Motorcycle: Lightweights - Forza Harley
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 14:18:34 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
• SPRINT, 1961-74
The Sprint family of four-stroke singles, unveiled in September 1960, was the first tangible result of Harley-Davidson's purchase of the Aermacchi concern in Varese, Italy. Compared to much contemporary Milwaukee hardware, this was a technically advanced machine derived from the existing 250cc Ala Verde model, with an in-unit overhead-valve engine and superb handling from its spine frame, telescopic forks and swinging-fork rear end. With its unmistakable horizontal cylinder, variants of the same engine went on to innumerable race wins, including the famous Isle of Man TT, and remain hugely popular (and competitive) in classic racing today.
American buyers - despite the invitation to "thrill to the dynamic, virile note of its Hi-Flo tuned exhaust" — never quite warmed to the Sprint's lack of cubes and relatively revvy nature, yet the bike was as capable a standard production machine as its siblings were racers. The stock street version, the Model C, claimed a potent (if slightly ambitious) 18bhp at 7,500rpm from its eager, free-breathing engine. This was joined by the Model H, an off-road variant, one year later, with high-compression pistons and an additional 1.5bhp. The "H" quickly became the more popular model and was used in a wide range of American competitions, from flat track to motocross as well as for purely recreational use.
The Sprint Model H later became known as the Scrambler, producing as much as 25bhp at a relatively giddy 8,700rpm. In 1967, the original long-stroke configuration changed to short stroke - "The Sprint holds two land speed world records, so we improved it", went the ad. Two years later, the first 350 Sprints appeared, the ERS dirt racer and road-going 350cc SS. The SS was joined by the dual-purpose SX-350 in 1971 and given an electric starter two years later as the "Sprint" title was dropped from the range.
Pure road racing examples of the same 344cc single produced as much as 38bhp, good for 130mph (210kph) with racing streamlining. Road riders, with maybe 25bhp, had to be content with top speeds in the low nineties. Although a simple spine frame was always good enough for the racers, the final SS-350 inexplicably included a heavy and wholly unnecessary twin-downtube chassis.
With a career spanning 14 years, the Sprint can rightly be regarded as one of Parley's more successful forays away from its core big twin-activities. The Sprint's arrival coincided with the appearance of advanced, lightweight machines from Japan and, to some extent, it profited from their success.
For the first time since the 1920s, motorcycling in the United States was developing a broad appeal, and the market was soaring.
In 1971 it would peak at 2.1 million new machines sold - a 40-fold increase in less than 20 years.
The Sprint's weakness was not the way it went (when the typically feeble Italian electrical system was not playing up), but in the way its price kept rising when Japanese machines seemed, year after year, to be offering much more for much less.
SPECIFICATIONS: SPRINT C (SS-350)
Engine: ohv horizontal single Capacity 246cc (344cc)
Transmission: 4-speed (5-speed)
Power: 18bhp @ 7,500rpm (27bhp @ 7,000rpm)
Weight: unknown (3551b/161kg)
Wheelbase: 52in/ 1,320mm (56in/1,420mm)
Top speed: around 75mph/120kph (85mph/136kph)
• M-50, M-65, 1963-71
In the mid 1960s Harley-Davidson's quest for wider markets led it into the 50cc domain, a move which was ultimately no more successful than its other oddballs of the time. Ironically those other V-twin warlords, the British Vincent company, had dabbled unsuccessfully with lightweights a decade earlier.
The range began with the M-50 in 1965 and a racier-looking Sport version 12 months later. Both were built in huge numbers — more than 25,000 in the first two years - causing massive oversupply and a sharp fall in price. 1967 brought an increase in capacity for the M-65 and Sport, and more realistic production figures.
For 1967, the original 50cc version developed much-needed extra power with the 65cc M-65, by which time some 4,000 unsold M-50s were flooding the market at knock-down prices.
Both models were available in standard and "Sport" guise, the latter with a racy fuel tank and seat. A 65cc Leggero (which in Italian means "light") version was also built for the years 1970-1.
Engine: 2-stroke single-cylinder
Wheelbase: 44in (1,120mm)
Top speed: around 40mph (64kph)
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