Harley-Davidson Nova Project

Nova Project

In contrast to the most common stories that Harley, as a business unit of AMF, led only a languishing existence: Under AMF, something new did indeed emerge: The Nova Project. It showed that people in The States were quite inclined to take a fresh approach. That there was a future vision. And what do you need more than vision in those types of processes? Right: Money. And the latter was a thing when Harley-Davidson had detached itself from the American Machine Foundries.

The Nova Project

The idea was to make better, more modern engines. Motors to conquer the world with. Including the circuits and the sprint tracks. The proprietary Evo blocks were a step in that direction. But the Americans did not have the manpower for further, radical changes. They hired Porsche for this.

But the basic idea was that there should be four (and possibly even six) cylinder blocks and that all the thinking windows were allowed to open completely. There was even thought of cross-mounted engines with cardan drive. And liquid cooling (but they would just seem air-cooled. At Harley they were allergic to radiators. So that part had to be as small as possible and out of sight. The radiator came under the buddy. Just like the tank. And that radiator solution much later we found back at the Buells (which almost all broke down).

A modular approach

There should be a range of 400-1500 cc modular blocks. Modular to be able to make as many different blocks as possible with as few different parts as possible. Blocks with double overhead camshafts. With balance shafts Injection. They should be short stroke blocks to be able to turn more revolutions. The heads would start with two valves each, but they could easily be modified to become four valves. Cooperation with Porsche was kept very secret. Because Harley riders had the idea that they were riding All American Iron. They still do, by the way. But the planned results should have shaken the motorcycle world to its foundations. Porsche would do the engine blocks and transmission. The Americans would be concerned with the rolling part and the looks. The motor would be a supporting part in the pressed steel frame. All sounds pretty good. However?

The project cost a lot of money

They invested between $ 10.000000-15.000000 in the project. That resulted in about two dozen motorcycles. And those machines apparently met all expectations. After a group of shareholders had sought Harley-Davidson back from the AMF group, the flames went out. There was no more money for the Nova Project and all cards were used on the Evo blocks. The tires with Porsche were later tightened for the development of the liquid-cooled VRSCA Revolution V-Rod engine blocks.

But if the party went on, Harley-Davidson could have launched a good, modern V4 before Honda started running that idea. That could have revolutionized the global setting on the motorcycle market. Not to mention what Harley's V6 could have meant in the motorcycle world before Benelli, Kawasaki and Honda came up with that approach.

Oh yes: Some suitcases and tubs from the Nova project found a place in the HD Evo program.

Nova Project
Also nothing became: An Aermacchi Harley with Morini block


Leave a Reply
  1. There have been more projects that deviated from 'the norm' an inglorious (cradle) death that had the HD bar-'n-shield on the tanks.
    What do you think of the W-Sport (Douglas clone), the XA (BMW clone) and recently the V-rod?
    These are all engine concepts that the MoCo has not continued with, although the V-rod still lives on a bit in the current 500/750 Sport series (Made in India)… which is probably also in for a silent death.
    The HD rider M / V is conservative, and wants nothing more than a 45 degree V-twin with pushrods… that has now been proven.
    That conservatism, incidentally, has been a saving angel several times for the factory itself, but with the other designs, HD shows that they really can do more than excite fat V-twins.

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