A bike that was a bit ahead of it’s time, at least by Harley-Davidson standards, the stylish, any-color-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-black, cafe racer-styled Harley XLCR didn’t convince the ever-conservative faithful when it was introduced. The bike didn’t sell particularly well, which is a shame, because the XLCR is a bike that actually looked forward, instead of backwards for its inspiration.
But although the look of the bike was meant to compete with Europe and Japan’s best, the bones and meat were pretty conventional: a 998cc pushrod Sportster engine with 9:1 compression and 38mm Keihin carbs put 61bhp through a drive chain to the four-speed gearbox. The frame was a parts-bin-special as well, with a Sportster front section matched with rear tubes and a swingarm from the XR750 race bike. Cast wheels added to the modern styling and triple disc brakes gave something approaching modern stopping power.
So it’s basically a mildly hopped-up Sportster in a black leather jacket and dark, mirrored sunglasses. Which is no bad thing, and possibly the coolest bike to come out of Harley’s AMF-era, a period of time where you bought a Harley because that’s the only brand you’d ever consider buying anyway…
This legend is truth and it’s come back on the market. This XLCR was bought brand new in 1977 as a decoration in a livingroom. It never goes on the street and stay completely original. Even the Harley-Davidson test sticker stays on the headlight and the speedometer. I bought this motorcycle five years ago and it stays in my private collection in a a/c and smoke free place. As this motorcycle came from USA there is no duty to bring it back. I will help to any carrier for shipping. Still with a US title . Buyer is responsible to make his own verification. Engine VIN: 7F01507H7.
With zero miles on the clock, the seller is asking some serious money, and this time-capsule machine will obviously require some work if you want to put it back on the road, but that shouldn’t be too difficult, if you’re so inclined. But unfortunately, I expect that this bike will remain what it is right now: a very menacing display piece.
The sinister black Harley Davidson XLCR brings to mind Spinal Tap’s infamous Smell The Glove album cover: “It’s like, how much more black can it be? And the answer is none. None more black.”
It’s a very menacing beast, and looks ready to tear your arms out the moment you twist the throttle. But, although the bodywork was very racy, the XLCR was all show and not so much go: it was standard Harley underneath, meaning four speeds in the box and pushrods working the valves of the 998cc not-particularly-sporty Ironhead Sportster motor: internals and fueling were all standard. An antiquated frame made of bits from several models, spindly forks, and fairly primitive suspension didn’t do it any favors in the corners either. Aside from the exhaust and the triple-disc brakes, this was a very conventional parts-bin special.
But that’s not necessarily a problem, since bikes made with proven, relatively inexpensive parts can be great to ride and good for the bottom line. Ducati’s evergreen Monster is proof of that, the sales of which actually kept the company afloat for quite a few years.
And the XLCR certainly looks the part, so it’s surprising it didn’t sell well. Or maybe not: Harley has become relatively notorious for endlessly looking towards the past for inspiration, and perhaps the cafe-racer trend wasn’t old enough at the time to appeal to the very traditional Harley enthusiasts, who didn’t want any European influences spoiling their rides…
Or maybe it was just the high price and limited performance that kept buyers of Italian, British, and Japanese performance machinery away.
All original in new condition with 2 miles. Never restored or ridden. It’s been in my collection for the past 4 years and I have had it displayed my living room. I have clear title and comes with AMF keys. Your chance to own a piece of Harley Davidson History in museum condition. This bike has never been on the road!!! It will need to have the carbs cleaned before taking her riding. Absolutely a gorgeous bike!
Regardless of why they didn’t sell well at the time, there aren’t all that many of these around. Which is a shame, since it’s a very handsome machine, with perhaps my favorite Harley exhaust. I really dislike the traditional, staggered exhausts on sporty[ish] HD’s, but this unusual, siamesed treatment is graceful and tough at the same time.
So the XLCR is not really a café racer in anything but name, but that’s okay: it’s a vintage machine, and riders should be expecting vintage performance. The XLCR’s dynamic limitations are a little more acceptable these days, and they’ve got style by the bucketload. At the time, it was considered an odd duck, not accepted by Harley fans, not fast enough for the racer crowd. Now, its classic style and rarity make it a collectors item. This one is beautiful, although the extremely low miles suggest it might be better in your living room than your garage.
The term Cafe Racer has been used a lot lately, almost to the point of annoyance. Just put some clubman’s on your Honda, paint it flat black and call it Cafe Racer. Back in the 60’s and 70’s that was not the case though. Many Americans did not know what a Cafe Racer was nor did they care. When Harley saw the popularity in other countries they must have thought they could hitch their wagon to that term and makes some profits. The problem was, Harley riders wanted big, loud, 2-up, cross country bikes that reminded them of the ol’ days so they didn’t buy the XLCR. The people who were buying Sport bikes associated Harley’s with big, loud, 2-up cross, country bikes so they didn’t buy them either. That caused the XLCR to only be produced for 1977-78 and it was considered a flop. Well, yesterday’s flops are today’s collectables.
1978 Harley Davidson Sportster, XLCR Cafe Racer. These rare bikes were designed by Wille G. Davidson himself and only produced for a couple of years (77-79) with less than 3500 total ever produced for sale. A rare find and a piece of true USA motorcycle history, not to mention one very cool ride. This exsample is a barn find and will need some work to fully restore but “everything” is orignal and the motor is free, so should not involve too much to bring her back to her former glory. I have manuals, parts book and some spares to go with her to assist in the restoration. On a scale of 1 to 10 for the foundation of a project bike I would rate this XLCR as an 8+. She is not missing any of the impossible to find parts, sheet metal is good, bike is in good overall condition and has a clear title, ready to go. Email me with any questions. I reserve the right to close the auction early as this XLCR is for sale localy as well.
I just read that these bikes are worth about $9000 for a nice one. The seller claims that this one has all the rare goodies that you can’t find and that it’s all original. Saying “the motor is free” means it doesn’t run so keep that in mid if you’re thinking of bidding. Does have a title though. I think his starting bid is about what it’s worth based on how much work you’d have to put into it. You won’t accidentally find yourself going a 140 mph on this or be dragging your knees on the first corner. They only go about 100 mph and they handle just ok. For some reason I find myself wanting one of these though. Maybe it’s because my Dad has been riding HD’s for 50 years. Anyway, the XLCR is guaranteed to go up in value and be a very fun project so go get it.
This is one of those bikes that always seems to evoke a bit of emotion with readers. Conceived during the mid 70’s as a way to cash in on the cafe racer craze coming over from Europe, Willie G Davidson decided that an H-D branded effort could help grow the fortunes of The Motor Company (who at the time were under AMF control). Short story: Willie G was very wrong; sales of the XLCR never really took off.
Still the resultant creation was unique, and still sharp looking today. And as evidenced by this post and this post over on RSBFS, many readers wouldn’t mind finding this big twin in their garage.
Although radical for H-D, the concept must have been seen as relatively simple at the time. Start with a 1000cc twin in a Sportster chassis, add a bikini fairing, disk brakes and black-out paint. The XLCR is as much a parts bike as a cafe racer, but given the competition of Moto Guzzi, BMW and Norton, performance was on par.
What H-D could not have counted on was the amazing arms race initiated by the Japanese. When released, the XLCR could not hold its own against the machinery coming from the land of the Rising Sun. Sportbike guys didn’t buy Harleys, and Harley guys didn’t buy sportbikes – which left the XLCR without a home in either camp.
From the seller:
THIS XLCR HAS A HISTORY OF TWO OWNERS. HERE IS THE STATEMENT FROM THE ORIGINAL OWNER. THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IS FROM ME THE SECOND OWNER.
1977 Harley Davidson XLCR (Café Racer). Being the original owner, I would like to give you the history of your motorcycle. It was limited production model (2000 total) manufactured in 1977 and was slated along with 19 other XLCR’s for export to Montréal. They were shipped to Canada and were put in storage while customs paperwork was being performed. When the paperwork was finished and the time came for the motorcycles to continue on to their intended H. D. dealerships, they could not be located in the warehouse. After extensive investigation the motorcycles were declared stolen. All insurance claims were filed and losses paid and the case was closed. About 6 months later upon moving some other shipping crates the motorcycles were found still in their original shipping crates. The Canadian government wanted no part of untangling all the insurance paperwork and informed Harley Davidson to remove the motorcycles from Canadian soil. Harley Davidson (which was already producing 1978 models) decided to offer the 20 motorcycles to Harley Davidson dealerships in the north east part of the country. As luck would have it, a friend of mine was the owner of Harley Davidson of Trenton, NJ. Upon hearing this and knowing of my interest in the XLCR, he contacted me. We made arrangements with H.D. to procure one. I took ownership of XLCR # 7FO1987H7 on 9/16/78. Being an avid motorcycle mechanic and rider I usually have three or four motorcycles available to ride, consequently the XLCR accumulated little mileage over its 3 years of registration. 1980 was the last year of use. Since then I would start and run around the block once or twice a year. It has a total of 2267 KPH or 1367 MPH on the odometer.
I HAVE OWNED THE XLCR FOR ONE YEAR AND ADDED 220 MILES WHICH WERE TO VINTAGE MEETS. THE ORIGINAL SELLER AND HIS DEALER FRIEND HAVE BOTH 100% RATING WITH EBAY AS I DO. THIS XLCR IS RARE BECAUSE IT IS 1 OF 20 CANADIAN MODELS; THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE SPEEDOMETER IS IN KPH. IF THE RESERVE IS MET, THE BIKE WILL COME WITH SOME EXTRA PARTS I HAVE ACCUMULATED OVER THE YEARS, BEFORE I GOT THIS BIKE. THE BIKE DOES NOT NEED THESE BUT NEITHER WILL I WHEN THE BIKE IS SOLD, SO THE BIKE WILL COME WITH NOS XLCR AMERICAN MPH POLICE CALIBRATED SPEEDOMETER,AND A NOS SHIFTER SIDE, OUTER CASE COVER, NOS FRONT WHEEL, NOS EXTRA FAIRING BRACKET, ONE NOS INDICATOR LAMP CLUSTER- P/N58329-77 ASSEMBLY, NOS AIR CLEANER BACKING COVER ASSEMBLY, NEW CHOKE KNOB AND CABLE, A USED BUT LIKE NEW FRONT SPROCKET COVER, THE USED PARTS, REPAIR AND OWNER MANUAL’S AND ONLY ONE IGNITION KEY.. THESE ARE EXTRA PARTS THAT I HAVE COLLECTED AND WILL GO WITH THE BIKE NOT PLANNING TO BE SOLD SEPERATELY.
Today, the value of an XLCR is at an all time high – and climbing. As wrong as Willie G was back then, he is getting the last laugh today. Interest in these bikes is rabid, and when treated like a period collectable that can still be ridden, they are smart money indeed. Expect a perfect example to eclipse $20k at auction, with lightly used models not too far behind.
This bike is available at auction right now. While it has a unique history in its US-to-Canada-to-US story, it is still essentially a gray-market bike. Unfortunately imports that compete alongside legitimate US bikes never seem to do quite as well when the hammer falls, but this might be a different story; the bike was a legitimate H-D dealer item. The current bid is just over $10,000, with reserve not yet met.
For more info and to check out all of the pics, . As always, tell ’em you saw it on CSBFS. And be sure and let us know what you think once you check it out!
Here we have Harley’s first attempt at a sport bike/cafe racer. This is the famous design of Willie G. Davidson, who took a regular Sportster and added all the cafe racer “must-haves” of the era: 1/4 fairing, long low tank, rearsets, drag bars and XR750 inspired solo tailpiece.
The XLCR was to Harley Davidson what the Edsel was to Ford! They sat in the showrooms while customers bought regular Sportsters in droves!
If you wanted a bike that could handle the curves, accelerate like a rocket, and stop on a dime, this bike would do none of the above! LOL! But they are great to look at! Put it in your living room (with a drip pan underneath) and admire.
This bike looks like a good chance to buy in on the XLCR cult at the low end.
This bike listed has some faults including jumping out of gear and some smoking on start up.
The owner claims to have over $9000 into it, so ask for receipts to prove these claims. Aside from the very hard to find cosmetics and siamese exhaust (which look good on this bike), these bikes are very easy to get parts for (basically a tarted up Sportster).
I loved (and still love) these bikes. I used to drool over the great ad’s Harley put in CyleWorld in ’77. Cool bikes!!
Subscribe via Email
Never miss an update with our subscription service. Your address will not be sold or spammed, and only our updates will be sent to you.