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Classic Motorcycles: Harley-Davidson Two-Strokes

Vintage Harley Davidson Two-Stroke

Harley-Davidson 2-Strokes (1948 to 1974)

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Shortly after the close of WWII, Germany's DKW motorcycle plant was put to use by Harley-Davidson as part of U.S. war reparations. This resulted in Harley-Davidson's introduction of its first small-displacement two-stroke motorcycle, the "Model S-125," which was in production from 1948 to 1952. The Model 125 produced around 3 horsepower, and used a hard-tail frame with girder-type front suspension that was sprung with large rubber bands.

In 1951, the Model 125's front suspension was replaced by "Tele-Glide" telescoping hydraulic front forks. The Model 125 was followed by the 5 1/2 horsepower 165cc "Model ST-165," which was manufactured between 1953 to 1959. In 1955, Harley introduced the "Hummer" which was manufactured from 1955 to 1959.

The Hummer, which was named after Omaha, Nebraska Harley dealer Dean Hummer, had a distinctive peanut-shaped gas tank and Tele-Glide front forks. Both the Model 165 and the Hummer were replaced by the Super-10 in 1960.

1956 Harley-Davidson Hummer 165
1954 Harley-Davidson Hummer

In 1962, Harley introduced three new models: the "Ranger," which still used a 165cc engine; as well as the Pacer and Scat which used a new 175cc two-stroke engine. In 1963, Harley upgraded its frame to a sprung rear suspension system known as "Glide-Ride," which used two horizontally-mounted shocks under the frame. The Scat was also offered in a "Dual Sport" scrambler model.

In an attempt to enter the burgeoning scooter market, Harley introduced the "Model A Topper" scooter in 1960, and "Topper H" in 1961. The Toppers were boxy looking versions of the more popular Italian Vespas, and the short-lived Topper line was discontinued in 1965.

Both the Pacer and the Scat were discontinued in 1965, and the last of the Harley two-stokes to be made in Milwaukee was the "Bobcat," which was only built in 1966. The Bobcat had atypical styling, with its one-piece fiberglass bodywork that resembled the later styling of the FX Super Glide "Night Train" of the early 70s.

In an effort to compete with the rapidly-escalating market for small, inexpensive Japanese bikes Harley looked for a way to outsource its production of their lightweight motorcycles. Since that time, the nickname of "Harley Hummer" has become synonymous with any of the American-made small-displacement 2-strokes that were produced before 1966.

Harley-Davidson & Aermacchi

In 1967, Harley-Davidson affiliated with the Italian motorcycle and aircraft company Aermacchi S.p.A. of Varese, Italy to introduce the 250cc Sprint H, ERS Sprint (CR/CRTT). The single-cylinder Aermacchi models used either a 4-stroke undersquare (long-rod) engine, or an oversquare (short-rod) 2-stroke engine.

1965 Harley-Davidson M50 Scooter
1965 Harley-Davidson M50 Scooter

Other versions of Aermacchi Harley-Davidson's small-displacement two-stokes were the M50 and M50-S 50cc scooters. The early Aermacchi Harleys had a distinctive "Italian" look, which immediately differentiated them from the earlier Milwaukee two-strokes which had more of a traditional "Harley" look.

1971 AMF Harley-Davidson Leggero Two-Stroke
1971 AMF Harley-Davidson Leggero 'Mini Cycle' 65cc Two-Stroke

Other collaborations produced during the AMF Harley-Davidson years (1969-1981) were the Aermacchi-Harley Davidson SS-350 Sprint 4-stroke, and the 65cc AMF Harley-Davidson Leggero Mini Cycle two-stroke. Harley Davidson purchased full control of Aermacchi's motorcycle production in 1974.

Aermacchi HD SS350
1974 Aermacchi AMF Harley Davidson SS-350 Sprint

These small-displacement Harley-Davidson/Aermacchis were not well accepted by the typical Harley-Davidson demographic, and sales continued to decline throughout the early 1970s. In 1978, HD Aermacchi production was discontinued, and Aermacchi was later sold to Cagiva in Varese, Italy.

Ameracchi is still in business today as Alenia Aermacchi s.p.a., producing fixed-wing aircraft. In an odd twist of fate, Cagiva was restructured as the MV Agusta Group in 1991 (MV Agusta Motor S.p.A.) which was acquired by Harley-Davidson in 2008.

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