Photos and words by Amanda Hornbrook
This months window bike is the Harley Davidson/Aermacchi M50 Sport - a rare 60s thumper on loan from friend of the shop, Robert Birch of Birch Contemporary.
This single-stroke, three-speed transmission street sport bike is the smallest to ever carry the H-D handle. Produced by the Aermacchi brand – Harley’s Italian partner – it was imported and sold in the US in 1966 under the Harley label before being discontinued the following year. It was replaced by the M65: a bike with a marginally higher displacement – a whopping 15 extra CCs – but incredibly similar styling.
Richard was kind enough to provide us with a history of what this delight from the 60s meant to him growing up and how it came into his possession:
For almost 50 years, my siblings and I would occasionally hear that our father rode a Harley Davidson in his youth and that our mother made him get rid of it when they had kids. Two of the four sons became factory trained Harley mechanics and all sons ride motorcycles - probably influenced by the story of Dad being a rider.
This myth became reality when an old black & white photograph (1966) appeared with dad on a motorcycle; his white shirt with rolled up sleeves, jeans and slicked back rocker hair of the day. He was holding my “Irish twin” on the handlebars. But the motorcycle in question didn’t look right to us as a Harley Davidson; it didn’t fit with the idea that dad was a bad-ass biker in his youth and that mom tamed him into a family man.
Upon closer scrutiny, and some research, we discovered that there were smaller displacement Harleys available in the 1960’s that were literally Italian Aermacchi scooters converted to the American muscle brand of motorcycle by simply changing the nameplate stickers and engine badging only.
Fast forward to 2018, when travelling to the Chief Black Hawk motorcycle swap meet in Iowa, I found the sport version of the same model of Aermacchi (or as Dad insists – Harley Davidson!) for $300 USD; in non-running condition.
I brought the bike home and cleaned out all the oil from the motor and transmission and replaced it with fresh oil, new gas and re-set the points, disassembled the carb for cleaning, plus I had to change the 6V tail light bulb as all the electrical goes through it and it won’t run if the bulb is burned out. Many, many kicks later the bike fired up allowing the carb and timing to be adjusted and a smooth idle was achieved. The bike had no brakes so it could not be ridden until that was sorted, but it was ready to give to Dad as an Xmas gift.
Dad was shocked to say the least and kept insisting the bike wasn’t the same as what he owned – fiercely defending his myth that he rode a Harley Davidson and not some dinky scooter. It was pointed out to him that the scooter now in his possession also clearly stated - in the much faded gas tank decals - that it was, indeed, a Harley Davidson!
The vintage photo was pulled to out to prove to him that they were the same bike but different model – ego deflated, good family chuckle at his expense.