Rare All-American – SuperVee

In America, Cruiser by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

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12-11-2019 Update: Almost two years later, this SuperVee is back up for sale, but the asking price has dropped from $20,000 to $8,500 or best offer. Does that make it more interesting to you? Find it here on Craigslist in Missoula, Montana for $8,500.

On paper, the SuperVee engine was a pretty great idea that had a lot of promise. The concept was fairly straight forward: take the front two cylinders from the proven Chevy 350 Big Block engine, merge said cylinders with a custom block and an array of other Chevy parts, mix well and the result was a unique All-American V-Twin. The central idea of using cheap widely available parts that could be picked up at any GM dealership or service shop definitely has its merits. Unfortunately, even with so much going for it, a myriad of problems – mainly a complete and total lack of quality control – would prevent the SuperVee from achieving widespread success.

The SuperVee was the brainchild of Steve Iorio, an established name in the motorcycle industry who owned Nostalgia Cycle. In the early 80s, Harley-Davidson supposedly wasn’t selling complete engines to custom builders. This would ultimately lead Iorio to develop the idea for what would become the “SuperVee”. Iorio also happened to own Supercycle Magazine at the time which he used to promote the new Chevy-based V-Twin via a series of articles. A decent amount of hype was generated, though the momentum would quickly be lost once reports began surfacing about the real-world application of the SuperVee.

Marrying a GM rotating-assembly to Harley-style cases proved to be a major oversight in the SuperVee’s design. The vast majority of the engines required full teardowns and overhauls as a result of poor quality control. The SuperVee also had an issue with oil not always reaching vital engine parts, resulting in obvious problems. Despite the SuperVee being aimed at mechanically competent customers, all the wrenching skill in the world still couldn’t save Iorio’s engine. Owner of “The Hawgologist”, Dick Menke, claims that when overhauling a SuperVee he discovered the engine – which was sold as new – in fact had used con rods. The entire saga of the SuperVee never seemed to shake this general theme of ineptitude that plagued it.

The camshaft on the SuperVee was supposedly designed by Ed Iskenderian of Isky Cams fame. Another (positive) noteworthy aspect of the SuperVee was that it was an air-cooled design, despite the Chevy small block being liquid cooled. Thanks to a collection of fins on the jugs and heads, heat was able to properly dissipate. Because so many little parts didn’t work as planned, getting a SuperVee up and running meant having a number of parts custom made/machined which kind of defeated the entire purpose of the SuperVee’s existence. The fact the distinctive American V-Twin had a price tag in the $10,000 neighborhood didn’t help either.

This example that is currently for sale is one of the few actual completed and running SuperVee-powered motorcycles. Though three different generations of the SuperVee were released, the engine was only sold for a handful of years and according to an article in the LA Times, Iorio was only selling around 100 engines per year towards the end. My point is: they’re rare. The problem with the SuperVee mainly lies in assembling it and getting it to work properly. Completed Super-Vee projects are another story however – assuming the engine’s laundry-list of problems have been thoroughly addressed.

This SuperVee example supposedly has all Chevy internals: pistons, rings, bearings, roller rockers, etc. The ad also says this example’s idling problems have been fixed thanks to a complete engine overhaul and according to the seller, it now “idles like a dream”. This example also has a dual-gauge six-unit instrumentation setup dropped into the tank, as well as a liberal dosing of additional aftermarket bits. Despite the SuperVee ultimately not amounting to becoming much more than a footnote in motorcycle history, I think the story of Iorio and his Chevy-based SuperVee is worth hearing.

You can find this rare SuperVee-powered custom for sale here on Craigslist in Missoula, Montana with a price of $20,000.

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