1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002

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Lot 275
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer
Engine no. 69XR002

US$ 35,000 - 45,000
€ 31,000 - 40,000
Amended
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer

Engine no. 69XR002

• Ex-factory Ironhead 'Airbox' race bike

Harley-Davidson's XRTT will always hold a high place in American motorcycle history, remembered as the motorcycle that brazenly informed the rest of the world that Yanks really could road race. The XRTT served notice in the spring of 1972 when Harley team rider Cal Rayborn accepted an invitation to ride in the Trans-Atlantic Match Race series, a yearly six-race tilt on the UK's short circuits that had America's top racers, primarily dirt-trackers, lined up against England's best pavement artists.

Nobody gave the Americans much of a chance, and even the Harley-Davidson factory wasn't crazy about Rayborn's participation. This was before the all-alloy version of the XR750 V-twin was ready for prime time, so Rayborn went into battle with the old iron-barrel XR, an engine that ran so hot it was nicknamed the 'Waffle Iron.' Cool English weather helped keep the tired motor together, though, and Rayborn put in masterful performances on tracks so unfamiliar to him that he only knew their layouts from hastily drawn diagrams on the back of cocktail napkins. Slack-jawed Brit crowds numbering as high as 70,000 saw Rayborn set lap records and take the checkered flag in three of the six contests, tying for top scorer of the series.

The iron XR750 was hastily put together after a 1969 rule change that did away with the AMA's previous engine-equivalency formula pitting 750cc flatheads like H-D's KR model against 500cc ohv designs – BSA, Triumph, Norton, etc. Basis for the XR was the Ironhead Sportster street motor, which had to do until a redesigned all-alloy version could be built several years hence.

When thoe alloy XRs came online, the iron-engined race bikes were instantly obsolete. Like most old racers, many were broken up for parts. That was the fate of this bike, brought back together via the considerable efforts of Team Obsolete's Rob Ianuucci. The engine, by number the second XR750 motor built in 1969, was located at a race shop. The frame, about to be used in a street special, was re-purchased. The bodywork was tracked down at a third location.

As race teams are better on the track than behind a log book, this XRTT's individual event history in understandably muddled. Because it's fitted with two front cylinder heads, twin rearward-racing Mikuni carburetors could be mounted on the right side, housed in a fiberglass plenum, a setup meant to keep the carbs cool. This distinguishes the XR as an 'Airbox' bike. In a letter to the collector who acquired the Harley from Team Obsolete in 2002, Iannucci states that the bike was clearly raced at Daytona, though who was in the saddle isn't clear. He believes the motor is one of two used by Mark Brelsford, and that the chassis may be one of Mert Lawwill's.

It's a historical irony that examples of the iron-barrel Harley XRTT road racer are thinner on the ground today than the superior alloy-engined XRTT that replaced it. This bike is one that was brought back from the brink, restored in 2002 to reflect how it would have appeared in the 1971 race season. Mr. Iannucci's signed letter, some notes and magazine excerpts will accompany this sale.

Footnotes

  • Offered on a Bill of Sale

Saleroom notices

  • Offered on a Bill of Sale.
Contacts
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
1971 Harley-Davidson XRTT Road Racer Engine no. 69XR002
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