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.


1977 Harley XRTT R Side

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4 Responses

  1. Jess says:

    I believe HD is a victim of their own advertising and hype. The late 70’s XLCR, ’83-84 XR-1000, V-Rod, latest XR-1200 were either under-developed sales room flops, or the good ones were just ignored then dropped by HD. It will be interesting how the new water cooled 750 does.

  2. tad says:

    Oh I agree: whenever they’ve had genuinely modern motorcycles, dealers and Harley faithful didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with them. They’re happy to sell underperforming, overpriced “bad-ass rides” to people who don’t know any better. I love the Harley 48, but all it really does is look and sound good: it’s pretty piss-poor at doing most of the things a motorcycle should do. If all you want to do is bar-hop, it may be the bike for you. And the new 750? I think it’s pretty ugly, and any number of bikes are better but they may sell anyway, since they’re the “genuine article.”

    It’s a shame, since they have so much heritage to draw from. Had a long conversation today at an EBR demo-day [rode both the RX and SX] with a Triumph salesman who spent years on Harleys about this exact topic… I just hope the new Indian “out-Americans” HD, and eventually makes a slick, sporty standard. Great-looking engine in that new Scout, and water-cooled. The new water-cooling on the HD’s is a tacked-on looking nightmare.

  3. Jess says:

    “I just hope the new Indian “out-Americans” HD, and eventually makes a slick, sporty standard. Great-looking engine in that new Scout,” X2! Polaris (the owner of Indian) has always been at the cutting edge of technology, performance, and quality with their snowmobiles since 1965. The snowmobile market has been a fierce “new technology” battle ground since 1968 and Polaris is one of the last four manufacturers standing. Indian (Polaris) will give Harley some stiff competition.

  4. tad says:

    I think you’re correct. Honestly, I’m not all that into 40’s-styled Americana, but that Scout is a pretty good-looking bike, and early reviews are very positive. If they can make a bike with the style and the presence of the HD 48 with modern handling and technology, and still keep it in the price range, I think they’ll win some serious converts. Basically, it looks like they’re trying to take the American cruiser to someplace it should have gone a long time ago.