Battle of the Twins Veteran: 1983 Harley-Davidson XR1000 Race Special…
Launched in 1983, the Harley-Davidson XR1000 was conceived as a road-going version of the mighty XR750 — the most successful race bike in the history of flat track racing.
“Like everyone else who’s ever gone to an AMA dirt track race and seen the thundering Harley XR750s racing, some of the people inside Harley-Davidson have wanted to build a street version of the XR. Easier said than done, said the Engineering Department. Easier done than said, said Dick O’Brien of the Racing Department.” –Cycle World
Sixty days later, Dick O’Brien — aka “O.B.” — had completed an XR1000 prototype and presented it to management. The XR1000 used a mix of XLX Sportster and modified XR750 parts, including a standard Sportster bottom end with new barrels, special heads, black high-pipe exhaust, and twin Dell’Orto carbs. The 998cc engine cranked out 70 bhp, and the Motor Company offered a 20-hp hop-up kit for racers.
“The XR1000 was essentially a ‘back room special,’ produced in extremely limited numbers away from the standard assembly line…But the XR1000 showed that the XL Sportster chassis handled surprisingly well, and with slight improvements to its suspension and brakes, it coped well with the additional horsepower of the XR1000 motor.” –Mecum
The ’83 XR1000 racing special you see here is a veteran of one of the most entertaining racing series of all time, the Battle of the Twins — a series that AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) works to keep alive today:
“The Battle of Twins concept was born in the late 1980s as modern Superbike racing became increasingly dominated by inline four-cylinder machines. BOTT racing kept alive the thunderous roar of twin-cylinder machines from British, European and American manufacturers.” –AHRMA
Harley-Davidson saw the Battle of the Twins as the perfect opportunity to publicize their new machine. Gene Church and his XR1000 “Lucifer’s Hammer” — which some said was actually an overbored XRTT — would become a dominant force in the Battle of the Twins.
“Church was clocked at 156 MPH in 1986 at Daytona during practice, which surprised the Ducati team, who congratulated him. Church modestly claimed they were having carb problems, which the Ducati boys thought cheeky, but Church then lapped Daytona at 170 MPH, and the world was reminded what Harley-Davidson could do to a racing motor.” –Mecum
Below is a Daytona BOTT race between Gene Church and Marco Lucchinelli in 1985, with Gene Church riding Lucifer’s Hammer.
This ’83 XR1000 race special is an authentic period racer campaigned by Rich Rano and Hempstead Harley-Davidson in the Battle of the Twins from 1983-86.
Later, it was sold to Sweden, where world ice racing champion Per-Olof “Posa” Serenius last raced it at the Linköping circuit in 2007.
It was part of the impressive MC Collection museum in Stockholm, Sweden, and has now found its way back in the USA. In fact, if you’d like to own this piece of BOTT history, it’s crossing the block at the Mecum auction in Glendale, AZ, starting March 28.