1966 Harley-Davidson Sprint H

Harley's Italian fling

| September/October 2007

Harley-Davidson Sprint H 
Years produced:
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 21hp @ 7,250rpm
Top speed: 76mph (period test)
Engine type: 246cc, overhead valve, air-cooled single
Weight (wet): 123kg (271lb)
Price then: $750 (1967)
Price now: $1,800-$4,000
MPG: 45-55

Ross Puleo is a man with a mission. A lover and restorer of Aermacchis, the little Italian imports that Harley-Davidson sold in the Sixties and Seventies, he wants to spread the word about the Italian-American classic known as the Harley-Davidson Sprint H.

Ross’ family hails from Sicily, and as the owner of Sonny’s Motorcycle Repair, specializing in HD Aermacchis, in Lowell, Mass., he’s well-placed to speak on the subject. (“Italian Americans restoring Italian Americans” is his official motto.)

When Ross was a kid, his dad would buy him junk bikes to repair, figuring they’d keep him out of trouble. His first fling with the Aermacchi brand came in the form of an Aermacchi Leggero found sitting on a trailer at a flea market. The 65cc machine was in sad shape, but to the 14-year-old mind, it had possibilities. The tank said Harley-Davidson, just like Dad’s friends’ bikes, but unlike those big hogs the Leggero was small and uncomplicated, something that a 14-year-old could both afford and fix. Ross bought it. “I got it running,” he says, “I brought it back from the dead.”

Time passed, Ross graduated from high school and then joined the Coast Guard as a boat mechanic. But motorcycles were still big on his list, and drawn again by the lure of the swap meet he encountered another sad example of the Varese factory’s output, a 125cc Rapido two-stroke. “I was in my early 20s and wanted to be an authority on something. I figured if I had two Aermacchis, it would make me an authority. Now I have 10.”

The Harley-Davidson Sprint comes to the U.S.
As first imported into the U.S., the Sprint produced 18hp at 6,750rpm with an 8.5:1 compression ratio. It had good brakes and excellent handling, but was let down by an outdated oiling system and six-volt electrics. The Italians believed that a 250 was serious transportation, something to be cared for and maintained. But in the U.S. a 250 was a kid’s bike, often used, abused and put away wet. The electrical system wouldn’t stand up to typical kid punishment and many Aermacchis were shoved into the corner of the garage to gather dust after they broke down once too often.

10/15/2015 1:28:36 PM

xyqrtew's comments are a little harsh. While I wouldn't recommend that a Sprint be used for a daily driver, you can have a lot of fun riding one in your leisure time. My 1967 Aremacci HD Sprint 250SS was a good bike, didn't vibrate much and for the time I had it did not need to be torn down. Parts can be found at http://motoitalia.parts, eBay and other dealers, with some effort. The 6volt system is OK, but if my bike sat for a while it was easier to bump start it the first time as I found the kickstart setup not too great. One thing I didn't like was the stock Rubber Mounted Handlebars. I should have changed them.

10/11/2015 8:09:15 PM

How about a reality check on some of these "classics" especially HD/Aermacchi Sprints? The author of this article and/or Mr. Puleo should point out some of the significant problems associated with these motorcycles, e.g., the significant amount of vibration at moderate and high rpms, poor quality electrics, engines that need rebuilding at 10,000 miles or less (even when carefully maintained), the need for special tools to do lower-end engine work (inevitable for most owners), lack of parts, etc. For many potential buyers, the love-affair with these old bikes will end quickly when reality hits.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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