Buell Motorcycle Range
2004 Gallery | Buell
History | Eric
On February 19, 1998, Erik Buell
announced that he had sold almost all of his
interest in the Buell Motorcycle Company to
his business partner, Harley- Davidson Inc.,
Harley had been a minority partner in the Buell
Motorcycle Company since 1993. As part of the
acquisition, Erik Buell became Chairman and
Chief Technical Officer. Jerry Wilke was named
President of the new company.
According to Buell, the acquisition
was a strong signal of Harley-Davidson's continued
commitment to Buell as a separate and distinct
product and brand. Now, with Harley's expanded
level of support, we can move forward with the
exciting plans for growth that I have been dreaming
about, he said. The purchase is a strong endorsement
from Harley-Davidson for me and the entire team
at Buell. Business is booming and the best is
yet to come!
The acquisition was yet another
chapter in the remarkable story of Buell Motorcycles
and a major event in the life of company founder,
Erik Buell. For the past 15 years, Buell has
worked to develop a world-class American sportbike.
The first motorcycle designed
and built by Erik Buell was the RW750 in 1983.
This was a 750cc, two-stroke, square-four, rotary-valve
racing machine designed specifically to compete
in the AMA Formula One road racing class. A
prototype RW750 first hit the track in the AMA
National at Pocono Speedway in the summer of
1983. Buell continued extensive testing and
development work on the bike throughout that
summer and into the fall. His success was measured
during testing at Talladega, Alabama, where
it was clocked at a top speed of 178 mph.
Development on the RW750 continued
through 1984, a production version was released
in the fall. Just one RW750 was sold to the
American Machinists Racing Team before the AMA
announced that 1985 would be the last year of
Formula One racing. An announcement that Superbikes
would occupy the premier race class in 1986
effectively eliminated any market for the RW750.
Crushing as that may have been
to lesser builders, Buell viewed the rules change
simply as a setback. He went back to work, this
time aiming squarely at the goal of building
the first world-class sportbike designed and
built in the USA. Tapping his knowledge of what
works on the racetrack and his experience as
a Harley-Davidson engineer, Erik Buell designed
his first entry into the sportbike market, the
RR1000. Powered by the Harley-Davidson XR1000
engine, the stiff, light chassis was designed
to allow rubber-mounting that became a patented
engineering trademark of Buell sport bikes:
the Uniplanar system.
Buell's design also utilised the
engine as a fully stressed member of the frame.
Capping the engineering firsts was Buell's use
of a rear suspension mounted beneath the motor
and a shock that operated in reverse of the
conventional compression-rebound practice. A
total of 50 RR1000 models were produced during
1987-88 before the remaining XR1000 engines
Buell saw the new 1203cc Harley-Davidson
Evolution engine as an opportunity to continue
tuning the performance and handling qualities
of his bikes. With that in mind, he began redesigning
the chassis to accommodate the 1203. The resulting
RR1200 model was introduced during 1988, and
65 were produced for sale through 1989. Streamlining
and bodywork had been a particular talent and
passion for Erik Buell. Thus, his motorcycles
continued to change at a measured pace through
the years. In 1989, he introduced the RS1200,
a two-seat version of the RR model for riders
who demanded both world-class performance and
two-up comfort. 105 of these unique models were
produced through 1990.
Five-speed transmissions were
a new feature of the 1203cc engine in 1991.
Buell responded to revised engine mounting points
with further design improvements to the RS chassis.
These bikes were the first production motorcycles
to use upside-down (inverted) front forks, stainless
steel braided brake lines and a six-piston front
As Buell motorcycles were refined,
the company's manufacturing capabilities were
expanded. 1991 was the first year in which Buell
Motor Company not only designed bodywork, but
also produced it in a new composite and paint
shop. The result was greater quality control
and improved design flexibility.
A single-seat version of the RS1200
was introduced late in the 1991 model year.
Dubbed the RSS1200, it won enthusiastic approval
of the motorcycle press for its lean, clean
lines. A total of 40 units were built between
March and August 1991. Combined production of
RSS and RS models totalled 325 through 1993.
In 1994, Buell introduced the
curvaceous Thunderbolt S2, the first model produced
under the partnership with Harley-Davidson Inc.
The motorcycle won rave reviews from the motorcycle
press and is still known for its beautiful lines
and fluid design. A sport-touring version, the
S2T, was added to the line-up in 1995. The new
model was named Rider Magazine's Top Innovation
that season. Together, the two models combined
for total sales in excess of 1,000 units.
The next year brought the introduction
of the all-new 1996 Lightning S1. The original
street fighter”, the Lightning S1, defined
a whole new class of Hooligan motorcycles. Featuring
minimal bodywork, a racing-styled seat, exposed
frame and the centralised mass of the 1203cc
engine, exhaust system and suspension, the model
was named Hooligan Bike of the Year by Cycle
World Magazine that year.
A redesign of the Thunderbolt
was also introduced in 1996 as the Thunderbolt
S3 and the Thunderbolt S3T. The models continued
the design evolution of sport touring motorcycles.
Together with the Lightning S1, the S3 and S3T
combined for sales in excess of 2,000 units.
In 1997, the Cyclone M2 was introduced
to the Buell line and the motorcycle industry
had a new Standard class leader. With a more
relaxed seating configuration and wider seat,
the Cyclone helped push Buell motorcycle sales
above the 3,000 unit mark.
The new Thunderstorm engine was
introduced into the Buell line-up in 1998 as
the powerplant for the new White Lightning S1W
model. Similar in styling to the S1 Lightning,
the new bike featured a carbon fibre rear fender,
bold colours, and the super-high output Thunderstorm
engine. The S1W was named Best Standard by Cycle
World Magazine. The Thunderbolt models also
received the Thunderstorm engine to round out
an impressive offering of 1998 models. Sales
continued to grow, and in 1998 Buell sold more
than 5,000 motorcycles.
A complete redesign of the Lightning
and Cyclone models was in store for 1999. New
body, new frame, new suspension, larger and
more comfortable seats and bold new colour offerings
were available on the Lightning X1 and Cyclone
M2. The Thunderbolt S3 and S3T also received
a refined seat and dramatic new colour and sport
touring options. Dynamic Digital Fuel Injection
(DDFI) became a standard feature on the Lightning
and Thunderbolt as well. The redesign and refinements
helped contribute to total sales of approximately
8,000 units world-wide during 1999.
In 1999, Buell celebrated another
milestone when it officially dedicated its new
42,000-square foot Research and Development
Centre adjacent to its existing facility in
East Troy, Wisconsin.
After creating a whole range of
twin-cylinder motorcycles, Buell produced its
first single cylinder in 2000, the Buell Blast
which features a 492cc engine. The Blast is
the perfect motorcycle to go after a whole new
audience in the American market where this bike
has received several awards for its innovation.
It is also the bike with the highest quality
rating and lowest warranty cost ever in the
More than ever dedicated to achieve
the best quality, Buell successfully completed
its ISO 9001:1994 repeat audit in October 2000.
This was achieved through a strong commitment
to get continuous improvement, and to meet and
exceed the customer expectations. Enhancing
the production process even further, Buell introduced
a whole new development process. This process
consists of 4 phases:
- The marketing, engineering, styling and
service departments meet to discuss the
first concepts. At this stage, a first experimental
motorcycle is built.
- Proof of Concept
The main goals are defined and
approved. Several R&D motorcycles are built.
This is a very detailed testing phase. High
mileage, high speed, traffic jams, high and
low temperatures,… The bikes are tested
in all conditions. A council made of Buell and
Harley-Davidson engineers decides if the project
moves to the next phase.
The bikes are still tested. The
production line is set up and tested. The reliability
of the bike but also of the assembly line is
tested. Again, the council signs before the
project moves to the final stage.
The final test. All parts are
thoroughly inspected, all the tests reports
are checked and signed off. All the departments
sign off the final agreement.
The Blast (not available in Europe)
was the first motorcycle built by Buell following
this process and it has proven to be the most
reliable motorcycle ever built by Harley-Davidson
The Lightning X1, Cyclone M2,
Thunderbolt S3 and S3T were also refined through
this process for the 2001MY.
In the year 2000, Buell has shipped
over 10,000 units world-wide, a nearly 30% gain
compared to 1999.
On the 1st of March 2001, John
Hevey was named President and Chief Operating
Officer of Buell Motorcycle Company. Jerry Wilke,
the former President of Buell, was named Vice
President and General Manager, Asia/Pacific
and Latin America.
On the 1st of June 2001, Buell
Motorcycles Company announced details of its
2002 Model Year range including a special edition
White Lightning X1W model.
On the 12th of July 2001, in addition
to the above models, Buell announced its most
exciting and radical new model to date: The
Buell Firebolt XB9R, writing a new chapter in
The Firebolt XB9R features a unique
combination of innovative technology: fuel in
the frame, oil in the swingarm, ZTL inside-out
front disc brake and radical chassis geometry
including a 1320mm wheelbase and 21° front
fork angle. The Firebolt XB9R is powered by
a new 984cc force air cooled 45° V-Twin
engine that has been developed by Harley-Davidson
and Buell to deliver optimum performance, which
for Buell means great torque over a wide rpm
range and sufficient, controllable power, user
friendliness and an exceptional level of reliability.
On the 16th of July 2002 Buell
announced its 2003 model year featuring a 2ND
model on the XB platform: the Buell Lightning
XB9S. The Lightning XB9S is the reincarnation
of the 1995 Lightning S1. It captures the soul,
spirit, emotions of the S1and combines them
with the XB9R's radical, modern, technology.
In July 2003 Buell extended the
XB range with the introduction of the Lightning
XB12S and the Firebolt XB12R.
The new Firebolt mates the intuitive
handling and innovative technology of the original
Firebolt XB9R with a torque-monster engine a
1203cc air-cooled V-Twin rated at 100 peak horsepower
and 81 ft.lbs.
The Buell Lightning XB12S is just
as agile and sophisticated as the XB9S but powered
with the new XB1200 V-Twin engine it is almost
The current XB platform consists
of two families; the Firebolt XB12R and XB9R
and the Lightning XB12S and XB9S.