Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Tour of Erik Buell's Garage: The Bike Barn!

Yesterday I was in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, on a tiny old abandoned farm. On the property is the small shed where a racer and former Harley-Davidson engineer named Erik Buell started the company known today as the Buell Motorcycle Company.The shed, also known as "the barn" (even though it's next to an actual barn) has been recently restored to the condition it was in during the 1980s, when Buell was developing his RW750 and RR1000 roadracers. As recently as a couple years ago, Buell had not been in the building for many years and it was literally falling apart, filled with debris and deteriorating parts and relics.

Erik gave a nice tour and talk, which I've preserved on my crummy point-and-shoot video camera. I apologize for the poor video, sound and production quality, but just pretend you're 3 feet high, hard of hearing and have cataracts. After viewing the three videos, scroll down for photos.

And now some photos:

Buell's prototype VR1000 from 1989, with split radiators, a liquid-cooled V-Twin and fuel-in-frame design. Sound familiar?

 Close-up of the VR's headstock, with interesting VIN.

You wouldn't guess, but underneath that black bodywork is the V-Rod prototype.

This is the only RW750 in existence. It was powered by the evil Barton two-stroke Four.

Here are a pair of Barton cases. The motors made 163 hp at the crank, but didn't spend a lot of time running: high-speed seizures were common. The motor used two crankshafts, one in front of the other. I'm sure it was a good idea at the time. Buell bought Barton so he could have a steady supply of parts.


Andrew Murrey said...

Incredible. Erik is truly a revolutionary.

Gabe said...

Thanks for visiting!

skadamo said...

Great videos, thanks! Loved hearing what was going on behind the scenes the last few decades.

Guess Roehr did not agree with Erik's comments in that last video.

Gabe said...

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing while Erik was saying that...I wanted to say "but what about the Roehr?" but I chickened out. Sorry!

pplassm said...

Gabe, that's fascinating. Thanks for posting this.

Interesting to see KC in the back taking notes. He's just like I imagined he'd be!

Cajun58 said...

Great stuff Gabe! Will "The Barn" be open to the public at some point? I was sort of hoping to see a prototype MX'er in their somewhere. Roehr is I think aware of the V-Rod engine's weight issues. They're trying to over come the problem by using a supercharger.

Gabe said...


I can't see them opening this up to the public: Erik owns the property and wants to fix up the old farmhouse for his personal use.

As Erik says in the video, the issue isn't power with the V-Rod motor (that motor has been pumped up significantly in the 2006 V-Rod Destroyer), but too much weight. Erik and I are of the same mind on this: give me light weight over power.

KLS said...

Thanks for the video. As a Buell owner since 1995, I've had earlier chances to talk with Erik about his experiences but nothing with so much detail. He's a fascinating guy and creative engineer; too bad that not every rider (in fact, not most riders) shares his passion about the engineering that makes a "good" motorcycle. The best engineering is unfortunately not what sells, but he keeps pushing for it. (Of course, that's where the HD Marketing department comes in and starts taking away his ideal features.)
Oh, the RW750 you show is the only PRODUCTION model but there's another one that exists, as Erik mentions in the first video. It was the final prototype, restored by a couple of his employees a few years ago and presented to Erik.

Gabe said...

Thanks for pointing that out, KLS, and for visiting my blog!

I've always rooted for Erik's creations and booed the haters that only want the same thing in the showroom, year after year.

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