An Italian Harley-Steve Bond
The name “Harley-Davidson ” usually conjures images of large, V-twin, heavily-chromed motorcycles. but this Harley has only one cylinder, utilizes magnesium instead of “bling” and, even though its natural habitat is Daytona. you’ll find it at the racetrack, not trolling Main Street.
Aeronautica Macchi (soon abbreviated to Aermacchi) was founded by Julio Macchi in 1912 and originally manufactured seaplanes. The company stayed true to its airy roots until just after World War 2. when (for obvious reasons) it started producing three-wheeled delivery vehicles. Their first motorcycle hit the Italian market in 1950 and the company became so successful that Harley-Davidson bought 50 percent of Aermacchi in 1960.
Why? At that time, the “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” lightweight motorcycle boom was in full swing in North America and Harley, with nothing smaller than their 883 Sportster available, wanted in. So they re-badged Aermacchi 250 and 350 cc horizontal single-cylinder machines in Italy and sold them as Harley Sprints.
As recreational motorcycling grew, so did various forms of racing. So it was natural that Sprints were transformed into racers. Some were pressed into dirt track duty while others competed in the pavement wars – quite successfully.
With 35 horsepower on tap and a dry weight of only 215 lb, the motorcycle had a great power to weight ratio and the chassis was Italian thoroughbred so you can bet the handling was top-drawer. In fact, Dick Hammer won the Expert 100-mile 250 race at Daytona on a CRTT and as late as 1968, Don Hollingsworth won the 76-mile Novice race at Daytona on an Aermacchi 250 – beating a horde of TD1 Yamaha two-strokes in the process.
The motorcycle gracing these pages is a 1964 Harley/Aermacchi 250 cc CRTT – purpose built from the factory for road racing – not a modified street bike.
The frame is a massive single backbone with the engine hung below and is further reinforced with judicious bracing, most noticeably the one connecting the upper shock mount to the swingarm pivot. Harley got their fingers in with noticeably oversize street handgrips and the somewhat clunky folding footpegs, all proudly sporting the Harley Davidson logo.
The engine is the full-race undersquare “longstroke ” motor with bore and stroke being 66 x 72mm. The 30 mm Del Orto carburetor is mounted vertically so the fuel mixture gets a straight shot into the intake port of the horizontal cylinder, but to prevent extreme flooding, the carb has a rubber-mounted remote float bowl. Confirming the pedigree, both cylinder and head are aluminum but go one step further by being sandcast.
Both brakes have magnesium hubs, the front drum being a twin-shoe model with racing linings, and wheels are gorgeous aluminum alloy units. Racing touches abound on the motorcycle, as brake stays, activating arms, and even the friction steering damper knob are drilled for lightness. The CRTT is set off beautifully by the streamlined aluminum fuel tank.
Bar Hodgson purchased this CRTT from Paul Trethewey, a collector and enthusiast of Italian exotics. The original owner had raced this bike out of Florida where the bike saw a lot of action in the Southeast USA. When Paul began the restoration he found the original racer had rebuilt the brakes and wheels after campaigning. Paul shipped the crankshaft to England for rebuilding and balancing and then commissioned noted Aermacchi builder, Joe Lachniet, in Michigan to complete the engine rebuild.
After dealing with the painting, chroming and suede seat recovering Paul had Rick Covello complete the re-assembly. The restoration is complete although Bar is currently tidying up a few items and trying to locate an original Smiths tachometer.
Some Aermacchi race bikes (and street bikes) were given the name Ala D’Oro. Honda actually had to pay Aermacchi for the rights to use this name when they introduced a revolutionary touring bike in 1975 – the Gold Wing .
This Harley isn’t an overweight poser in a Hawaiian sport shirt – it’s a genuine tri-athlete with an Armani suit.
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