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The Aermacchi Project, Part 8: It Starts!

1973 Aermacchi, with spiffy new(ly re-chromed) pipes!

This is the eighth and final installment of a series detailing Margie Siegal’s restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. Start at the beginning with Part 1.

The 1973 Aermacchi (350 Harley Sprint SS) is all in one piece. The tank petcock is not leaking (another tale of woe), and there is gas in the tank and oil in the bottom end. I gingerly push the bike out of the garage and into the driveway. Turn on the key. Kick — I’m not expecting much, but am going to give it a try. It’s surprisingly easy to kick. I am used to a Norton Commando, which needs to be put up on the centerstand and jumped on hard. Kick. Kick. Hey wait — What’s that noise?

It started. After a year of work, ups, downs and a heavy learning curve, it started.

I have been working all day on the bike, and I am tired. I turn off the key, push my completed restoration project back into the garage and rent a truck. My goal for the last year has been to get the bike to the national AMCA meet in Dixon and enter it for judging. In order for the bike to be judged, it has to start within the hearing of a judge. Not that I plan to win any prizes — with the artistic tank and side covers, I will be lucky to not be thrown out. Dixon is now 10 days away. The bike is all together and it runs.

In the next few days, I work on improving the carburation. Figuring it is finally time to go for a ride, I push the bike out into the driveway, put on my riding gear and kick. Nothing. No spark. Augh. Dixon is now three days away. I call friends. Everyone is busy, but several people I know are going to be in Dixon, and will help. I get the truck, I put a box of tools together, a friend helps me load the bike, and off to Dixon I go.

The 350cc motor, rebuilt top end, rebuilt clutch, rebuilt carburetor and most of the dirt scrubbed off.

It helps to be among others with the restoration bug. I get many offers of help, and someone notices that one of the rubber tank mounts has almost fallen off. I put it back. People poke around with the circuit tester I brought with me. Somehow, I now have spark. Is there a bubble in the fuel line? OK, now try kicking the bike. It starts. IT STARTS! Judging is the next morning, but one of the judges is within earshot and puts a red sticker on my headlight as proof that the Aermacchi started in his vicinity. I go to my motel and crash out early.

The next day, the bike won’t start again, but with the red sticker, I am over that hurdle. I push the bike into the judging arena, which is starting to fill with bikes. Dixon is the only AMCA meet west of the Mississippi, and there are over 30 bikes signed up and more coming. Leslie from Moto Italia, the Sprint specialist, shows up. I get my tool box and he pokes around. In six and a half minutes Leslie has figured it out (he has only been working on Sprints for 30 years plus) A tiny bit of the points wire is exposed and the wire is grounding on the points cover. Of course, the one thing I didn’t bring is electrical tape. A fast circuit of the swap meet and I have the tape I need. A bit of tape and the Sprint starts easily. I leave it to the judges and wander off to look at all the two-wheeled eye candy.

I eventually get a completed judging form. Only six points were deducted for the paint job. Points were also deducted for a list of minor issues, only two of which — rusty spokes and rust spots on the back rim — have the potential for costing me serious money. On my first try, I have gotten 83.75 points, just a point and a quarter shy of a Junior Second award. I have met my goal and then some.

I could not have done this by myself. Thanks are due to: Leslie from Moto Italia, Dave Kafton, Scott Dunlavey from Berkeley Yamaha, Ron Lancaster of Lancaster Sprint, Mike Rettie, Kim Williams, Larry Orlick, Brad Johnson, Steve Turnbaugh, (the Rembrandt of the Gas Tank) and my next door neighbor Tony.

Ms. Sprint with new paint job, back from the beauty parlor.

Published on Jul 16, 2019

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