|How Buell Became Part of Harley Davidson
The Buell Motorcycle Company is an American motorcycle
manufacturer that is based in East Troy, Wisconsin. It was
founded by Erik Buell, who was once employed by the Harley
Davidson Company as an engineer. The Buell Motorcycle Company
is the only significant manufacturer of sporting motorcycles
in the United States.
Eric F. Buell was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1950. He was
raised on a farm, learning to work on machinery at a young
age. As a teen-ager, Buell took up motorcycling. His first
bike was an Italian-made Parilla 90cc moped, his second a 74ci
basket-case Harley Davidson. He began racing motorcross and
also became interested in road racing in his early 20's.
Buell was also employed as a motorcycle mechanic during the
day, while taking classes in engineering at the University of
Pittsburgh at night. He received his engineering degree in
1979 and soon began working for Harley Davidson in Milwaukee.
This is where he began designing concept motorcycles and was
involved with the Porsche-designed "Nova" V-four program. He
was also responsible for a lot of the improvement in stability
made to the chassis design of the FXR series of cruisers.
Buell's loyalty to the Harley Davidson Company prevented him
from racing Japanese or Italian made motorcycles in the
1980'2. This led to his purchase of a bike produced by a
company in Great Britain. The Barton Company produced a
limited production racer that was powered by a water-cooled
750cc Square Four two-stoke engine. The bike however, was
poorly made and Buell began using his engineering talents and
own designs to remake it as the parts failed.
Buell raced this prototype bike, which was still using the
mostly-stock Barton engine, in 1982 at AMA National on the
Pocono Speedway. He called this bike the RW750 with the RW
standing for Road Warrior. During testing the RW750 reached
speeds of up to 178 miles per hour.
When the Barton Company shut down in 1982, Buell purchased the
entire stock of spare engines and parts, all drawings and the
rights to produce and sell the engine. The shipment was
delayed causing him to miss out on the opportunity of using
this equipment for the 1983-racing season. The lack of
reliability of the Barton engine also caused Harley Davidson
to decline giving engineering and financial support to Buell
when he asked. He then left the company to devote more time to
his racing effort. Luckily the split was amicable.
Buell offered his RW750s for sale in 1984 with much success.
The American Machinist's Union Racing Team bought, tested and
raced the first publicly sold RW750. Unfortunately by the
spring of 1985 the AMA announced that the Formula One class
was being discontinued for the 1986 season leaving no market
for Buell's machine.
Buell continued to design and improve his bikes with great
success, all the time studying Harley Davidson's concepts and
maintaining a close relationship with the company. This
success and partnership benefited both companies and in the
1990's Harley Davidson invested a 51 percent interest in the
newly reformed Buell Motorcycle Company. By 2003 Harley
Davidson bought complete control of Buell Motorcycle Company,
and currently distributes their bikes through select Harley
Davidson dealerships. Eric Buell is still responsible for the
engineering and design of Buell motorcycles.