Domestic or Imported? 1961-1968 Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 250 Wisconsin/Sprint/SS

Comparing the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 250 Sprint with the alternatives of its day, the Triumph T20SM Mountain Cub and Honda CL72.

| November/December 2019


Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 250 Wisconsin/Sprint/SS

Years Produced: 1961-1968
Power: 16-25hp
Top Speed: 80mph/90mph (claimed)
Engine: 246cc (66mmx72mm), 248cc (72mmx61mm) air-cooled OHV single
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Weight (dry): 261lb/271lb/281lb
Price then/now: $750 (1967)/$3,000-$8,000

If longevity, versatility and development potential count for anything, Alfredo Bianchi’s 1956 design for a stylish 175cc commuter bike should be considered one of the best. Though the Aermacchi Chimera was a flop, Bianchi’s simple OHV powerplant doubled its displacement over two decades, took Renzo Pasolini to second place in the 1972 250cc world championship, and launched the flat-track careers of Cal Rayborn and Gene Romero. Sixty years on, it’s still a weapon of choice in AHRMA Sound of Singles racing.

Harley-Davidson may have seen this potential when they bought 50 percent of Aermacchi in 1960. With sales of its big twins faltering, the Motor Company decided that Aermacchi’s touring 250cc, the Ala Bianco (white wing) would sell well in the U.S., and certainly beat out their existing small-bike offering — the obsolete 165cc 2-stroke Super 10. So the Ala Bianco was imported into the U.S. with minor changes as the 1961 Harley-Davidson 250 Wisconsin.

Bianchi’s engine followed general Italian practice in having a built-up crankshaft with ball main bearings and a roller big end. The oil-bearing crankcases split vertically. A chain turned the camshaft which operated the overhead valves by pushrods and rockers. A 24mm Dell’Orto carburetor provided fuel, which was sparked by a 6-volt battery/coil ignition system. Bevel gears transferred output to the wet clutch and 4-speed gearbox. The engine hung from a stout spine tube frame with a telescopic front fork and dual rear spring/damper units. Brakes fitted to the 17-inch wheels were single-leading-shoe front and rear. With 8.5:1 compression, the “long stroke” (66mm x 72mm) engine made 16 horsepower.

In spite of a number of continental quirks — the kickstarter on the left side, and kickstand on the right — the 250 was well received and sold in increasing numbers.

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