Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My Bologna has a first's H A R L E Y

When I was a kid the word motorcycle was synonomous with Italian. I still tend to think that way but to a lesser extent. I remember going with my Dad to look at a motorcycle for sale. It was on the back porch of a house that sat on the property of a well drilling company. It was yellow and long and looked exotic. It was a late 70's Ducati 750 Sport. That bike is in the Chief's shop today. Every bike I have ever owned I instantly pictured in my head what it would look like as a cafe racer. That 750 Ducati is what cafe racers all strive to be. Once I got to be the age that I was interested in wrenching on things I took an interest in this little white motorcycle in our basement. It was a Harley Davidson Sprint. That was basically the impetus for my love of motorcycles. In 1960 Harley Davidson went looking for a company to build small entry level bikes that they could throw their name on. They went onto a 50/50 partnership with a company named Aermacchi based in -you guessed it - Bologna, Italy. Ducati's raceshop is currently in the same building that these bikes were built. Aermacchi was then and still is an aircraft manufacturer. From the 50's to the mid 70's they made cool little bikes. You can read all about the history of the company and other neat info at the links over there in the sidebar. The H-D Sprint is all Italian; Tomaselli, Dellorto, Veglia. It says Harley on the side but they were all built in Italy. There were many models made by Aermacchi for H-D but the ones I am interested in are the single cylinder four-strokes known in the U.S. as Sprints. They were born a few years before the union with Harley. There were 175,250, and later 350 models. I won't go too far into the details but there were road-going models and full blown racebikes for roadracing, flat-track, and less common - motocross. I could geek out and ramble on and on about these things. I have been dreaming of building a cafe racer out of that little white bike since I first discovered it in the basement. My Dad's first new bike was a Sprint that was unfortunately stolen right out of his parents garage. The white bike had been a replacement for that purchased many years later. The chassis from that bike wound up as the red racebike shown above at Daytona for the vintage races in the 90's. The one in the pic has a late model 350 motor in it that I found in a junkyard. The racebike crashed at Daytona the next year and was dissassembled. The 350 motor found it's way into a new chassis the Chief built and the bent frame is hanging in his barn. All the parts are still around for the white bike and someday I will fix the frame and build that cafe racer.

Now, My Sprint. The little gem with the silver tank there is a 68 SS250. One of the least desirable of all the Sprints that I got from a buddy for 50 bucks and it has a title. The green seat is just for mock up, it won't be on the bike. My Dad has one of these also. (There's four or so all together). This one is going to get the bobber treatment. The Harley guys tend to ignore these things as they are Italian and not as testosterone laden as a big twin. You see a few done in a chopper style but I have yet to see one that looked good. Usually, they are restored, made into racebikes, or made into cafe racers. I, being the contrarian that I am, am planning to do this in a Crocker, 30's bobber kind of deal. I believe I can pull it off. We'll see.
Minor update - I ran across some cool Aermacchi stuff over at LoudBike. There is a 69 350 that looks like what this looked like when it was new and a racebike. Lots of pics- check the sidebar over there for quick links to the Sprint/Aermacchi stuff.

1 comment:

Gymi said...

Good luck with the Sprint, I think you can pull it off. Years ago I hung out with a couple of brothers who were into RD's and SR’s like me. The eldest Matt was absolutey crazy about Sprints. He had four of them in the basement in various states of repair. He also had a huge stockpile of parts for these bikes. I have not seen these guys for years and have always wondered if he still had those Sprints.

Later, Gymi