2 / 10
We'll begin in 1948. Peacetime, sunny skies, and overtime paychecks throughout America meant lots of new riders, but not everyone could handle a huge, 42 hp, 1000cc Panhead. The Motor Company filled out its line with the dramatically named S-125. Sometimes incorrectly called the Hummer, the S-125 was a direct copy of the 1938 DKW RT125 two-stroke commuter bike.
The design was given to the world as part of German war reparations. You've seen this bike before, made in England as the BSA Bantam, in the USSR as the Minsk, others were produced in Poland, Italy, just about everywhere, including Japan with Yamaha's YA-1. With three horsepower and a 50 mile per hour top speed, these little beasts put millions of people on the road.
3 / 10
Harley-Davidson Topper Scooter
Harley released the Topper, a rebadged DKW, in 1958 and sold it until around 1965. It was powered by a 165cc, air-cooled, two-stroke single that ran on premix and was started with a ripcord like a lawnmower. The first generation had a belt-driven "Scootaway Drive" CVT that was good in theory but had belt-slippage issues caused by road grime. An upgraded "H" version was released in 1961 with an updated, sealed transmission that solved that problem. The Topper sold respectably until it was canned in 1956. Perhaps the most famous Topper was the one used as a bullpen car by the Milwaukee Brewers from 1959 to 1995.
4 / 10
The Bobcat was a quirky descendant of the S-125 that was a bit ahead of its time. It showed up in 1966 and came with a one-piece molded seat, tank, and rear fender. While not that important historically, and never made in large numbers, this forgotten and rare bike influenced the original boattail Low Rider, the later XLCR Sportster, The Triumph X75 Hurricane, and the Spanish built Bultacos and Ossas.
5 / 10
Harley-Davidson MC-65 Shortster
Shortster! It's like a Sportster, but smaller. Get it? GET IT? This little wonder was offered for one year—1972—and was an attempt to cash in on the minibike craze that was on at the time and to get kids into Harleys. It didn't quite work. They were powered by an Aermacchi 65cc two-stroke single mated to a three-speed transmission. It had a rudimentary suspension and internal expanding brakes and was apparently surprisingly fun. Unfortunately for Harley, the Japanese had the minibike market all sewn up and no one was willing to buy an Italian-made, Harley-sold (neither were watchwords for quality or reliability at the time) minibike when they could buy a cheaper, better, Honda Monkey.
6 / 10
Harley-Davidson Sprint 250
In 1960, H-D bought a small Italian company called Aeronuatica Macchi, or Aermacchi, and some glorious lightweights rolled out of this partnership. Aermacchi had impressive horizontal cylinder 250 and later 350 with a solid roadracing pedigree.
For America off-road versions of the Aermacchi 250 did quite well even with odd weight balance and poor ground clearance. Most Harley fans ignore the AMF days, but some serious fun and roadracing successes came along with AMF. By 1977, H-D had nine different lightweight models.
7 / 10
Harley-Davidson/Aermacchi Grand Prix Racer
Walter Villa worked with the Aermacchi factory in Varese, Italy and developed a remarkable 250 two-stroke twin. Villa's twin poked a big stick in Yamaha's eye by winning outright the 1974 and 1975 Italian Grand Prix, setting new lap records on the Monza race course. After that, Villa moved up to the 350 class and continued the wins until 1977.
8 / 10
The SS125 came in road and enduro formats. The king of the hill was the ss250 a pretty darn fast 250 in an era of fast 250s. By 1980, the show was over for Harley lightweights, sadly. Fierce competition from Japan, a worldwide recession, and deep trouble at the motor company brought an end to the partnership with Aermacchi.
9 / 10
The 1970's also included the great snowmobile boom. Everyone was doing it. Harley-Davidson partnered with Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) to market 340 and 440cc sleds and a terrifying buddy trailer with which you could tow your friends and family around. If you like flipping over on your head, this could be for you. Sadly, in 1974 spiking fuel prices clobbered the snowmobile business and fun was over. H-D sleds, for reasons unknown, are highly sought after today.
10 / 10