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Vintage Motorcycles: Aermacchi Motorcycles

Aermacchi (Aeronautica Macchi) History

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Aermacchi motorcycles were produced between 1949 and 1980 by Aeronautica Macchi S.p.A. of Varese, Italy. The Aeronautica Macchi company was founded by Giulio Macchi in 1912/1913, building seaplanes which gained notoriety at the Schneider trophy races of the 1920s and 1930s.

Aeronautica Macchi's experimental seaplane called the Macchi M.C. 72 (photo below) became the World Speed Record holder in 1933 and 1934.

Aeronautica Macchi MC72
Aeronautica Macchi M.C.72 (photo: public domain)

During WWII, Aeronautica Macchi built military aircraft for Mussolini's air force, but the Macchi plant was totally destroyed by allied bombing towards the end of the war. As with many Italian aviation companies that were involved in military production during the war, Aeronautica Macchi, as well as fellow Varese aircraft builder MV Agusta rebuilt their factories to produce motorcycles and civilian light aircraft.

Aermacchi Motorcycles

Aeronautica Macchi continued to produce small-displacement motorcycles at their new facility in Schiranna, Varese VA, Italy, throughout the 1950s. In 1960, the company name was shortened to 'Aermacchi' ('Aer-Macchi').

Aermacchi Chimera 250
1960 Aermacchi Chimera 250 Scooter

Paying homage to its aviation roots, Aermacchi appropriately named its motorcycles using the prefix of 'Ala,' or "wing" in the 'Ala Blu' (Blue Wing), 'Ala d'Oro' (Gold Wing), and 'Ala Verde' (Green Wing) models. During this period, Aermacchi gained a reputation on the GP circuit.

The Aermacchi / Harley-Davidson Connection

During the late 1950s, Harley Davidson was aggressively attempting to diversify its portfolio by building Harley 2-Stroke scooters, and in 1960 the American company purchased a 49% stake in Aermacchi for $260,000 US.

The first Aermacchi/HD collaboration produced the 250cc Sprint H and ERS Sprint (CR/CRTT), which used an Aermacchi 'undersquare' (long-rod) 4-stroke engine, or an 'oversquare' (short-rod) 4-stroke engine.

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

In the late 1960s, Harley Davidson gained full control of Aermacchi Motorcycles, and one of the few successes of the collaboration produced the Aermacchi SS350 (photo below).

Harley Davidson was itself acquired by AMF (American Machine and Foundry Co.) in 1969, and under the direction of AMF, Aermacchi continued to produce slow-selling models such as the 65cc AMF Harley-Davidson Leggero 'Mini Cycle' (photo below).

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

The small-displacement Aermacchis were not well accepted by the Harley-Davidson demographic, and sales continued to decline throughout the early 1970s. In 1974, Aermacchi production was discontinued, and the company was later sold to the Castiglioni brothers of Cagiva. Aermacchi continued to produce motorcycles under the name 'HD Cagiva' until they suspended operations in 1980.

Aermacchi continues to produce fixed wing aircraft under the name Alenia Aermacchi S.p.A., and to this day the company remains a leader (under Finmeccanica Group) within the Italian aviation industry for the production of military jet trainers and light close support aircraft.

Vintage Aermacchi Links

Alenia Aermacchi

Aermacchi Owners

Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Info

Aermacchi Sprint Restorations & Parts

Aermacchi Racing

Moto Italia - Aermacchi Harley Davidson Parts

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