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Unearthing ancient Aermacchi

The American Motorcyclist Association recently announced that they will showcase the Aermacchi/Harley-Davidson Club as their Classic Club for 2011 AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. The event will be held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on July 22-24 where fans will have the opportunity to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Aermacchi/Harley union with bikes and memorabilia being on display.

 

Harley and the Italian manufacturer Aermacchi partnered together in the early 1960s to develop small displacement bikes for the American and European market sectors that were under the domination of Japanese manufacturers and as a means to compete in AMA-sanctioned lightweight competition. And although these smaller bikes (ranging in size from 65-350cc) were not well accepted by the Harley-Davidson demographic, several models quickly jumped to the forefront in terms of competition, particularly the 250cc singles. In the capable hands of racers such as Mert Lawwill and Cal Rayborn, the 250cc Sprint CRTT one-lunger instantly became a force to be reckoned with on the flat track circuit throughout the 60s. In 1965 George Roeder took a 250 Sprint CR racing engine, placed it in a streamliner and shattered the speed records for Class A and Class C runs, averaging 177 mph. The World 250cc Roadracing Championship was won by an Aermacchi/H-D Sprint three years in a row, 1974-76, with the 350cc version also taking its Roadracing Class in 1976. Among collectors the Harley Sprint continues to have a large fan base, being one of the most popular of all the pintsize Aermacchi piglets.

 

My personal love affair with Aermacchi began at the age of 15 with a 1968 250cc Sprint SS. It was my second bike and a big step up from my Honda 90. I bought it in retaliation after a friend outclassed me, trading in his Honda 65 for a Triumph 250 Trophy. (Plus Dad said my second bike had to be a Harley—even if it was made overseas.) The bike came stock with 22 HP while the racers were able to twist 35 out of their CRTT models cranking out 10,000 rpm. The configuration was weird as hell with the shifter on the right, rear brake pedal on the left, kickstart lever on the left opposite the kickstand on the right. A crappy 6-volt electrical system made it a bear to start at times (no electric starter) but once it fired, the damn thing would run.

 

After I upgraded to a Shovelhead bagger, I passed the Sprint down to my little brother who in turn gave it to our youngest brother. When he outgrew it, the bike landed in the hands of my brother-in-law and sister, who rode the hell out of it before handing it over to each of their two boys in order of age. For several of the owners, it was the first motorcycle they had ever ridden but was enough to ignite a two-wheel legacy that lives to this day with everyone but one brother still riding. (And they’re all on Harleys.) I found the Sprint about 15 years ago leaning against a chicken coop behind my sister’s house. Although it had been forgotten and neglected for years, it was basically complete with only few original parts missing. I couldn’t help myself—I had to bring it home. And after reading about the AMA honoring Aermacchi/Harley-Davidson at this year’s Vintage MC Days, I went digging around in the man-cave a few days ago. And look what I found. Disassembled yes, but I’m slowly locating carefully wrapped boxes of parts—spokes, rims, fenders, extra carbs, even electronics. It’s like Christmas in June.

So although I won’t have my little piazon together in time for this year’s event, I am clearing out a workspace to attack the project in the near future. Anyone interested in displaying their own piece of Italian-Hog history at Vintage Motorcycle Days can contact 336.245.3594 or jfbasore@triad.rr.com. Who knows? I just might see you there. I’ll be over in the Sprint department.

 

 

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