Well maybe the orginal "American Superbike", as the European's with MV Agusta, Ducati, Moto-Guzzi, BMW, Triumph, Norton, BSA, ect. had been doing serious road racing long before the invent of the H-D Sportster in 1957! Although, Harely-Davidson did race against all these machines in the early years of Daytona and had some great sucess too.
The coming of the Japanese machines is what slowly killed of a lot of European and Harley-Davidson from road racing greatness.
Harley-Davidson did try a venture into a "sporting machine", long before the current day Buell's.
In 1977 the XLCR was pen'd and produced by none other than "Wille G. Davidson"! It was a pure cafe racer, quarter fairing, Norton style "fastback" rear section, superbike bars (no not the lower, "Clubman bars" of the period, used by the European's).
It used the "iron 1000cc Sporster motor" and was a very good looking and decent handling machine. For H-D it was "way to racey" and the faithful stayed away in droves so it was only sold in 1977 & 1978. Too bad, if it could have continued, maybe the current Buell's would have been using a more modern "VR1000" style motor (60 degree V-twin, water-cooled, double overhead cam, ect.), it could have made H-D a real Superbike contender!
I'm having real trouble finding a picture but hopefully I can score one soon!!
Yes the XLCR is my all time favorite Harley. Just wish they would make a new one with a new engine, better suspension, etc..
Oh and before the Sportster Harley raced the KR which was a descendant of the WWII military bike. It faired ok against the European competition but was finally just too outclassed and replaced with the Sportster.
Then there was the XR1000, back around 1983, I believe. I test-rode one of those, and honestly, compared to my GS750ES, it was a piece of crap, but I have to admit, the thing had a LOT of torque. It felt like you could leave a stoplight in 4th gear.
I wonder if that bike would be worth anything today, as far as collector value?
A fool and his money are soon partying.
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