Harley-Davidson is well known for its big V-twin motorcycles, but between 1960 and 1974, the company made a foray into the production of smaller bikes aimed at racers and younger riders, including a few years of a Harley-made scooter. Some of the small Harleys were made in Milwaukee, while others were imported and rebadged with the Harley name.
The small two-stroke motorcycles that Harley-Davidson manufactured in Milwaukee between 1948 and 1966 are often collectively (though inaccurately) referred to as Harley “Hummers.” There was actually only one “Hummer” model — a 125 cc bike made from 1955 to 1959. Other models included the Scat, Pacer, Ranger, Super 10, 125 and 165. The 125, with a 125 cc, three-horsepower engine, was introduced in 1948, and through the next two decades, improvements such as hydraulic front suspension and sprung rear suspension, along with a larger 165 cc engine, were added to the line. The Ranger and Pacer were equipped with a 175 cc engine and were produced through 1965.
The Topper was a motorscooter produced by Harley-Davidson between 1960 and 1965. It featured either a 5-horsepower engine designed to meet legal restrictions for younger riders, or a 9-horsepower engine; both engines were 165 cc two-strokes. The Topper featured a continuously variable transmission with belt drive and a rope-pull starter. The body and engine cover were made of fiberglass, and the floorboards and front fender were made of stamped steel.
In 1960, Harley-Davidson bought a controlling stake in the Italian company Aermacchi, and began importing the company’s 250 cc motorcycles in 1961. The Aermacchi bikes were given Harley badges and called the Sprint. The Sprint acquired a 350 cc engine in 1969, which it kept until the line was discontinued in 1974. Harley ceased production of the American-built small bikes in favor of the Italian models in 1967.
The Bobcat was the last of Harley’s American-made motorcycles and the end of the line of small bikes that began in 1948 with the Model 125. The Bobcat featured a 175 cc engine and a one-piece ABS plastic body. The Bobcat was a unique, modern design, but it wasn’t enough to convince Harley to continue to make its own small bikes. It was produced only for the 1966 model year.