Race Track Refugee: Harley-Davidson XRTT-750

Old race bikes never die, they just get recycled, as this custom Harley-Davidson XRTT-750 shows us.

| September/October 2016

What do you do with an aging race bike that’s obsolete, yet hasn’t quite reached collectable status? Well, you could convert it to a street bike. That’s what Ron Martin did back in 1977 with a Harley-Davidson XRTT-750 rolling chassis that had been mothballed from road race duty shortly after Yamaha unveiled its TZ700 in 1974.

The moment that the banshee wail of that legendary 2-stroke inline 4-cylinder engine echoed off Daytona Speedway’s banking, the writing was on the wall for the antiquated XRTT-750 V-twin, or any other 4-stroke race bike, for that matter.

Martin, of Seminole, Florida, had acquired his relic racer when it was still intact, less engine. The road race bike originally cradled Harley-Davidson’s XR-750 engine — in either the early iron-cylinder incarnation or with the alloy cylinders and heads that debuted in 1972 — before the weekly tragedy that’s better known as professional racing relegated the venerable V-twin engine to the sidelines.

Plain and simple, speed caught up with the XR-750 road racer, and the slogan “go fast or go home” applied then as it does now; anybody competing in road racing with a 4-stroke-powered bike back in the mid-1970s was wise to go home rather than face the futility of competing against the powerful 2-stroke racers that shredded race records almost as quickly as they shredded their race tires. Ironically, the last 4-stroke to win an AMA National road race during the halcyon 1970s was the XRTT-750 ridden by Cal Rayborn when he smoked the competition at the 1972 Laguna Seca National.

Slow drift

Sadly, too, the path to obsolescence for Harley-Davidson’s XRTT-750 was a rather slow, arduous and somewhat painful one. The saga began in 1970 when the AMA put its new overhead valve 750cc rule into full effect for road racers, as well as for the flat track bikes that the rule applied to beginning in 1969. Prior to 1969, the AMA implemented an equivalency formula stacking bikes with sidevalve 750cc engines against competitors using 500cc overhead valve engines. In the years prior to 1970, Harley-Davidson relied on its trusty sidevalve KR-750 to wage war on both paved and dirt race courses.

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