble handling to match the imports. The engine was decidedly old-tech: nicknamed the “Ironhead” motor, it featured all-iron construction and overhead valves, but 883cc’s gave it great bottom-end torque. The “H” in XLCH denoted the “hot” version of the engine that included higher-compression pistons.

1960 Harley Sportster L Side Front

The rest of the bike was more progressive: unlike period Triumphs and modern Sportsters, engine and gearbox featured unit construction, with the engine and transmission sharing a single set of cases. This powertrain was mounted directly to the frame for a more rigid platform with improved handling, with the added benefit that it offered improved numbness for the rider’s hands and feet… Weighing in at about 500lbs wet, the bike was good for a top speed of about 115.

1960 Harley Sportster R Details

Fast, stable, and reasonably reliable, it sold well and took the fight to those pesky imports. At least until the Japanese crashed the party and basically put everybody out of business…

From the original eBay listing: 1960 Harley Davidson XLCH Sportster

A very nice and recently restored classic 1960 Harley Davidson XLCH Sportster with Hi-Fi Blue and Birch White paint scheme. Fully rebuilt and run in motor and transmission with matching lower case numbers and high pipe exhaust. Correct alloy wheels, solo seat, and 1038 CP hardware with correct finishes and more. Recently judged and scored in the high 90% range at the 2014 El Camino Classic Motorcycle Event in So. California. Ready for show or go!

Located in Southern California. 

NOTE! This motorcycle is selling with a clear title.

With three days left on the auction bidding is active and up to $8,000 with the reserve not met. That’s no surprise: this looks like a very sharp, very nice example with the higher-performance “CH” engine and matching numbers.

-tad

1960 Harley Sportster R Front

 

The Hammers of Hell: 1972 Harley Davidson XRTT

1977 Harley XRTT L Side Front

When I see the state of Harley’s current lineup of overweight retro-sleds, it makes me sad to see that they’ve no interest in building bikes like this beautiful Harley XRTT anymore, as clearly evidenced by their shoddy treatment of Erik Buell. Their original Sportster was a genuine alternative to bikes like Triumph’s Bonneville but, while the current Bonneville is possibly the ideal “modern classic”, today’s Sportster is compromised in virtually every way, the epitome of “form-over-function.”

1977 Harley XRTT Dash

Now obviously, this isn’t hurting sales any. But it’s a shame that Ducati and Triumph can both create a range of bikes that celebrate their heritage while still providing modern performance and safety, Harley can’t or won’t, when they produce more motorcycles annually than Triumph and Ducati combined.

But they’re obviously happy to rest on the laurels of bikes like this one.

1977 Harley XRTT L Side Rear

When Harley decided to go roadracing in the 1970’s, they started with what they knew best: dirt-track racing. The 1972 bikes featured a significantly updated motor that used aluminum heads and barrels. The 45° twin’s compact design still featured pushrods, but the compact design had many of the same advantages of the famous small-block Chevy: perhaps not the most modern or best-breathing configuration, but the compact design and light weight allowed for a potent package

1977 Harley XRTT Front Wheel

Careful preparation let the simple engines rev to over 8,000rpm and pump out 90hp from 750cc’s. A four-speed box and a huge them rev over 8k and they made 90 plus HP. A 4-speed box put the power to the ground while a huge Ceriani drum brake up front and a disc at the rear provided very effective stopping.

1977 Harley XRTT Engine

From the original eBay listing: 1972 Harley Davidson XRTT for Sale

1972 Harley-Davidson XRTT Racing bike. The engine was redone by Carl Patrick less than three months ago and the engine is documented with the Harley-Davidson time cards. This bike is in flawless condition and was on display at Harley-Davidson. There are no current fluids in the bike. This is a once in a life time opportunity!

It’s a shame that this bike hasn’t been used as intended, buy the upside is that it’s in spectacular shape, and I’m sure it could be made to run if that’s your interest, since the engine was just rebuilt. The chin-pad on the tank is a particularly cool detail although, given the 45° twin’s reputation for vibration, it might not be the most practical place to rest your head while tucking in behind that screen…

1977 Harley XRTT L Side

Starting price is $55,000 with no bids so far. While that’s a ton of money for a motorcycle, I’d expect that’s perfectly fair, given the bike’s rarity: opinions vary, but less than 25 were ever made, and very few of those are in this sort of condition.

-tad

1977 Harley XRTT R Side