In response to the sales success of smaller Japanese bikes in the 1960’s, Harley-Davidson formed a plan to offer a new small-displacement machine to compete as its own small-engined Hummer model left a lot to be desired. Around this same time Aermacchi was interested in focusing more resources on its aeronautical division and allowed Harley to grab a 50 percent stake in Aermacchi’s moto-division for just $250K. Aermacchi fit the bill to a T as far as what H-D had in mind as the Italian marque produced a solid little 250 that possessed a lot of potential for further development.
The 250’s that were born out of this arrangement quickly proved themselves in competition, taking various podium spots in high-profile and prestigious events like the lightweight class of late 60’s and early 70’s TT’s. Around this same time, the quarter-liter Italimerican racer was taken and bored out an extra 100 cc’s, resulting in the 350 which was produced from ’69-’74. Unfortunately, the more impressive characteristics of the race-bred 350’s – such as its short-stroke cylinder dimensions and five-speed transmission – failed to trickle down to the production model racers, leaving the 250’s and 350’s to finish at the bottom of the pack in magazine class shootouts of the era. As a consolation prize, the Harlimacchi did get the best gas mileage of all the machines in its class at 47-58mpg.
At the heart of the Sprint 350 was an air-cooled 344cc OHV single that produced a claimed 25 hp at 7,000 rpm and had a reported top speed of 92.49 mph (presumably with a jockey-sized pilot and a solid tailwind). The bike had a “half-wet” (half full fuel tank) weight of 323 lbs, and sold new in 1969 for $795, an amount that translates to a little under $5.5K in today’s money. The Sprint wasn’t a particularly hot seller in the States, though it did do better after being given a new name. When it first arrived on American shores the Sprint was initially dubbed “The Wisconsin”. And while sales might have been satisfactory at dealerships in the Green Bay area, it didn’t attract many buyers from outside the bike’s namesake state, and thus the moniker was changed to the Sprint which could be appreciated on a more universal level.
Despite them both being production models, far fewer 350’s were produced than 250’s, making examples noticeably more rare and therefore valuable. I won’t get into the debate on whether or not people should be resto-modding rare classics (especially when there’s a lot more mod than resto), but I will say this 350 has been thoughtfully – and tastefully in my opinion – upgraded. While its appearance is subjective, it’s almost impossible to argue with the mechanical and performance-related upgrades that have gone onto this 1970 350.
Starting with the engine, this SS350 was given a new Wiseco race piston, new carb and K&N air-filter, new valves and guides, new gaskets and seals, and new clutch disks. The ignition and electrical systems have been refreshed via a new Power Dynamo 12-Volt generator and voltage regulator, new 12 volt ignition coil, points, condenser, and spark plug all made by Pertronix. According to the ad, there are also a handful of unmentioned upgrades and parts.
Other non-mechanical upgrades include new cables throughout, new chain, new fork seals and O-rings, a NOS “H” model fuel tank, new Pingel fuel shutoff-valve, new gas-cap, new rear-suspension, new cafe-style seat unit and saddle, new hardware and fasteners throughout, and a new 12-volt headlight and taillight. This little orange runner is also sitting on new Akront/Italian-style flanged alloy rims wrapped in new vintage Firestone Deluxe Champion rubber.
Every surface on this 350 is pretty immaculate with pristine paint and all metal surfaces having been adequately polished. The orange and black paint digs are unmistakably Harley-Davidson racing, and there appear to be a lot of individual NOS parts such as the chrome pipes and even the vintage H-D footpegs look brand spankin’ new. Because only 25 miles have been put on this machine since its resto-mod job, as it currently stands it’s more or less a museum-quality example. I personally like it, but was this a job well done? Or is this just sacrilegious to do to a seldom-seen classic?
You can find this 1970 Harley-Davidson Aermacchi Sprint SS350 for sale here on Craigslist in Los Angeles, California with a price of $8,000.