Erik Buell built his first motorcycle as a racer but by the time today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe S3 Thunderbolt rolled out of his Wisconsin factory, road bikes ruled the roost. Let’s see if this Harley-powered sport bike’s price might equally rule.
Originally designed for practicality, the Station Wagon, or Estate Car can easily be crafted to haul booty as well as baggage. That was evident with yesterday’s sporty 2005 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited. It rocked a solid 250 horses and a five-speed stick through which to wield them. While that may have all been good, however, its modded exhaust and $12,000 price proved less so. That combo killed the car’s vibe for many of you and ended the day with the car falling in an 83 percent Crack Pipe loss.
Hey, do you remember that homebrew Harley Café bike we looked at a couple of weeks back? That didn’t impress with either execution or price. What if, however, you could get that same concept only in a professionally designed and built iteration?
Have I got your curiosity?
Further, what if that pro-built bike had an asking price that was less than half that of the amateur hour edition we saw?
Do I now have your attention?
This 1997 Buell S3 Thunderbolt is the bike in question, and suffice to say, these limited-run machines are the funkiest Harleys you’re likely to ever see. The creator, Erik Buell grew up racing motorcycles. He turned that passion into an advocation, leveraging a degree in engineering into a job at Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Motorcycles. There he worked on everything from concept bikes to the aborted “Nova” V4 engine co-fated with Porsche.
Of course, racing was always close to Buell’s heart and in 1983 he parted ways with Harley to start his own motorcycle company. The first offering out of that concern was the RW750. That was a Grand Prix bike that used a British Barton Engineering engine modded by Buell and housed in a custom-built racing frame. Two of those were constructed before racing rules changes left the bikes series-less at which point Buell Motorcycles turned their attention to race-inspired street bikes. With Barton having gone under, Buell also turned to his former employer, Harley-Davidson for the company’s motivational forces.
In total, Buell would build over 130,000 bikes before selling the company off to Harley. That company’s comically poor management killed off the internal competitor to their own machines in short order.
This S3 Thunderbolt made it out before that all went tits up. The bike features Harley’s 45° air-cooled V-twin in 1203cc displacement. That offers 91 horsepower for its efforts and sits nestled in a custom tube-frame chassis.
The bodywork on the Thunderbolt is minimal for a Café racer and lets everyone know you’re rocking a Harley between your knees. Aside from the swoopy tailpiece, the most iconic features of the bike are the massive airbox and snaky exhaust pipes both of which dominate the right side of the engine. An extended pillion up top means you can bring a friend along for the ride too.
The bike uses inverted 40mm Showa forks up in front. That’s paired with a cantilever arm rear suspension controlled by a single shock that’s mounted horizontally under the engine. Brakes are discs front and rear, although that front unit is more of a donut than a disc. The handlebars seem fairly high for the bike. They do seem to fit behind the fairing without issue, albeit not exactly as low as you would expect.
The ad notes 9,491 miles on the clock and some minor blemishes in the paint that the bike has picked up over the course of those miles. When not out doing that, it’s said to have enjoyed the garage life since new. Another issue with the appearance is a missing rear seat lock.
On the plus side, the bike comes with its original owner’s manual, a full bike cover, and… wait for it… some clothes.
The seller has a Buell-branded jacket, helmet, and helmet bag that comes with the bike, along with a second helmet and some assorted gloves and boots (size 12!) This is all good if it all happens to fit you, but would be of limited value otherwise.
What do you think this package deal might be worth? The seller is asking $3,000 for the lot and says in the ad that cryptocurrency is okay for the transaction. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that offered up as an exchange. We’ll stick to cold, hard cash, however.
What do you think, is this funkiest of all Harleys worth that $3,000 asking? Or, is this a Buell with a price that blows?
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