…just in time for Christmas.
I don’t know about you but each year there is always someone on my Christmas gift list that deserves a lump of coal in their Christmas Stocking, usually it’s one of my kids. I found that lump of coal today on ebay.
Here’s the deal though, the person I think deserves it (not one of my kids, but I do think it would be hilarious to see my son in this) would really like it?! So why is it a lump of coal? Because any sane person would never be seen in public wearing it! On the other hand, all you have to do is go to the Sturgis Rally (or pick any of a hundred such rally’s) and it becomes a perfectly, socially acceptable piece of attire. This jacket really is a piece of classic American Motorcycling.
Let’s see…Harley Barbie’s, blow up dolls…I love the lifestyle.
Click on the pictures below and if you hurry you might just be able to get it under the Christmas tree.
It’s that time of year that I start searching for, working on and writing about ‘winter projects’. Here in Southern California winter is all about having to switch from shorts to long pants and maybe a long sleeve t-shirt. OK…I said that just to make all of you that live in colder climates a bit jealous but the truth is, it does get cold here for us motorcyclists and though we may not have heated basements to build bikes in, my journalistic hero Peter Egan has the best, but we do have to warm up the garage at night to work on bikes.
It’s no secret that I love the Harley Davidson XLCR, it really is one of the few Harley’s that I really do lust after…note here…Santa (wife) are you listening??? The XLCR was not one of ‘The Motor Company’s’ shining moments, at the time, but it has become quite a cult classic. XLCR models in beautiful condition are selling for upwards of five times their original selling price!!! Honestly, Harley dealers were selling them at ‘fire sale’ prices two years after they quit making them. A little less than 2000 of the CR models were made and as I have said before they went over like a fart in church. It’s too bad to because a number of the features that went into XLCR ended up helping make the standard Sportster a much better motorcycle.
Willie G. Davidson penned this bike from the ground up. He went after the BMW R90S and the Ducati SS. The XLCR was the quickest and fastest of the Sportsters. THe CR was 5hp up on the basic Sporty, it was under 500LB’s (which the BMW was not) and had a top speed over somewhere a bit north 110mph (which in itself was really not that big a deal at that time). Willie G. pulled some of the chassis design straight off Harley’s own flat track dominating XR750. But, to the faithful, it was not a real Harley. Yes, there were the AMF quality issues with the bike but all told, the XLCR was a good bike. Harley tried the Sportbike market again decades later with Buell but again pulled the plug. Harley knows their market.
Back to winter projects, I found an XLCR on ebay this morning, that if you’re brave enough, will be a great winter project. It’s pretty rough, it’s not a basket case but, it is rough. This is a bike that is going to need a lot of love and elbow grease. The seller is very honest about what has and hasn’t been done to/for the bike, what parts he has, the condition of said parts and what he wants to keep off the bike for his collection and what goes with it. Some of the stuff is good, some is questionable but all in all if you want a good winter project, this is pretty good choice. The bike is a runner so that in itself gives you a good starting point. With this XLCR you have a really have an easy choice to make…clean it all up (but leave it a little ratty), piece it back together and ride it. Or…go the full restoration route and invest a whole lot of money, that you will never get back if you want to sell it, and it will be a really cool motorcycle for a collection. And with a little work, it could end looking like this one…
Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures.
1976 was a really tough time for ‘The Motor Company’, they had been bought up by AMF and quality control was pretty low on the priority list…bowling balls and pool tables were more important than motorcycles. I’m guessing that American Manufacturing and Foundry Company needed a tax write off? Everybody has heard this story many times so we won’t beat a dead horse here.
To be fair here though, many think that it was AMF that actually saved Harley Davidson from fading away as Indian did. Well, Indian didn’t ‘fade’, it limped. AMF Harley’s did have reliability problems but I think part of that was that AMF was trying to modernize the production process and as we all know, major changes don’t always come that easy.
In my humble opinion, the Sportster motor has always been Harley’s best. The BIG twins have the allure but the Sporty has Spunk! The Sportster was built to compete with the British twins and it did an ‘admirable’ job. It didn’t have the handling prowess of the brits but in a straight line…The Sportster was king. Americans loved drag racing and the Harley fit perfectly.
I found a really nice ’76 today on ebay that I think would be great just as it is or build it out. It is stock condition, even still has the gas tank sticker!? It has been completely serviced by the dealer and is ready to ride…push the button and ride off into the sunset…or the sunrise, whichever way you want to go. This is a really nice Ironhead Sportster that will give you a lot of miles of smiles. Just take good care of it.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
One last parting comment about the AMF years. As I said earlier, AMF was a bowling alley company, here’s proof. And thank goodness Willie G and a few friends bought the company back.
In 1957 Harley Davidson was not really in trouble compared to Indian. A few years before the Beatles arrived there was the original ‘British Invasion’. Soldiers had returned home from the war in Europe and were buying motorcycles. Triumph, BSA, Norton, AJS, Enfield, and others were all building light and fast motorcycles while Harley and Indian were still building big, heavy and slower bikes. Indian tried to compete with the Brit’s by building bikes powered by the Enfield twin and, Harley went to Italy looking for lightweights. None of that worked for the American builders.
Indian rode themselves into the sunset while Harley Davidson decided to go head on with the Brits with the technology and success they already had. “let’s take what we already know how to do just make it lighter and faster and give it a good name”. Enter the Sportster.
The 1957 Sportster had the new Overhead Valve Ironhead engine but was stuck into an older KH model chassis and truthfully, for all of Harley’s good intentions, it was not a sporty motorcycle and had no chance of competing with the motorbikes from across the pond. When dealers first saw it they were less than impressed and convinced Walter Davidson to build the KR race bike with the new Sportster engine, which he did, rather begrudgingly, and the Sportster is now the longest running, continuously made model in motorcycling history.
The Sportster was considered America’s first ‘Muscle Bike’. Over the years it was steadily changed, not necessarily improved, but changed. The 1958 model had the smaller 2 gallon ‘Peanut’ tank, bobbed fenders and straight pipes. This is what buyers wanted.
In 1972 AMF was building Harley Davidson’s and honestly, quality went right down the drain. That is not just my opinion but one widely held by everyone. In 1973 Cycle magazine did a six bike comparison and the Sportster came out dead last. Still, the Sporty continued to sell. It was even a TV star!
I am a fan of the Sportster. Yeah, I know, it’s called the ‘girls Harley’, or the ‘baby Harley’, or the ‘wanna be a Harley’ but I believe that the reason it stills sells well is because it works. The Sportster has gone from 883cc to 1000cc back to 883cc up to 1200cc’s and currently there are about a half dozen models of the Sporty at your local Harley dealer. In my humble opinion, the Sportster is Harley Davidson’s best motorcycle and I think Harley thinks the same way. Why? Because they are still building it more than fifty years later. Enough said.
I found a really nicely updated 1972 Sportster on ebay today. This one has been set up to look more like the XLR than the XLH it is. The owner has given the motor a good overhaul, nice new Borriani wheels, new seat and pillion pad, tires and sweet paint job. It is ready to ride home today. This would be a really fun bike to ride. It has the look it should and the upgrades it needs. Nice.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.
Ah, the world of Harley Davidson. Literally, the ‘world’ of Harley Davidson. After years of building big, heavy traveling and military bikes, Harley’s market was being bombarded by the lighter faster British speedsters during the 50’s and 60’s. To fight back, Harley brought us the Sportster. A great bike but still a slow heavy Harley by comparison. I love Sporty’s though…they just work, always have…and don’t start down the path of the ’girls’ Harley. The Brits just had the Motor Company beat in that category. At the same time, Harley Davidson was trying to win over the lightweight market with small bore two strokes like the Hummer and its kin. Those didn’t fare well in the market.
Next was the Japanese invasion, geez, Harley just couldn’t get a break now, could they. So the powers that be in Milwaukee decided to try again in the lightweight market, but this time they brought in the pros, the Europeans. The European manufacturers had been building and perfecting the small motorcycle for decades. In Harley Davidson’s mind…”Why reinvent the wheel?” So it was off to the continent the boys from Milwaukee went.
In 1960 Harley Davidson bought up a 50% interest in Aermacchi Motorcycles, in 1974 Harley had full control at the Italian factory in Varese then in 1978 sold it all to Cagiva and retreated back to Wisconsin to build what they knew best…big bikes for the American open road.
Harley Davidson starting bringing over the small bikes to a somewhat disinterested market but they kept working on it, especially when AMF took over. There were the Sprints (the horizontal 4 stroke singles) and the small 2 stokes from the Baja 100 to the 500cc MX. None of these, save maybe the little Baja, were what was needed to combat the lighter, faster and cheaper models from Honda and Yamaha. AMF Harley Davidson put together a very strong marketing campaign, hired some fast riders, but still the lightweight line never really got off the ground. The Sprint series was quite successful in the hands of riders like Mert Lawill in AMA Flat Track racing, but the two strokes never really caught on.
Today while doing my daily cruise through ebay looking for something I want but I know I don’t need, I came across the orphaned child from AMF Harley Davidson, a 2 stroke SX250. The SX is the enduro model; there was also an SS model which was street only. Here are some specs on the SX; first, in 1978 there were only 469 made (maybe because earlier models didn’t sell??), it weighed a svelte (?) 275lbs, put out an eye popping 20HP and would get you a traffic ticket on the freeway for going as fast as it could at 71.5mph (to make it look better, use the European standard…115 KPH!). In 1978 a new SX250 would set you back just $1130.00, about $200-300 more than its Japanese counterpart, but hey, it actually was a European motorcycle and they always cost more. But…this particular model from Harley / Aermacchi did have one thing that none of the Japanese ‘enduro’ models had and that was the special rear wheel. I’m not kidding, that rear wheel was worth the extra money alone, especially if you really did strip it down and ride off-road with it. The rear wheel was the same ‘quick change’ type that was used on European off road racers. It also came with a snail cam chain adjuster that gave you much more accurate wheel alignment than anything the foreign competitors had at the time. If you went out and bought all that, it would cost nearly twice as much as the base bike price difference. However, it was still slow. It may seem that I am being a little hard on Harley for these models and truthfully I am, but Harley should have learned the first time around that lightweight bikes is not what riders wanted From Harley.
Now, with all that said, I did find a neat little SX250 for sale on ebay that would be really fun to have. It’s the last year, 1978 when they slowed production down to only 469 units. Now, some may think it’s more valuable because they didn’t make many but the truth is they didn’t make many because nobody bought ‘em. Don’t confuse that fact with’limited edition’ etc, etc…
This little SX is complete, I think, he didn’t take a picture of the muffler side of the bike so who knows what condition it is in. If the muffler is in good condition, everything else looks pretty good, it looks like both side covers are missing and the mirrors are’t original but that’s no big deal. The seller says it ran when it was parked and I would imagine that if it ran good back than it wouldn’t take much to have running nicely now. The graphics are missing on the tank but those are findable on the motorcycle restorers best friend, the internet. There a few good resources for parts and info for this model, not a lot but it is there. If you feel like showing up at a Harley ride on this little red headed stepchild of a Harley, I’ll bet you get as many people asking you about it as the guy who spent $20,000 just on chrome for his Fat Boy. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little info. Could be a fun little bike.
It’s no secret, I have a very strong lust for Harley XLCR’s. It’s some sort of sickness. Why would anybody want a slow, heavy motorcycle that vibrates more than the twenty five cent ‘vibro-bed’ in a cheap motel, needs a lot of maintenance, leaks oil everywhere…(this is where I insert the joke..if you tell someone your Harley doesn’t leak, they tell you…because its out of oil!!!), has brakes that Fred Flintstone would think are crappy, and Harley Davidson could barely give away when it came out??!! Tell me why I love these bikes, please help me…do I need a twelve step program?? No, I just need an XLCR, because it has soul.
In the 1970’s and through the Eighties, there was the UJM, Universal Japanese Motorcycle, whether it was Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki or Suzuki…they were all pretty much the same, paint jobs were different but the bikes of the time were very…well, Vanilla. I call them the Kawayamazukida’s of the motorcycling world. Sure you could buy a European bike for something that wasn’t Vanilla, but along with those came a higher purchase price, a level of unreliability and a much smaller dealer network if you did need service.
So, where does the Harley Davidson XLCR fit in? Compared to a UJM, it is a living being…it vibrates, it snorts, it’s temperamental, it will give you fits, it will leave it’s mark on the garage floor every night and it will put a smile on your face every time you ride it somewhere and yours is the only one in a sea of look alikes.
The XLCR was expensive, you could buy a Triumph, Ducati or Moto Guzzi, to which I think the XLCR was trying to aspire, for less money and you would get a much better motorcycle. That friends is why the XLCR didn’t sell. The Motor Company wanted to expand its market and Willie G decided that a Cafe Racer was going to help sales. Ok, he was a little off the mark, at the time, but now, XLCR’s command some pretty serious $$$$. The XLCR has a very strong cult following. So what if it is the same old 4 speed 1000cc Sportster (a lump of a motor) with a wooden suspension and lousy brakes, the styling was unique and it had the Harley soul.
I found a very nice 1978 model on ebay that is actually a really good value at this time. It’s super clean, it’s all original and…so far, under $10K. A clean XLCR can go for a lot more…if you want one, this is the buy. Click on the pics below and see if a ‘little left of center’ piece of american motorcycling history is in your future.
You know, Harley Davidson is a lot more than just big chrome behemoths rolling down the road and the legendary history contains a lot more than just Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper crossing the country with a gas tank full of drug money or Evil Knievel jumping over the fountain at Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas. The history also is full of clean cut kids riding little two strokes to school.
After the war (WW2), Harley was doing their best to try and get returning soldiers onto Harley Davidson motorcycles and there was no better way than to give them lightweight, fun and inexpensive bikes. Build some brand loyalty and their next bike will be one of the BIG Harley’s. Harley bought a simple two stroke engine design from DKW in Germany, adapted it to their style of bike and started building baby Harley’s.
The baby Harley’s started out 125cc, then to 165 cc then onto the 175 which is what the Pacer is. When most people think of the small Harley’s, they think of the Hummer, which we have written about here a few times…it’s an interesting story that, no, I’m not going to write about again here, lucky you. Overall the little Harley’s didn’t sell all that well across the country in spite of all of Harley Davidson’s marketing, yet today, they are a much sought after little motorcycle.
In 1962 Harley upped the ‘Super 10′ which was 165cc, to 175cc and gave it a new name, the Pacer. Side note here, the Pacer only lasted I think, three years?? A couple of decades later AMC (American Motor Corp…formerly known as Rambler) built a car with the same name. It too was short lived. Note to car and motorcycle makers…if you want a model to last, don’t call it a Pacer. But, I digress…
When the Pacer came out in 1962 it was a rigid frame bike with springs on the seat. In 1963 they changed the rear end by including a rear shock system under the motor, which they still use a version of to this day…Harley certainly uses its history don’t they. The Pacer also incorporates the ‘Teleglide’ front suspension, a definite upgrade for the little Harley’s.
I found a really nice little Pacer on ebay today that has been sitting in this guys living room for the past few years. I am a follower of the ‘Ride Them, Don’t Hide Them’ religion so I think this little baby blue baby Harley needs to find a life cruising the campus. It’s in great condition, looks like a very fun little ride and doesn’t have all that many miles on it. Picture yourself showing up at the local biker (Harley) hangout on this little 175cc 2 stroke and proudly parking it amongst all the Dyna Glides, Electra Glides, Fat Boys (the bikes, not the riders), Low Riders, Sportsters, and knowing that you belong there. In some more than many of the others but that’s another story.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures
It’s no secret to anybody who knows me that I never drank the Harley Kool Aid. I have a good number of friends that are well ensconced in the Harley lifestyle and yet,…can hustle a Dyna Glide or a Sportster along a twisty road leaving supposedly ‘sportier’ motorcycles in their “potato, potato, potato’ wake.
For thirty years now, I have lusted after one particular HD model, the XLCR, it’s really not all that great in any respect performance wise, but it has a cool factor that I can’t resist. Since I started writing about vintage motorcycles and the people who ride them, I have found there is another Harley I would love to have. The Harley Davidson ‘American Lightweight’ series. AKA the Harley Hummer. These little bikes are so cool, I have to find a way to get one someday. I just need a bigger barn, and…permission from the wife.
The little Harley two strokes back at the time were not big sellers except in Omaha Nebraska. A dealer in Omaha was selling the baby Harley’s faster than Omaha Steaks was shipping meat to New York. Dean Hummer, the dealer, for some reason took the little bike under his wing and made a success of it at a time when the rest of the Motor Company dealers couldn’t give them away. Now, this was no mean feat considering that Omaha was the home of Cushman scooters. Here’s a bit of trivia for you, are all the early two stroke Harley’s called Hummer’s? The correct answer is…No. Only the 1955-59 125cc models are actually named Hummer’s in honor of that Omaha dealer. However, the name stuck and all those early lightweights are still referred to as Hummer’s.
My daily search for cool old motorcycles brought me to this little 1962 model, a ‘Pacer’ in the Harley archives. To me, this is the perfect project bike. It runs. Hey, what more do you want?? Really?? Well, if you’re looking ahead to a very cold and bleak winter on the edge of the prairie in western Minnesota, hunkered down in your heated basement trying to do anything but watch American Idol on TV, a total basket case might be more to your liking. Peter Egan are you listening?
The little ’62 Pacer I found hasn’t been laying on its side in a field somewhere with weeds growing in the carburetor, various barn critters haven’t set up home in the air cleaner and, it hasn’t been scavenged for parts that ended up on a Suzuki GN400 Cafe Racer. It’s perfect! Think of all the things you can do with this little bike. Oh sure, you can spend thousands of dollars to restore it to showroom new…that will certainly keep you from the torture of American Idol…it will also force you to choose between paying the cable bill or having the bike repainted perfectly with the logo and stripes hand painted, (go with the paint job…just my opinion). You can customize it to make it look like a BIG Harley? If you were so inclined???
This baby Harley has a good story to go along with it and, it does run and honestly, I think I would just do a little more clean up on it, not a restoration ( I wouldn’t even repaint it ), get some new tubes for the tires so they hold air, and ride it. There is nothing cooler than an old bike that proudly shows its age.
If you’re looking for a classic Harley Davidson motorcycle that isn’t covered in chrome, been chopped, bobbed, stretched, or otherwise customized (?) and, you won’t see at any of your local bike hangout’s, this is your ticket into the world of cool.
Click on the pic’s below for more about this neat little Harley. This is the second one I have found that I like and maybe, just maybe…I can convince the bank manager that the next one I find might live here. A Harley in my garage??? My Triumph friends will desert me.
Living and riding motorcycles here in Southern California for most all of my life, I have seen pretty much everything rolling around on two wheels. Every brand, size, style and condition. Basic stock to wild customs and everywhere in between. Southern California is Mecca for motorcycle people. Year ’round riding, more dealers and shops than probably the rest of the country combined, all the major Japanese manufacturers are based here, all the magazines…this really is heaven for riders. Hey, we even have Jesse James…uh, is that a good thing though??
Years ago, I cut my canyon riding teeth in the Santa Monica Mountains; Mulholland Highway, Decker Canyon, Encinal, Yerba Buena, Stunt Road (its real name), Latigo Canyon…and all without meeting the CHP. So far. Every ride included a stop at the Rock Store. The Rock Store is arguably the most famous Southern California motorcycle destination and a required stop on a Sunday ride along the Malibu coast. The Rock Store is a Sunday bike show that features every type of motorcycle imaginable. Custom Harley’s, Gold Wings, dirt bikes, scooter’s, cafe racers, vintage Brit bikes and bicycles too. Harley Davidson, in general, is the ride of choice for the Rock Store crowd; baggers have become quite popular of late, you still see classic longbikes once in a while, a Sporty here and there, and more women riding their own instead of on the back.
One type of bike that you rarely see at the Rock Store is a Cafe Racer style Harley. Back in the 70’s, Willie G penned the XLCR for The Motor Company (see the header pics) but it didn’t sell well. Harley riders have always, and will always want, big heavy cruisers so that is what Harley makes…give the customer what they want. However, there are some adventurous souls that take it upon themselves to break the mold and build a Harley Davidson Cafe Racer. A few years back while cruising the parking lot I came across the ‘DUCHNTR’. That was the license plate on the back of a very cool Harley Cafe Racer. I met the owner once, can’t remember his name right now, he told me all about his bike and why he did it. It was a good story about a very trick and fast Harley. That was the last time I saw a really well done Cafe Racer powered by Harley Davidson. Until today.
This morning on ebay is this stunning 1989 ( ok, not really vintage but hey, it’s my blog, my rules) Sportster Cafe Racer. The owner of this bike has gone all out and I mean all out. First, he built up the motor to put out what he thinks is an honest 70HP at the rear wheel, impressive for a Sportster. Second, modified the frame and suspension to make it handle not like a Harley. Third, sweet body work off a Ducati 750SS and an MV Agusta gas tank. This bike is spectacular. Look at the details, this is a work of art. The love, time and cubic $$$$ put into this bike really shows. If you want to be the stand out at any bike gathering, this is the sled for you. One thought here though, the regular Harley crowd might think you stand out a bit too much…maybe you could put some old school Electra Glide bags on it??? Nah. Click on the pics to get more pictures and a full list of all that was done to make this Sportster what it is…a beautifully fast motorcycle.
Harley Davidson’s history is all over the map, literally and figuratively. Getting designs from post World War Two Germany, building motorcycles in Italy, buying Italian motorcycle manufacturers, The Motor Company just couldn’t stand staying at home in Milwaukee. Little 2-stroke street bikes from Germany, horizontal singles from Italy, 100cc dirt bikes from Italy (the HD Baja 100 is universally acknowledged as one of the worst dirt bikes ever built) all the way up to 1000cc Superbikes from Italy as well. I think the HD boys liked pasta better than schnitzel?
After WW2, as part of the Reparations Act, certain technologies were turned over to the Allies, one them being a motorcycle design from the German firm DKW. DKW was well known for making small motorbikes for the European market. After the war America was looking for economical transportation and Harley jumped on the bandwagon.
The first of the baby Harley’s was the model 125 in 1948. A mind bending 3 HP little 2 stroke roadbike. Sales of the 125 were not great but also not bad. In 1953 Harley upped the game with the new 165 ST. The 165’s 5 1/2 hp would send you hurtling down the road at breakneck speeds, scaring women and children, dogs would hide under the porch and the police wouldn’t chase you because they figured they would never catch you…that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration? The baby Harley’s were reliable, economical little roadbikes that just didn’t sell all that well. America wanted economical transportation yes, just not from Harley Davidson. What we wanted from Harley is what we still want, big motorcycles, not toys.
I like small motorcycles for lot’s of reasons and this morning I found this neat little Harley on ebay. A 1955 Model 165ST. It has been almost fully restored and probably wouldn’t take much more to finish the job. There isn’t a whole lot of description or details given by the owner but, he does have a good story about the motorcycle and how he got it. The owner also seems fairly adamant that this is NOT a ‘Hummer’. What’s a Hummer? it is an updated, somewhat stripped down version of the 125 model that also came out in 1955. As I looked at this bike something stood out, look at the gas tank, it’s the ‘peanut’ style tank that in 1957 made it’s way onto the Sportster…cool huh?! It’s got a very steep ‘buy it now’ price, but if you want a Harley that is American made, just a whole lot smaller, give this bike a good look. Click on the pics for more.