’78 Harley Davidson Aermacchi SX250
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.