The Big Car Database

Aermacchi Motorcycles

Aermacchi was an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Formerly known as Aeronautica Macchi, the company was founded in 1912 by Giulio Macchi at Varese in north-western Lombardy as Nieuport-Macchi, to build Nieuport monoplanes under licence for the Italian military.

With a factory located on the shores of Lake Varese, the firm originally manufactured a series of Nieuport designs, as well asseaplanes.

After World War II, the company began producing motorcycles as a way to fill the post-war need for cheap, efficient transportation.

The company later specialised in civil and military pilot training aircraft. In July 2003, Aermacchi was integrated into the Finmeccanica Group as Alenia Aermacchi, which increased its shareholding to 99%.

Former type

Private Subsidiary
Industry Aerospace
Fate Merged
Successor Alenia Aermacchi
Founded 1912
Founder Giulio Macchi
Defunct 2003, January 2012
Headquarters Varese, Italy
Parent Finmeccanica (after 2003)
Website Aermacchi.it

Motorcycles

Aermacchi began producing motorcycles after World War II.

In 1960, US business Harley-Davidson motorcycles purchased 50% of Aermacchi's motorcycle division. The remaining motorcycle holdings were sold in 1974 to AMF-Harley-Davidson, with motorcycles continuing to be made at Varese. The business was sold to Cagiva in 1978.

Aermacchi Harley-Davidson

Credit: Richard Backus

It made perfect sense in 1960. With the Japanese invasion taking hold, Harley-Davidson needed something competitive in the small bike segment. The options: further development of their 165cc two-stroke single or a completely new design — or buy a turnkey business. Aermacchi, of Varese, Italy, fit the bill to a tee: they built a sturdy and competent 250cc bike (derived from Alfredo Bianchi s futuristic 175cc Chimera of 1955) with good performance and lots of development potential. Better yet, Aermacchi s parent company, Aeronautica Macchi, wanted to focus on its airplane business, and was keen to divest its bike operations. Harley bought a 50 percent share.

The sporty Aermacchi Ala d Oro (Gold Wing) featured a four-stroke overhead-valve single with horizontal cylinder and four-speed transmission, with the engine suspended from a spine frame. It looked like a good fit: overhead valve four-strokes were something H-D dealers were familiar with — no fancy overhead cams or ring-ding oil smoke haze.

The first Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Sprint went on sale in the U.S. in 1961. The speedy 250 quickly became popular in production racing, and was gradually improved over the years.

A 350cc version proved potent in GP racing, too, culminating in the 1968-1970 race seasons, when Aermacchis made up four of the top 10 places in the Isle of Man Junior TT each year and grabbed a pair of second place finishes in 1969 and 1970.

Unfortunately, little of the race technology (such as the five-speed transmission and short-stroke cylinder dimensions) made it to the street bikes, although H-D did boost the Sprint to 350cc for 1969.

Meanwhile, the engine got a cosmetic makeover, with the cylinder, head and rocker box blended together. Two versions of the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint appeared: the SS with a one-into-two exhaust and low pipes, and the offroad oriented SX with a high pipe, high fenders and knobby tires.

This was a time of rapid change in the motorcycle market, however. The race for power and performance was well underway, led by hi-tech cammy Hondas and increasingly frantic two-stroke twins from Bridgestone, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. Race versions of Yamaha s 350s were already challenging the big four-stroke Grand Prix bikes

Aermacchi was an Italian aircraft manufacturer. Formerly known as Aeronautica Macchi, the company was founded in 1912 by Giulio Macchi at Varese in north-western Lombardy as Nieuport-Macchi, to build Nieuport monoplanes under licence for the Italian military.

With a factory located on the shores of Lake Varese, the firm originally manufactured a series of Nieuport designs, as well asseaplanes.

After World War II, the company began producing motorcycles as a way to fill the post-war need for cheap, efficient transportation.

The company later specialised in civil and military pilot training aircraft. In July 2003, Aermacchi was integrated into the Finmeccanica Group as Alenia Aermacchi, which increased its shareholding to 99%.

Former type

Private Subsidiary
Industry Aerospace
Fate Merged
Successor Alenia Aermacchi
Founded 1912
Founder Giulio Macchi
Defunct 2003, January 2012
Headquarters Varese, Italy
Parent Finmeccanica (after 2003)
Website Aermacchi.it

Motorcycles

Aermacchi began producing motorcycles after World War II.

In 1960, US business Harley-Davidson motorcycles purchased 50% of Aermacchi’s motorcycle division. The remaining motorcycle holdings were sold in 1974 to AMF-Harley-Davidson, with motorcycles continuing to be made at Varese. The business was sold to Cagiva in 1978.

Aermacchi Harley-Davidson

Credit: Richard Backus

It made perfect sense in 1960. With the Japanese invasion taking hold, Harley-Davidson needed something competitive in the small bike segment. The options: further development of their 165cc two-stroke single or a completely new design or buy a turnkey business. Aermacchi, of Varese, Italy, fit the bill to a tee: they built a sturdy and competent 250cc bike (derived from Alfredo Bianchi s futuristic 175cc Chimera of 1955) with good performance and lots of development potential. Better yet, Aermacchi s parent company, Aeronautica Macchi, wanted to focus on its airplane business, and was keen to divest its bike operations. Harley bought a 50 percent share.

The sporty Aermacchi Ala d Oro (Gold Wing) featured a four-stroke overhead-valve single with horizontal cylinder and four-speed transmission, with the engine suspended from a spine frame. It looked like a good fit: overhead valve four-strokes were something H-D dealers were familiar with no fancy overhead cams or ring-ding oil smoke haze.

The first Aermacchi Harley-Davidson Sprint went on sale in the U.S. in 1961. The speedy 250 quickly became popular in production racing, and was gradually improved over the years.

A 350cc version proved potent in GP racing, too, culminating in the 1968-1970 race seasons, when Aermacchis made up four of the top 10 places in the Isle of Man Junior TT each year and grabbed a pair of second place finishes in 1969 and 1970.

Unfortunately, little of the race technology (such as the five-speed transmission and short-stroke cylinder dimensions) made it to the street bikes, although H-D did boost the Sprint to 350cc for 1969.

Meanwhile, the engine got a cosmetic makeover, with the cylinder, head and rocker box blended together. Two versions of the Aermacchi Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint appeared: the SS with a one-into-two exhaust and low pipes, and the offroad oriented SX with a high pipe, high fenders and knobby tires.

This was a time of rapid change in the motorcycle market, however. The race for power and performance was well underway, led by hi-tech cammy Hondas and increasingly frantic two-stroke twins from Bridgestone, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. Race versions of Yamaha s 350s were already challenging the big four-stroke Grand Prix bikes and winning. Could a 350cc pushrod single with its roots firmly in the Fifties hold its own? Mid-size four-stroke singles had pretty much disappeared from the streets, and offroad riding was dominated by lightweight European and Japanese strokers.

and winning. Could a 350cc pushrod single with its roots firmly in the Fifties hold its own? Mid-size four-stroke singles had pretty much disappeared from the streets, and offroad riding was dominated by lightweight European and Japanese strokers.