Almost 5 years ago, I toured the Buell Factory in East Troy, Wisconsin. It was a busy place, with assembly lines cranking out about 15,000 of the quirky fuel-in-frame Twins a year. When Harley-Davidson abruptly killed the brand in 2009, I was filled with sadness, knowing that building would never again see crates of brand-new motorcycles leaving its loading docks. The big auction of equipment and furnishings in early 2010 was a nail in the coffin.
Or was it? A very nice story in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel took a good look at operations in the new Erik Buell Racing factory, just a few doors down the road from the old factory (which is a logistics warehouse now, judging from Google Maps). It’s a smaller space, but there’s enough room to get down to business: making production street motorcycles for riders who “get” Erik Buell’s vision.
As we told you last year, India’s Hero Motors paid $25 million for 49.2-percent stake in Erik Buell Racing. In return, EBR has been providing engineering and design help, and it’s paid off—13 of the 19 new models Hero will show in Dehli next month will “have ties to Buell engineers,” (including a Buell-designed hybrid scooter) according to the story, written by Rick Barrett. Hero reciprocated by providing engineering and other assistance to help EBR set up its assembly line, and the story’s photo gallery, with shots by Mark Hoffman, show the 185-horsepower liquid-cooled V-Twins taking shape. The company expects bikes to be at dealers in February.
In fact, Buell told the Sentinel he’s worried the fledgling company will quickly outgrow its space and is looking for more room. He’d like to keep it in East Troy—many of the 120 EBR employees are from the area and even stayed on from the old Buell—but it’s a small town and the article hints Buell will do what it takes to meet demand for the $18,995 sportbike. It’s a “wonderful problem to have,” Buell told the paper. So far there are about 40 U.S. dealerships listed on the Erik Buell Racing website, there’s a distributor in Australia, and the company announced it opened a European subsidiary in the Netherlands.
It’s remarkable EBR is building motorcycles, never mind motorcycles that offer the kind of performance and styling of the 1190RX. I can’t wait to ride the new bike (and its expected streetfighter and adventure-touring sisters), but I think I may just enjoy a tour of the Buell plant in East Troy even more.