Historic Motorcycle Brands
Aermacchi was an Italian aircraft manufacturer, formerly known as Aeronautica Macchi. After World War II the company began making motorcycles.
Aeronautica Macchi was founded in 1912 by Giulio Macchi, in north-western Lombardy. Italy. Its factory was located on the shores of Lake Varese, where it originally manufactured seaplanes.
In 1951, the company began producing motorcycles as a way to fill the post-War need for cheap, efficient transportation.
The first Aermacchi to be marketed to the public was a scooter/motorcycle hybrid called the ‘Convertible’. It had covered bodywork, under-saddle engine and foot boards, a conventional motorcycle fuel tank position and 17-inch wheels. It was succeeded in 1953 by the ‘Zeffiro’ that was powered by a 125cc or 150cc two-stroke engine.
1957 Aermacchi Chimera – Rachel Dicerbo
In 1955 they produced the 125cc Monsone, followed by the 150cc Corsaro, both of which had pivoted fork rear suspension and telescopic front forks.
In 1956 Aermacchi released its first overhead-valve, four-stroke engine in the Chimera. The engine was mounted forward facing and horizontally; a layout which became standard for the marque.
Aermacchi 250 Ala d’Oro
In 1957 came a series of sport models, powered by a single cylinder, OHV engine with 175cc or 250cc displacements. Aermacchi continued with scooter production, but sales were poor and they were unable to compete in the market amongst the well established Vespas and Lambrettas, and so concentrated solely on the production of motorcycles.
Aermacchi-Harley-Davidson Ala Verde – Davide Restivo
In 1960, US-based Harley-Davidson purchased 50 percent of Aermacchi’s motorcycle division. The Italian branch of the brand was named ‘Aermacchi-Harley-Davidson’ and the first bike was a variation of the ‘Ala Verde’, suitably modified for the American market. This was also the year that the Chimera ceased production.
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 Aletta 125 – J L Exhausts
After the Harley Davidson investment, Aermacchi branched out into racing with a 250cc production-volume, Ala d’Oro competition bike. The factory team placed third in the 1966 350cc World Championship with racer Renzo Pasolini and third again in 1968 with Aussie Kelvin Carruthers. The following year Carruthers competed at the Isle of Man TT.
1969 Kel Carruthers Aermacchi Ultra Lightweight TT – TT Race Pics has prints avaiiable.
A new era began in 1971, with the development of twin-cylinder, two-stroke racers of 250cc and 350cc capacity. The first 250cc racer develop an impressive 46hp at 11,000rpm, and weighed only 120kg.
After Harley-Davidson acquired all of Aermacchi in 1972, the racers were branded ‘Harley-Davidson’ on their fuel tanks. The two-stroke twins provided Harley-Davidson with its only Grand Prix wins that led to the 250cc World Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976, and the 350cc World Championship in 1976, all under rider Walter Villa.
1967 Aermacchi 408 – Catawiki