Live Auctions

Italian Harley: 1968 Harley-Davidson M-65 Sport

Fall is the time when a lot of us start thinking about a winter restoration project. Since I know that I’ll never restore a car or truck again, I always think of old motorcycles. The smaller the better for me, and the more unusual the better – at least as long as parts are available. One that I have always wanted is an unusual bike like this 1968 Harley-Davidson M-65 Sport. The seller has it posted here on craigslist in Indio, California, where I should be until April, and they’re asking $2,400. Here is the original listing, and thanks to MattR for sending in this tip!

Sadly, the seller didn’t exactly spend a ton of time taking photos, the first two photos are literally the only ones in the listing. Two. Photos. Two. Just two photos in the entire listing, and they didn’t even bother taking a photo of the other side. I sure hope that 2023 is better for craigslist sellers providing better info, but I’ve been saying that for a half-dozen years now and it’s only getting worse. In any case, you can see what appears to be a big dent in the right front section of the tank. Otherwise, this bike looks like it’s in nice shape.

In 1960, Harley-Davidson bought a 50% stake in Italian company Aermacchi’s motorcycle division in order to try to keep up with the influx of small import bikes that were flooding the U.S. market at that time. It was an interesting mix, to say the least. They offered several small motorcycles, including the step-through M-50 which was similar to the step-through M-65, but the one that you wanted if you were a 65-cc buyer was the leg-over M-65 Sport or M-65S. The company bought the remaining portion of Aermacchi in 1974 and then sold it in 1978. Small, two-stroke rebadged Italian Harleys weren’t meant to be.

This is an enlarged image of the first photo since there are no other photos, just to show the engine a little better. This is a 4.5-horsepower, 64-cc two-stroke Aermacchi single-cylinder and the seller says that it doesn’t start, and doesn’t even turn over. They’re at basically top dollar here for a bike with a locked engine, so I’m not sure this is going to work. In any case, do any of you start thinking about winter motorcycle restoration projects in the fall, or am I the only one? If so, what’s on your list for this winter?

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    “I’m from Milwaukee and I oughta’ know”, now before you raise your guns in protest, I’m a H-D guy. Not so much for their technical wizardry, but the impact they made on our society. However, historically, Harley was always behind the game. Around this time they sorely needed a small bike, a REAL bike, and not this goofy, smoky Italian stuff. I can’t help but think, with the interest the Asian bikes generated, both on and off, how could you miss a market like that? I know, AMF, and so on, but this was the best they could do? They had the know-how, think H-D snowmobiles, that were made here and were nice sleds, but stayed with the road bikes that were already horribly outdated and not much has changed.
    This bike? While I hesitate to call anything “junk”, let’s just say, the Europeans had different ideas and terrain when it came to motorcycles. We didn’t ride down back alleys and roundabouts, it was WIDE OPEN SPACES, BABY, for us, and no place for one of these. I think these paved the way for modern (?) mo-peds, and such, but for Americans, a poor motorcycle. People usually bought, or were given one and that was that. Many adorn those “piles”of junk motorcycles you see from time to time.. This should be hung from the ceiling of the H-D museum, with a sign, “Look folks, this little machine almost helped take down the only US motorcycle company”. Another of US marketing blunders of which there are a few. No sir, no soft spot from me on these.

    Like 8
    • Jack M.

      The only US motorcycle company? Surely you must remember the Indian Motorcycle Company of 1902 Howard? You can still purchase one of their bikes today!

      Like 6
      • Howard A Member

        Well, of course there WAS Indian, but quite honestly, I wasn’t around in 1902, and growing up in Milwaukee, we NEVER saw an Indian, say, late 60s to, well, the present, really. Indian to most my age, was this obscure pre-war bike, that grandpa rode as a young man in the 20s( if you were lucky) but after the war, it was Harley all the way. Not many thought about Indian, British, I think was more popular You said “US motorcycle,”, it immediately referred to Harley.
        The “new” Indian, I believe, is just a Polaris knockoff ( no offense to Polaris/Indian owners, I hear the keyboards firing up) and are really nice bikes, but again, it’s an older market. Most folks that want a V-twin, already have one, and I don’t see a big future for those, or any V-twin in the future.

        Like 5
  2. geomechs geomechs

    I rather think that H-D drug its feet during the 50s. A little bit of ‘Turnerosis’ that came across the Atlantic with some shipments of British bikes. H-D manufactured small bikes but dropped them because someone thought they weren’t profitable. I guess they should’ve taken a page out of Henry Ford’s book. At the time these came out they weren’t that bad of a bike, and were competitive with most of its size coming from across the Pacific. Unfortunately there were some attitudes that needed some changing. And HD almost lost.

    This bike, I could easily be tempted but I’ve got enough projects on the go that I’ve got to draw the line. But it should be a good project for someone. I might add that I rebuilt the engine in an H-D golfcart which broke the motor shaft side of the crankshaft. I think the cart’s owner will be forever mad at me because the parts were astronomical…

    Like 6
    • Stan

      I remember a few of those those HD golf ⛳️ carts lol. They smoked down the fairways lol. Good times

      Like 4
      • JustPassinThru

        I fueled those golf carts. I worked on a golf course, summers, and our fleet was 100-percent H-D. Three quarters were gas; one quarter was electric.

        It seemed a good, solid second business for them; and I can’t understand why the buyers didn’t take it as part of the deal in 1981.

        As to this bike: it wasn’t its size; Honda and Suzuki were doing fine with 100 and 250cc models, in those years. Suzuki and Yamaha were exclusively two-stroke; so it wasn’t the smoke. In fact the two-strokers were favored, for a time.

        It was that this was low-performance, with a dated chassis design that hadn’t been updated. The Asian manufacturers were seeking perfection, and were engaging in what came to be known as Continuous Quality Improvement. Both in durability and in design performance.

        The Aermacchi was stuck in amber; basically an abandoned design. Harley, and especially after AMF’s purchase, wanted it for the showroom traffic. They had no interest in those things.

        Neither did those riders who favored smaller bikes and discovered the new Asian products.

        Another commentator had it right. Hang it on a wall; that’s really all it’s good for. You want a two-smoker, a Yamaha RD would be a far better bet.

        Like 6
  3. BA

    From 1964 till 2001 the motorcycle road racing world was won every year by a Yamaha, Suzuki ,Honda, kawasaki 2 stroke motor . The last person to win a GP title in 2001 was Valintino Rossi who retired a couple years ago . It took a 1000 cc 4 stroke to beat a 500 cc 2 stroke and the EPA regulated the 2 strokes to be banished a very sad day for me as the sounds of road racing 2 stroke are fantastic IMHO . I owned a RZ350lc that with Toomey chambers & 30 mm mikuni carbs would wheelie with my 6’4″ 230 lbs on it & out run a certain 1300 sportster yes I’m a mad dog!

    Like 6
  4. Cycle Salvage Kevin

    $2400? One too many zeros, especially in that condition. Italian ‘made for export’ of that era IMO, compares with the forever ongoing cheap crap coming out of China.

    Like 3
    • Terrry

      “made for export” meant get this thing out of our country and don’t send it back.

      Like 3
  5. Walt Reed

    In 1959 American Honda Motor Company was formed and set up in a store front the size of a hardware store in Los Angeles. They imported their larger bikes, thinking that Americans wanted large “Harley type” motorcycles. They had very few takers. As their reps rode around on 50cc and 90cc motorcycles, prospective dealers would say, “Not interested in your 250’s, but what about the bike you are riding?” They let Japan know that Americans surprisingly wanted their smaller bikes. In 1965 they ran their advertising slogan, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” It overcame the “bad-boy” image and they sold motorcycles like pancakes. They became the largest volume motorcycle company in the world. Today, they sell over 14 million motorcycles world wide every year- a lot more bikes than cars.

  6. Dion

    This is the first motorcycle I got when I was 13. Back in the early 70s, I didn’t know who made it or cared, kick starter was busted off,but didn’t need it, light’s were busted off, didn’t need em, three speed clutch and shifted with the same lever, I loved it! Realized there was a decal under the rattle can paint job when I was patching the back tire, made in Italy by ammorecci for Harley Davidson of USA. That’s All I needed to get started for life!

    Like 6
    • Danny L. Beck

      Dion, l too had a ‘66 65 cc Harley. I was only 13 years old in 1969. I bought my bike with money l made working in tobacco fields. You could never convince me MY bike was a piece of junk! I paid $75 for a 3 year old ride of freedom. I rode that machine til l got my next Harley. Many happy memories!

    • Bob Washburne

      I, too had one of these when I was 13…and living in Cannes, France. These were sold under Malaguti / Moto Morini badging. Still have a side plate from the engine. Learned how to shift a manual; Transmission was a 3-speed cable shift by rotating the grip while squeezing in the clutch lever. First all the way back towards you, then forward past N to 2nd & 3rd.

      The 14mm Del’lorto was somewhat gutless; mine was modified in Ventemiglia, Italy, where shops would file out the intake and upsize to a 19mm carburetor, either a Del’lorto or Solex. Gave it a ton more power, enough to break the chain tensioner if you hogged on it.

      I loved it and miss it, but not sure enough to approach the seller because no on the ask.

      Like 2
    • half cab

      Also had one in ’72 I gave $30 bucks for it. Never got a decent ride out it. Next bike was an AT3 YAMAHA awesome play bike and lasted for yrs.

      Like 2
  7. steve

    The tank dent looks like it got slammed by the fork/triple tree. That brings the front wheel, forks and frame into question on a bike with a locked up 2-stroke. I’m not a Harley fan (BMW or nothing) but I could see a Harley owner buying this for laughs and history. I’d be in for $100-150….

    Like 3
  8. TheOldRanger

    I had 2 friends (on separate occasions) who were almost killed while riding a bike, so I’m no fan of them. One friend who had a beautiful Indian (I was 12 then… 1954) and he was hit when a guy ran a light. Berkeley lived, but it was a horrendous year of recovery. Later when I was in my 40s, another friend was riding a big Honda Eagle and he was hit when a guy who tried to pass and ran out of room, so he sideswiped Dale and another long hospital stay. So I don’t like motorcycles… I also don’t like when they are so loud you can’t hear yourself talk and they are still a few blocks away. I know I’ll get blasted on this one, but the only decent bike is a quiet bike. But I’ll never ride one.

    Like 2
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      You don’t know what you are missing! I have been riding since 1956 and at 83 I’m still riding a Honda Rebel 450cc and a Suzuki Burgman 250cc Maxi Scooter. I have raced Nortons back in the late fifties and have had many accidents, however, I admit that I have been lucky and apart from one leg being a bit shorter than the other, replaced knee joints, broken ribs, ankles, thigh bone and even an elbow, I’m still here, riding m/c No. 53 and loving every second of life. I appreciate that it isn’t for everybody and I’m sorry your friends had bad luck, but hey, we are all going to the bike park in the sky one way or another. I just hope I have a few thousand miles left to ride before I go.

      Like 6
    • Howard A Member

      You won’t get blasted, you stated your opinion in a cordial way, and that’s cool. I’m sorry to hear about your buddies, I think we ALL have a story or 2 about who didn’t make it. Many die in the bath tub, but we don’t hear about that. Conversely, I, and many, MANY others, have literally hundreds of thousands of safe miles, and we’ve all been in tense situations. Riding a motorcycle takes the utmost in defensive driving, and while it can happen, your buddies just weren’t paying enough attention. I don’t mean to be cruel, but many times, I had situations where had I not been paying attention, I’d have bought the farm too. Oddly enough, in all my 2 wheel riding, 50+ years, a recent wipeout on my bicycle, where the front wheel broke off, sending me to the ground, was ironically the worst 2 wheel incident I ever had, and I rode MX bikes.
      Also, if you rode one of these as a kid, it helped set you up for what you should look out for when riding a motorcycle. Couple lumps and “trail rash” told you to watch it. Something a newer rider may not have experienced. And for the record, you can tell you are getting old when noisy things bother you. I had my days as a younger man, with a H-D with straight pipes and 2 cycles with open chambers, but these days, I’m with you, nice and quiet!

      Like 4
    • Dave Mazz

      OldRanger

      As a person who has owned, and/or ridden, one or more motorcycles for around 65 years, all I can say is that you must be one of the few individuals that has never had a friend or relative who was injured in an automobile crash or heard a noisy car that some youngster was running with a modified exhaust system, or straight pipes. If so, congratulations. Or may-be you’re just a biased, anti-bike guy who never had a chance to see how much fun riding a bike can be. Too bad.

  9. Joe Haska

    A friend of mine who is an ex motorcycle racer and an automotive and motorcycle journalist ,has got me all pumped up about finding one of these small bikes. Of course a Japanese version would be the natural choice. I don’t care I just want to ride it around our retirement community in AZ. With Harley Davidson on the tank this would be my choice, although the comments don’t seem very positive.

  10. Cadmanls Member

    Hey AMF was in the recreation business. They made more than pin spotters and bowling balls. They purchased Harley and kept the marque alive. Honda was selling those 90cc motor bikes like no tomorrow. HD had nothing to compete in the small motor cycle sales. So they bought into another manufacturer. By the early 80’s the Japanese were dominant and American Machine and Foundery had enough and sold it back to the family and some investors. With the help of some government import regulations they have been successful. But they are still floundering today. That’s a whole nother debate. By the way been riding since I was 18 and 70 within Days. Always said the way to ride is assume everyone one you share the road with is going to hit you. Had a few close calls but brakes always saved me. Love them triple disc setups.

  11. Scooterluvr

    Well, to answer Scotty’s question, maybe this winter will be the time to get my 1967 Yamaha YCS1C going. Or, I could update some of the rusty bits on my 66 BMW R27. I finally have room in a basement shop so I can tinker in comfort instead of freezing my old butt off in my western NY garage.

    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      That’s a problem that I have here in UK. I hire a single garage from the local council which is a ten minute walk from my flat, that’s o.k. during our so called summer, but not so good in winter. On top of that the garage has no electricity which means that if I want to work on my bikes I have to leave the door open until it gets too dark, which is about 3.30 pm in winter. Summer is no problem as it is still light at 10.00 pm.

  12. Phil G

    As a young chap, was unable to afford a car, my first vehicle was a ’66 Harley 250cc Sprint. Four-stroke, single cylinder, it got me around, but I soon upgraded to a ’67 Chev Biscayne. The bike was quite spartan.
    Whenever I worked on the Harley, I noticed parts on it came from all over the world.

    Like 1

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.