Thursday, August 6, 2009

That's a Harley? The Harley Davidson M50

Back in the 1960s, the people at AMF who owned Harley Davidson was starting to notice that those tiny bikes from Japan were starting to make inroads into the American motorcycle scene. They weren't stealing sales from Harley- yet- but they sure were selling a lot of bikes, and it might not be a bad idea for HD to get some of those sales. Problem was that tooling up for what was a speculative venture would cost a lot of money. Harley made big, OHV, 4-stroke engines, and the new craze was for small, lightweight bikes- mostly 2-stroke. So instead of designing new bikes from scratch, Harley contracted with Aermecchi of Italy to supply a series of motorcycles emblazoned with the Harley-Davidson badge. Above is one of the first- the 1966 M50, a 50cc 2-stroke bike.

Later there would be the Sport version- the M50S, seen above (from, as well as bikes in the 125cc, 200cc, and 250cc class. All reports say that these were exceptional bikes, but Harley didn't quite know how to market them. They did sell a fair number, up until (I believe) 1972.

Aermecchia no longer makes motorcycles today (they make jet engines) but there are still a lot of devoted Aermacchia fans, and web sites devoted to these bikes. Not surprising, as these are without exception gorgeous bikes, and very well constructed. Spare parts are available, and there's even a firm in the Netherlands that can supply parts, new frames, and even complete replicas of Aermacchis.

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