The Aermacchi Project, Part 1: Lift On!

Reader Contribution by Margie Siegal
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Margie Siegal’s new-to-her 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. Made by Aermacchi in Italy, the single-cylinder Sprints are simple, reliable machines.

This is the first installment of an ongoing series detailing Margie Siegal’s restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. You can read the Part 2 here.

As some of you might have noticed, I write about bikes for this magazine. Talking to people about their restoration projects got me inspired to get a restoration project of my own. I wanted to find a simple, relatively light machine that was a nice balance between being a little unusual and having good parts availability. I also wanted a bike that would be fun to ride once I got it sorted out.

Russ Puleo of Sonny’s Motorcycle Repair in Massachusetts sent me photos of a 1973 Harley-Davidson Sprint. Sprints are peppy machines that are fun to ride, they have only one cylinder, a reasonably low seat height (important for the inseam challenged), and the nice lines of almost all Italian bikes. Parts are reasonably available, and the 1973-1974 Sprints have an electric start. This Sprint had a period custom baby blue paint job in restorable condition with silver pinstriping. The paint job sold me. I bought it and had it shipped to my garage.

The next step was to ask questions and locate suppliers. Women like to ask directions before we get lost. Leslie from Moto Italia (call him at 707-763-1982) sent me a repro Harley-Davidson Sprint repair manual. “It’s really detailed and clearly written. Harley had GREAT repair manuals at the time!”

“Don’t look for a used lift,” said several people from the Classic Japanese Motorcycle Club. “What you need is this lift from Harbor Freight. It works really well and it is the same cost as a used lift.” I ordered the lift and laid in a supply of WD-40. I figured I would need it.

The odometer shows a low 10,742 miles.

A FedEx truck pulled up outside my house and the driver trundled out this odd-shaped object wrapped in cardboard and clear tape. In fact, it was mummified in clear tape. Whoever packaged my lift was way too heavily enamored of his tape dispenser. Getting the tape off took almost as much time as assembling the thing. I finally gave up on getting the last pieces of tape off and started in on the assembly instructions, which were actually written in clear English, but didn’t explain how to install the wheels. I figured it out anyway.

Friend Mike came over to help move bikes around to make room to get the Sprint on the lift. Mike has worked at different dealerships and repair facilities all his life and can move bikes in his sleep. He was a little skeptical of the Harbor Freight lift at first, but decided it would do the job. We looked at the bike. We looked at the lift. We realized that the exhaust system would have to go before we could get the bike on the lift. I started looking for the metric wrenches and WD-40. I took a peek at the manual. Despite having 10 pages on fork removal, adjustment and repair, it didn’t have word one about the exhaust system. Mike and I figured it would be pretty straightforward — if we could get the bolts off.

Surprise! None of the exhaust system bolts were frozen! However, one bracket cracked. “It’s an easy weld job,” Mike said. Easy for Mike to say — I have no welding experience whatsoever. Mike and I maneuvered the Sprint onto the lift and strapped it down. I now have lift on!

Stay tuned for the next episode of as the wrenches turn …

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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