From a commercial success standpoint, the Harley-Davidson XLCR fell between two stools. It was neither a full-bore sports tool - nor a laid-back cruiser. In the late Seventies, performance was key - as exemplified by the first wave of Japanese superbikes. There was no way the XLCR was going to compete, any time soon - not with a pushrod V-twin engine, at any rate. And - though it looked menacing, in its jet-black livery - it did not have enough 'attitude' chops to keep Harley die-hards sweet. As a result, just 3,200 XLCRs were built.
Willie G Davidson - Harley's head of design - had done his utmost. The XLCR looked the real deal. From its flat-'bars fairing - via an elongated tank - to the racy seat/tail unit, the Cafe Racer's lines were in all the right places. The swoopy 'siamese' exhaust set-up was stunning. Sadly, the stats did not stack up as neatly as the styling cues. A top speed of 115mph was only average ... though Harley's marketing materials begged to differ! And, a peak power output of 61bhp - at 6,200rpm - was not exactly explosive, either.
To be fair, the Harley sales brochures were right - up to a point. The XLCR's performance was a marked improvement on Harley's standard fare. But then, so was the new Sportster's. In terms of white knuckles, the Cafe Racer did not do much the Sportster was not already doing. And, the Sportster scored more 'sit up and scowl' points! Harley-Davidson were right to try to tap a new trend. But - for two-wheeled speed merchants - the XLCR Cafe Racer could not cut the cappuccino!