Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint

Under the Radar

| July/August 2011

Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint
Years produced:
Claimed power: 25hp @ 7,000rpm (1969)
Top speed: 92.49mph (period test)
Engine type: 344cc air-cooled OHV single
Weight: 323lb (w/half-tank fuel)
MPG: 47-58mpg
Price then: $795 (1969)
Price now: $1,000-$4,000

It made perfect sense in 1960. With the Japanese invasion taking hold, Harley-Davidson needed something competitive in the small bike segment. The options: further development of their 165cc two-stroke single or a completely new design — or buy a turnkey business. Aermacchi, of Varese, Italy, fit the bill to a tee: they built a sturdy and competent 250cc bike (derived from Alfredo Bianchi’s futuristic 175cc Chimera of 1955) with good performance and lots of development potential. Better yet, Aermacchi’s parent company, Aeronautica Macchi, wanted to focus on its airplane business, and was keen to divest its bike operations. Harley bought a 50 percent share.

The sporty Aermacchi Ala d’Oro (Gold Wing) featured a four-stroke overhead-valve single with horizontal cylinder and four-speed transmission, with the engine suspended from a spine frame. It looked like a good fit: overhead valve four-strokes were something H-D dealers were familiar with — no fancy overhead cams or ring-ding oil smoke haze.

The first Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Sprint went on sale in the U.S. in 1961. The speedy 250 quickly became popular in production racing, and was gradually improved over the years.

A 350cc version proved potent in GP racing, too, culminating in the 1968-1970 race seasons, when Aermacchis made up four of the top 10 places in the Isle of Man Junior TT each year and grabbed a pair of second place finishes in 1969 and 1970.

Unfortunately, little of the race technology (such as the five-speed transmission and short-stroke cylinder dimensions) made it to the street bikes, although H-D did boost the Sprint to 350cc for 1969.

5/14/2016 3:13:35 AM

I bought my first brand new vehicle at the Harley Dealer in Oak Park IL. A 1972 Harley Sprint. It was red and yellow, with SX350 designation. It was a 4 speed, 6 volt, kick start only. It was fast, but it soon developed electrical problems. My buddy's Honda 450 couldn't pull away from me. The next year I bought the improved version, being a 1973 SX350. It was black with stainless steel fenders. It was a 12 volt electric start version. It was very dependable, but slow. It had too much weight to be competitive. The good part was it was a great bike for people to learn on. When about 5 of my buddies went for their motorcycle license, I convinced them to use my bike for the road test. This was a last minute discussion in the DMV lot while waiting for their test. They loved the low speed handling and they passed with no problems. The 1972 bike had the shifter on the right and brake on the left side. This was switched in 1973, and yes, both of these had the high single exhaust pipe. I loved the 72 bike for flag tracking, and the 73 was great on the hills, despite it's weight. I bought a 74 SX 350 for my wife a few years ago and I have it in my garage now.

John W Faulconbridge
10/25/2012 3:43:09 PM

Absolutely was also available in high pipe. If I remember correctly the SS was street and SX was "enduro" There may have been a different frame (or bolt on lower rails) for the SX. John in TN

Mark Johnson
10/25/2012 12:49:56 PM

Did the 350 HD Sprint really come in a high pipe version? The 250 did. But I would like to see a picture of this 350 model I had not heard of before. I really liked the style and IDEA of the horizontal single... until I test drove one. On the way home, I could count so many ways my Yamaha was more comfortable and better engineered. C'est la vie.

bike on highway

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