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Old 09-30-2010, 10:29 AM
cdues's Avatar
cdues cdues is offline
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cdues Curb Monkey
Default How come that AMF Harley says "Made in Italy" all over it?

Historical note: Harely-Davidson purchased controlling interest in the motorcycle division of Italian Aircraft manufacturer Aermacchi in 1960, in an effort to get into the "lightweight" market. That relationship continued until about 1978 when they sold off Aermacchi to Cagiva. Yep, Old Claudio C. himself. Fast forward to 2008 and Harley-Davidson purchases MV Agusta (and thus the Cagiva group) in an effort to get into the "lightweight" market. 2010 they sold it off to, you guessed it, old Claudio C. himself. That guy is a master at selling off his debt for a profit and then getting his stuff back on the cheap.

Anyway, not many people remember the old little Harleys. Some know about the Hummers of the '50s and some recall the Sprint of the '60s. The Sprint was an Aermacchi four stroke single. In the '70s Harley discontinued the four stroke in favor of the 2 stroke SX and SS models, displacing 125cc, 175cc and 250cc. This was the AMF era.

History lesson over. Shortly after starting the previously mentioned Bultaco project, I stumbled across a 1974 AMF-Harley-Davidson-Aermacchi SX-175 for sale on Craig's List. Went to look at her. Guy selling it said it was just running the day before but bogged down and he "didn't feel like messing with it". While a bit rough in spots, she was complete, keys, lights, signals, covers and the all important title, the original title. Turning the engine over by hand I could see she had good compression and a bit of spark. After doing a bit of math to convince myself that I wouldn't loose my ass on the endeavor, we agreed upon a price and Gabriela was welcomed home with the other girls.

The Dell'Orto carb wasn't in terrible shape and was feeding gas. Spark was weak so new coil was sourced, sniped off eBay and it came with part of the wiring harness and magneato and fly wheel. Win. Got enough spark to fire, checked the gears and everything checked out. Again the problem of hard restart when the motor was hot. Crank shaft oil seals. Common with the vintage stuff, especially the two strokes. And then, the piston detonated.

Off comes the head to investigate.


Super sleuth eBay skillz sourced a piston and rings, jug and engine cases for $35 shipped. Really. I didn't need the cases but damn, grab the deal when it presents itself. Found nosparts.com a site catering to the vintage Harley stuff and they had a wide assortment of bearings, seals etc. Found the oil seals I needed for $3 a piece and was excited until I saw "Minimum order $50". <sigh> Some deductive reasoning determined that the piston ring caught on one the ports inside the cylinder, causing the failure. In an effort to attain long term reliability (on a Harley! Made in Italy! WTF am I thinking??) I had to determine why the ring caught. Checked ring gap and figured that with the way the cylinder and head are arranged (separate bolts attach each separately) uneven torque values put a cant in the cylinder causing the failure. A google search found a free download of the original HD shop manual. Win.

The oil seals were relatively easy to change. I was able to praise them out gently and replace gently. Had to pull the flywheel and clutch side stuff off to do it. Used the same "special tools" as the Bultaco to immobilize the clutch to get the nuts off.

It was interesting to see the difference in design between the Aermacchi and the Bultacos. Gears vs chain primary, pressure plate set up, shift mechanism, how the kick start gear engages. Great fun and reflection over several cups of coffee.

Happy as can be with dirty hands.

Examining the Dell'Orto I noticed something was missing. Should have a choke lever on it for easier starting. Found one and a rebuild kit on the excellent Dell'Orto UK website, and they provide excellent rates for international shipping. Still waiting on the Royal Post to find my house.

Buttoned the engine up, back in, add fluids and then the debate about pre-mix in the tank to trust that the mikuni oil injector still works. Using the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, I decided to use the injector.

Needle nose and a tiny screw driver got the chock plunger open enough for her to fire, after about 4 kicks. Restarted when hot (oil seal worked), shifts through all five gears, idles, accelerates, stops, the works.

Left to do:
Clean up wiring harness.
Recover seat.
Sort Carbie.
Replace tires.
Remember where I put the title for safe keeping.

17 horsepower two stroke. I think I'll get a lot of joy out of showing up at a HOG event with a "ringningningningning" exhaust note blaring out of my own little Harley (Made in Italy). And giggle about Cladio Castigiloni making a profit off his bad debt. From Harley. Twice.
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