HARLEY DAVIDSON VR 1000 – The Ore of the Revolution

30 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on HARLEY DAVIDSON VR 1000 – The Ore of the Revolution
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HARLEY DAVIDSON VR 1000 – The Ore of the Revolution

We all have heard and seen the only Harley-Davidson Superbike which never took off from the factory. Although the current portfolio and in general, HD has majorly imaged itself as a tourer-cruiser brand, occasionally HD deviates itself from their image to give us some very definite products like the XR TT750 which was the best track racing bike of its times. But then again, they are into projects like the NOVA (the most read post in this blog) which would have seen a sea change in the history of motorcycling and not just in HD history, but then… A very similar story follows for the VR 1000 Superbike, a bike with so much promise but which never got to see the road.

Back in 1988, two gentlemen working for HD dreamt about the ultimate Superbike that HD can offer to the then non suspecting world. They were Mark Tuttle, the then VP of Engineering and designer Mark Miller. They knew that have something very big in their kitty.

Of course it had to be, and it was in the form of a liquid-cooled, fuel injected V-twin which will dominate SBK racing. na 1989, these gentlemen bought their half done product to Roush Racing to complete the engine design phase. Another gentleman, Steve Scheibe, designer joined the team and he started working on the main part of the heart of the VR 1000, the cylinder heads and the machine’s fuel injection system.

Mike Eatough who specializes in GP chassis designs joined the team for the chassis design and it is said that he designed as widely believed, one of the best Superbike chassis ever. But then Steve left Roush and they got the project back to the HD factory and time took its toll and finally what started out in 1988, na 1993, the VR 1000 took its first road test in Gratten Raceway, in Michigan. And finally went into official racing by 1996.

So what went wrong? You see, the bike was envisaged in 1988 and the engine specifications were designed with that time period in mind. When it was released finally in 1996, almost a decade later, other firms have improved by leaps and bounds, especially DUCATI with their mesmerizing 888.

With almost 150bhp power, the VR 1000 would have exploded in the early 90s, but in 1996, they fell short. Moreover, the Jap completion took a beating from Ducati, so they all went back to their drawing boards in the early 90s and unleashed a range of new killer products from the stable to match Ducati and HD was stuck in time zone.

So why does and is so much being written about a bike which was not really a success? There is something more than just the bike. HD knew that with little work, they have a deadly product in hand and it is said that for that purpose, all the top notches were vying for power. If they couldn’t, they would try killing the project.

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All this in house struggles were really sidelining the product. Steve Scheibe working on the engine had a fall-out with VP of Engineering Earl Werner and Erik Buell. The management didn’t see enough reason as to why spend so much on a product when they have an established cruiser and tourer line up?


It was difficult for them to comprehend that to compete with the Jap 4 and Ducati, Hd had to shell out millions on R D. At times, they were even unwilling to continue the race circuit. And somehow the management was not at all in favour of Steve Schiebe. And without Steve, the VR 1000 just can’t go ahead.

See, HD didn’t have a racing record as per se, this was new, so obviously a lot of money has to go into the prototype turning into final product building stage, but the management of HD was just happy selling the lifestyle bikes and didn’t want to scratch their heads all over.

N'ezie, all these lead to serious time lapse and during this period the other companies went ahead in leaps and bounds. Soon after, Steve left and John Baker filled his shoes. And the project stalled here.

Later Baker in 2001 fuelled his thoughts that the VR might be back and even Eric Buell has admitted that a sportbike utilizing Harley Davidson’s VR1000 engine is in development but in 2002 HD simply said ‘No’ to the race season and have no plans as of now to get back to road racing..

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