Battle of the Bruiser Twins: 1983 Harley-Davidson XR1000

A Harley-Davidson with sportbike goodies will either fire your trigger or cross your cables, but in our case it’s almost always the former. When done right, there’s something wicked about a Milwaukee rocket that looks like it’s going 100 mph while stationary, without losing its leaky old iron character.

When it comes to getting it right, it’s impossible to argue with this 1983 Harley-Davidson XR1000 with competition history in the Battle of the Twins. This rare racer will be hitting the block as part of the Mecum Glendale auction this week.

To get going on this XR1000 you have to go back to Harley’s sensational Flattracker XR750, arguably one of the most successful race bikes ever built. After Harley worked the bugs out of the engine in ’72, the XR750 was a dominant force in flat track racing for decades. Watching the likes of Mert Lawill slide around the oval and Evil Knievel drive over buses, HD-loyal viewers couldn’t help but want a slice of the action.

While most of Harley’s resources were tied up in building the upcoming Evolution engine, Harley’s Skunkworks began modifying a regular 1000cc XL Sportster to incorporate a bit of the XR750 flavor that enthusiasts were craving . The result was the 1983 XR1000.

In practice it was little more than an XL Sportster with XR750-style cylinder heads, twin Dell’Orto carburetors and high-mounted B-side pipes. In theory an XR750 for the road, the XR1000 really shone on the big banks in the Battle of the Twins.

The series was created in the 1980s in response to the increasing dominance of four-cylinders in sportbike racing, bringing pavement comfort to air-cooled British, European and American large-displacement motorcycles. Harley’s entries were the new XR1000 on paper, but could more aptly be described as over-bored versions of the XRTT road bike.

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The most successful of these entries was an unlikely hero named Lucifer’s Hammer. After the factory road racer caught fire in Daytona in 1973, it was stored for 10 years before being reworked for use in the Battle of the Twins. Despite having little to no experience on tarmac, flat track racer Gene Church steered Lucifer’s Hammer to three Battle of the Twins championships.

In an iconic exchange, the Ducati factory team congratulated Church for hitting 156 mph at Daytona in 1986, but Church simply replied that something was wrong with one of the carburetors. Sounds like fancy talk – until they fixed the problem and surpassed 170 mph.

Lucifer’s Hammer is a well-documented machine, but the XR1000 on offer here at Mecum’s Glendale auction is a bit more mysterious. Mecum describes the bike racing in the Battle of the Twins from 1983 to 1986 with Rick Ranno as the pilot. From there it was sold to Sweden and raced by ice racing champion Posa Serenius in Linöping in 2007. Compared to the one historical photo we were able to dig up, we’re assuming the bike has been restored in Ranno’s V-Twins cycle since the paint job was purchased.

In 2019, Mecum sold the Ranno XR for a meager $6,600. For that much money we should all lift our paddles. [Via Mecum Auctions]

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