In 1960, Harley Davidson bought a 50% stake in the Italian motorcycle manufacturer called Aermacchi.
Giulio Macchi formed Aeronautica Macchi 1912 in Varese in Northern Italy which was an aviation design and manufacturing plant with its hay day in the first half of the 19th century.
After WWII they went into motorcycles after aviation company fell on its knees – no more Mussolini investment and interest perhaps. But the aviation company did manage to continue and was bought out by Finmecchanica Group (Leonardo)… Who says there’s no connection between aviation and motorcycles?
1951 Aermacchi started producing small engine motorcycles mainly 125 or 150cc 2 stroke engines. 1956 they started producing 4 stroke engines for the Chimera motorcycle and later more sportier models with 175 and 250cc engines but they failed to really challenge the dominance of Vespas and Lambrettas in Italy.
Post war Harleys had seen an increasing downturn in sales and there was an enthusiasm to start producing smaller displacement engines to open up new markets. So in 1960 HD began to make motions to acquire a stake in the Italian motorcycle brand and in 1961 they completed a purchase of 50% of the company.
The new offshoot became known and traded as Aermacchi Harley Davidson and was so called until it was fully absorbed by 100% by the recently renamed AMF Harley Davidson in 1974. American Machine and Foundry had bought HD in 1969 but then sold it back to HD investors in 1981.
As for Aermacchi HD or rather AMF HD Italian branch…it was then sold in 1978 to Cagiva in Italy, which was later sold to Ducati. Therefore Harley Davidson…in it’s different guises owned the Italian motorcycle manufacturer totally or in part from 1960 – 1978…and in that time produced many bikes. Some of which remained for European consumption and a few reached the North American market.
Here is a brief list of the motorcycles that were produced in this era. Within each model there were increasing variants both for on road and off road riding.
M-50, Step through – 49cc 2 stroke single cal – 100mpg, 3 speed gearbox 65-67
M-50 Sport, 49cc 2 stroke 3 speed gearbox 66-67
M-65; 65cc 4.5hp 3 speed gearbox step through 67 -72
M-65 Sport 65cc 4.5hp 3 speed gearbox ’66-’72.
M65 Legero 65cc
Rapido, ML, MLS 125, Road Racer Styling – 1968 MLS 125 65-72 124cc 2 stroke Single 3 speed variants
Shortster MC65 63.8cc 3 speed gearbox 6hp top speed 50mph 71-75
Shortster X-90 90cc 4 speed gearbox 73-75
Baja MSR-100 98cc ’69-’74 It won Baja1000 in 1971.
SXT 125, 2 stroke Single cylinder 5 speed 13hp 75-78
Sprint SS250 246cc 18hp top speed 80mph 61-68 on
SS 125 123cc 13hp 5 speed ’75 on
Z-90 2 stroke single cylinder 90cc 73 – 75
Sprint SX 350 344cc 5 speed 27hp 71 – 74 Offroad variant
Sprint SST 350 2 stroke single cylinder 341cc 5 speed 76
SS175 174cc single cylinder 2 stroke 5 speed 17hp 76
SX175 75-76 174cc Single Cylinder 2 stroke 5 speed 17hp
Sprint SS350 69 – 74 25hp Top speed 92.49mph 344cc OHV Single cylinder 341cc
SX250 74-78 Single 2 stroke 19.85hp 243cc
TX125 73 123cc single 2 stroke 12hp
SX125 74-75 123cc single 2 stroke 12hp
MX250 78 (77) Single 2 stroke 32hp 242cc 5 speed (Too heavy by comparison)
During the Aermacchi years HD also got into racing with some success too.
Initially started with a 250cc Ala D’Oro (Gold Wing) for road racing and then later with a 350cc variant.
3rd place 1966 World Champs – Renzo Pasolini
3rd 1968 World Champs – Kelvin Carruthers
IOM TT – 1969 Kelvin Carruthers
He got 2nd place in the lightweight 125cc on 3 laps of the course – ave speed – 84.43mph
Early 70’s saw the biggest success with the implementation of 2 stoke – 2 cylinder 250cc (46hp) and 350cc engine
250cc World Champs 1974, 75, 76 Walter Villa
350cc world Champs Walter Villa
So there you have it
Harley Davidson were an Italian motorcycle manufacturer…in part from 1960 – 1978 producing mostly small displacement engines with some sales success in North America and Europe producing both road bikes and off road enduro and motocross variants too…also some racing credits and world championships along the way.