The state of Wisconsin is a veritable fountain of interesting vintage motorbikes, from a wider variety of makes and models than you might expect if you aren’t a moto enthusiast located in a nearby state. Take, for example, this absolutely beautiful 1968 Harley-Davidson Sprint that YouTube channel 2Vintage recently managed to pick up.
It is, apparently, a one-owner bike. The seller’s father-in-law bought the bike new, rode it, and had it as his only bike before putting it away in storage. It came with the original owner’s manual, an invoice for some parts from sometime in the early 1980s, and a Wisconsin title that showed it was last registered in 1982. For moto documentation nerds (present company totally included), that kind of stuff is very much like catnip.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Sprint, it’s one of the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson bikes, brought over to the US in the 1960s to compete with small-displacement Hondas, Triumphs, and other bikes of the day. It was originally designed by Alfredo Bianchi and sold in Italy as the Aermacchi Ala Bianca. The name translates to ‘White Wing,’ which makes even more sense if you know that Aermacchi, like so many early moto OEMs, also manufactured airplanes.
Having purchased 50 percent of Aermacchi in 1960, and uneasily staring down the small-displacement competition, the Motor Company decided it was high time to bring the Ala Bianca stateside as the 1961 Harley-Davidson Wisconsin. In 1963, it changed the model name to Sprint for a broader appeal across the country.
The little 250 was powered by a four-stroke, overhead valve, air-cooled single cylinder engine. It utilized a 24mm Dell’Orto carburetor, which you’ll see up close in this video—along with a ton of this bike’s rather charming quirks.
For those of us who are only used to riding modern bikes, some things aren’t where you’d expect them to be. It’s a kickstart-only bike—and the kickstarter is on the left. Aermacchi, in its wisdom, opted to put the side stand on the right so that it wouldn’t interfere with the kickstarter. The four-speed shifter is also located on the right (don’t worry, it’s still a foot shifter). The throttle cable is a normal cable, but the point it attaches to on the right handlebar has a little chain inside.
Over the course of its run, the Sprint 250’s specifications changed slightly. Having evolved from an Aermacchi race machine of the day, it was sturdy, up for anything, and was one of those bikes that seemed to want to just go, according to contemporary riders. It produced anywhere from 16 to 25 horsepower, depending on the year and version you got. Claimed top speeds were anywhere from 80 to 90 miles per hour.
In 1964, a tuned Sprint 250 streamliner recorded a top speed of over 150 miles per hour at Bonneville, according to Motorcycle Classics—which got a whole lot of positive attention for the customer bikes that used what was seen as an engine with a lot of potential.
Anyway, back to this specific bike in 2Vintage’s workshop. As you can tell from its condition, the bike was clearly stored in a dry, temperature-controlled setting for the past 30 years. The seat is in amazing shape, the paint looks pretty nice, and you can tell the bike has been cared for.
The tires are showing signs of dry rot, but that’s simply inevitable with age. They do still hold air, which is why you get to see 2Vintage take the thing out for a test ride once he fixes a few minor problems. A commenter suggested chocking a cotton swab into a drill to help clean the gunk out of a seat in the carburetor, and it thankfully did the trick to stop a pesky fuel leak.
The engine sounds surprisingly good throughout the test run, which is mostly done in a field. It’s clear that this bike will need some additional attention, such as unbending the handlebars and fixing the rattle in the instrument cluster. New tires will also be a must, especially if this bike is going to end up being roadworthy once more. Overall, though, it’s a solid bike—and an interesting piece of moto history that still runs strong in 2023.
Source: Motorcycle Classics