AGV Backmarker: Poking around the Harley-Davidson Museum

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Aermacchi 250 CRTT
Aermacchi 250 CRTT

AGV Backmarker: Poking around the Museum

Jun 24, 2010

Several board trackers from the when men were men. sometimes crashed and were by giant splinters. After a of spectacular crashes, the motordromes to be known as “murderdromes,” and board were replaced by safer slower) dirt tracks. Photo by Mark Gardiner

flew me in and out of Milwaukee at the beginning of the to try the new XR1200x Sportster and let me have a at one of the race bikes that Hines had prepped for its AMA Pro Road series. That was all cool, but one of the reasons I wanted to come up to The Company’s hometown was to see the Harley-Davidson Despite the fact that now been open a couple of I still hadn’t had a chance to see it.

I walked up to it from my nearby (in the loose company of a dozen or so motojournalists who’d been on the junket) on a Thursday evening there was a very well-attended night going on. Milwaukee is, not a Harley company town, and the majority of the bikes in attendance hogs, though not all of them. I a sweet early-’80s Yamaha

This was the most powerful factory hillclimber of its day. It had cams and overhead valves—a that didn’t become on Harley production bikes for sixty years! Hillclimbing was a sport during the Depression it was affordable for promoters. All you needed was a hill, so track rental was • Photo by Mark

We were met by Brian Jackson, who is chief archivist. He took the on a bit of a guided tour of the museum. One of the rooms we saw was the engine room, dozens of H-D motors are on display, an Aermacchi-derived Sprint 250 motor.

never have guessed it was one of the most successful racing ever; an iconic design had dominated the AMA short track in the ’60s and been road-raced by Cal It’s still seeing the regularly in AHRMA competition to day. It had the best road pedigree of anything on the wall.

I to wander off, snapping a of pics that, not surprisingly, was toward racing. As expected, I a good selection of early and hillclimb bikes, and a KRTT. I was at the paucity of representation from world championship period Villa won the 250cc world in 1974, ‘75, and ‘76, as as the 350cc title in ‘76, on Harley-Davidson branded two-strokes).

The Trev Deeley collection, in BC, has a much better collection of elegant little bikes.

I noted that the museum had a lot of material related to the ill-fated project. In the mid-’80s, Harley-Davidson a lot of time and money having design an all-new water-cooled family, which was to include a V-four, and even a V-six of which were to be mounted the frame). The Nova project was divisive within the company, being endorsed by Jeff (who apparently still not going ahead with

Many others in H-D management and the rank-and-file looked at it as sacrilege; it have meant the end of “potato-potato” and characteristic style. That of thought endorsed the development of the motor, which was also prototyped at the time.

An elegant WR tracker, typical of the bikes raced in the ’40s. • by Mark Gardiner

The debate a crescendo just as the first test mule was taken to There, it couldn’t be goaded lapping at even 100 mph. At the a Kawasaki KZ1000 could turn laps of the superspeedway at 130 mph.

It was a victory for the traditionalists Harley told Porsche to the project.

Some Nova DNA made it into the V-Rod, but was an ironic outcome to the story. manufacturing types knew the Nova motor, which was complicated and required closer would need a completely factory with state-of-the-art robotics, and all that. Although the project was stillborn, the company that it would update its facilities anyway, and as a result the control in the Evolution motor was improved compared to the Shovelheads—especially the built during the AMF nadir.

Cal Rayborn raced this KRTT. Tuners like and Axtell kept these competitive for longer than had any right to be, until the Competition was finally cowed into the playing field and allowing all and models to displace 750cc. Photo by Mark Gardiner

I Harley credit for exhibiting a bit of Nova material, even it could be considered one of the company’s One bike I thought was conspicuously was the VR1000 superbike. The next I met Jackson again and he took me up to the floor, where hundreds of are stored out of public view on an set of rolling shelves.

Up there, I saw all of cool stuff, including an Sportster prototype that I know had ever been and a homologation-model VR1000 street I also saw a whole row of VR1000 bikes, as ridden by Miguel Scott Russell, Pascal Chris Carr, and others. In corner of the room, there was a of superbike motors, and a rack of bodywork hung up out of the way, the ceiling.

This elegant CRTT 1965 had a dry weight of 215 pounds! a few dozen were made • Photo by Mark

Picotte rode the wheels off bike, back when I at Loudon. I guess it was the last the AMA held a national there, and I him braking at the end of the chute, and hanging tight right that led up the He did things that were impossible, lap after lap; never forget it, but it wasn’t to make the VR1000 a winner.

Aermacchi 250 CRTT
Aermacchi 250 CRTT

nearly won on it once at Brainerd of the opposite to Loudon, as tracks and Carr did put it on the pole at Pomona bumps and dust made the track champ feel at but it’s obviously not something really wants to remember.

Jim who is the curatorial director of the museum, is an rocker who got into the museum when he was hired by Microsoft Paul Allen to design his pet Music Project in Seattle. told me there’d been skepticism within Harley-Davidson at the of hiring someone who wasn’t a guy” or even a motorcycle but in the end, a little bit of an outsider helps.

I think that this Aermacchi-built RR-250 two-… is a racer, not a full factory but I’m not sure. (Any readers happen to know?) Photo by Mark Gardiner

created several displays try to place key Harley models in cultural context, so a mid-’30s is matched with a few other Art items, like a radio that share its streamlined Fricke told me that the was that by doing things this, the museum would to non-motorcyclists, too.

Judging the people I saw in the museum, there are no visiting, but the bearded, sawn-off-jacket I saw wandering around in there have seen those and realized that, for example, followed the Art Deco trend streamlining, it didn’t create it.

though the museum doesn’t (as far as I noticed) even a single (which is understandable), the comprehensive quality of presentation, and informative make it a must-see for any motorcyclist. My complaint is that I’d it to be 50 percent bigger.

Three of the as raced by Mike Smith Miguel Duhamel (17), and Picotte (21). • by Mark Gardiner

I came with a lot of material from the including a wonderful look the scenes as Fricke and his assistants preparing to mount a major on the life and times of Evel But it’s getting late, and I to get ready to head for Pikes where I’m going to be Racing’s embedded reporter. took a pair of race-prepped through tech.

They’ve already set an unofficial record during a private session, and hope to set the outright course record next

So stay tuned for that in next week’s Backmarker, and in two or weeks I’ll hopefully finished transcribing my interviews at the Museum and I’ll return to subject just in time for the of the “True Evel” exhibit.

Director Jim Fricke is about to the wraps off “True Evel,” a display of Evel Knievel’s and times. But that’s a story for a Backmarker.… • Photo by Gardiner

Aermacchi 250 CRTT
Aermacchi 250 CRTT
Aermacchi 250 CRTT
Aermacchi 250 CRTT
Aermacchi 250 CRTT

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