Aermacchi Harley-Davidson

Aermacchi Harley-Davidson
ER Classics Desktop 2022

Aermacchi was an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Formerly known as Aeronautica Macchi, the company was founded in 1912 by Giulio Macchi in Varese in northwestern Lombardy as Nieuport-Macchi, to build Nieuport monoplanes under license from the Italian army. A collaboration with Harley-Davidson later resulted in the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson. But more about that later.

With a factory on the shores of Lake Varese, the company originally produced a series of Nieuport designs and seaplanes. After the Second World War, the company started producing tricycles for small entrepreneurs and motorcycles to help the post-war need for cheap, efficient transport.

Harley had a problem

When 'the Japanese invasion' took place, Harley-Davidson needed something to give it a reply in the light motorcycles segment.

They had a few options for this: further development of their dated 165cc two-stroke single, coming up with a completely new design or simply taking over a manufacturer with a ready-made offer.

Also interesting: Cagiva Ala Verde, a cheap two-stroke

Aermacchi was the solution

Aermacchi was completely in line with the latter 'ready-to-wear approach'. The Italians built a sturdy and competent 250cc bike (derived from Alfredo Bianchi's futuristic 175cc Chimera from 1955). It performed well and had a lot of development potential. Even better, Aermacchi's parent company, Aeronautica Macchi, wanted to focus on its aircraft business and was keen to divest its cycling business.

Harley bought a 50 percent share in Aermacchi. Ready.

The original plans were those for the introduction of one Aermacchi Harley-Davidson motorcycle with an Aermacchi-designed engine that should then be spooned into the frame of a Harley-Davidson Sportster.

Eventually that plan was rejected and the following year a makeover came for the 250 1962 cc Sprint C model, which heralded the Harley / Aermacchi era.

The fast Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 250 quickly became popular in production races and was gradually improved over the years.

From 1969 to 1974, a 344 cc version of the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Sprint was available, both in European and American versions. That was at a time when it was going well economically and at that time there was only limited interest in a motorcycle with 'only' one cylinder and 350 cc.

This GTS in the European market, as was the bike's official model name, delivers up to 25 horsepower at 7000 rpm. The top speed is approximately 145 km / h. The Aermacchi Harley-Davidson, which has become somewhat heavier than the slender example, weighed approximately 140 kg. The engine had a 74 x 80 bore x stroke engine, dry clutch and four speed gearbox and no more than 1972 European GTS models were produced by 1304.

The later models of the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson were further away from the original. They had a somewhat bulky double cradle frame

They were pretty cheap

In the early days of Imola, quite a few survivors were found for the friendliest prices. Purists did not see Aermacchi in it. Neither Harley-Davidsons. To the extent that these single-cylinder Aermacchi Harley-Davidsons had already been 'discovered', they were still undervalued. In the meantime, beautiful and good copies are sought-after items. And you can no longer find them for 'very little'. However, these Aermacchi Harley-Davidsons are wonderfully usable classics. For the current traffic image, they are ideal for brave grunting dancing on secondary roads. We found our fashion model, a 1972'er, at Yesterdays in Nederweert. The restored Aermacchi was for sale there for a healthy € 6.500.

Still very clear Aermacchi
American style
With the new frame



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The August issue, containing:

  • Fiat 127 from 1972
  • Heemskerk V-twin, the best motorcycle BSA has never built
  • Restoration Mini Traveler 1963
  • Peugeot 104, a party
  • Volkswagen Golf Country was too far ahead of its genre
  • Driving with a Yamaha R5 (1971-1972)
  • Report Wemeldinge Classic Races
  • Duplicate type designations - Part XVI
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