Harley-Davidson Topper

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Harley-Davidson Topper
Harley Davidson Topper.jpg
1964 Harley-Davidson Topper
Manufacturer Harley-Davidson
Production 1960-1965
Assembly Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Class scooter
Engine 10 cu in (164 cc) 2-stroke single-cylinder engine[1] with reed valve[2]
Compression ratio A: 6.6:1[1]
AH: 8.0:1[3]
Top speed 46 mph (74 km/h)[4]
Power 9 hp (6.7 kW)[5]
Transmission continuously variable transmission, between 18:1 and 6:1[2]
Suspension Front: leading link
Rear: swingarm, two extension springs[2]
Brakes Front and rear: 5 in internal expanding drum[2]
Tires 4.00 x 12[1][4]
Wheelbase 51.5 in (1,308 mm)[1]
Dimensions L 75 in (1,905 mm)[1]
W 24 in (610 mm)[1]
H 37 in (940 mm)[1]
Seat height 30 in (762 mm)[1]
Fuel capacity 1.7 US gal (6.4 L)[1]

The Harley-Davidson Topper was the only motor scooter that the Harley-Davidson Motor Company ever produced.[6]

Design and specifications[edit]

The Topper had a 165 cc (10.1 cu in) single-cylinder two-stroke engine mounted horizontally between the floorboards.[1] The engine required a premixed gasoline/oil mixture. The starter was of the rope-recoil type similar to lawnmowers[1][7] or the Lambretta E model.[8] Unlike most scooters with enclosed engines, the Topper's engine did not have a cooling fan.[1][4][5] It was expected that the low, horizontally mounted engine would be cooled by air passing under the scooter,[1] but some Toppers developed overheating problems.[4] The engine used a reed valve in its induction system.[2]

The engine powered a continuously variable transmission[1][7] that included a safety device that did not allow the scooter to move from rest at engine speeds higher than 1800 rpm.[1] Final drive was by an exposed roller chain.[1][2]

The Topper had 5 inch internal expanding drum brakes on both wheels.[2] The front brake was controlled by a hand lever[1][2] with a parking brake lock;[2] the rear brake was controlled by a pedal.[1][2]

The front body, front fender and floorboards of the Topper were made of stamped steel, and the engine cover and body were made of molded fiberglass.[2]


The Topper H was introduced in 1961 (sold through 1965) with a new alloy cylinder head that increased the compression ratio to 8.0:1, the transmission placed in a sealed oil bath, a reusable foam air filter, and revisions to the cylinder ports and air intake tube.[3]

A detuned version of the Topper was also available, with the power restricted to 5 hp (3.7 kW).[9] This was advertised as the "Topper U".[10]


In 1959, a Topper was ridden from Bakersfield, California to Death Valley and back without repair or adjustments requiring tools. The route went through Trona, through the Mojave Desert to Stovepipe Wells, on to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level, then to Whitney Portal, 7,851 feet (2,393 m) above sea level on the side of Mount Whitney, after which it returned to Bakersfield.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Arctander, Erik H. (June 1959). "New U.S. Scooter Shifts for Itself". In Allaway, Howard. Popular Science (Popular Science Publishing) 174 (6): 64–65. ISSN 0161-7370. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ismon, Alton, ed. (November 1959). "1960 Harley-Davidsons". American Motorcycling (Westerville, OH USA: American Motorcyclist Association) 13 (11): 12 14. ISSN 0277-9358. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  3. ^ a b Ismon, Alton, ed. (May 1961). "Topper H Sports Improved Features". American Motorcycling (Westerville, OH USA: American Motorcyclist Association) 15 (5): 18. ISSN 0277-9358. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  4. ^ a b c d Dan, Michael (2007-05-01). The A-Z of Popular Scooters & Microcars: Cruising in Style!. MBI Publishing. p. 138. ISBN 1-84584-088-7. "The enclosed engine did not have a cooling fan which, on occasion, led to overheating problems." 
  5. ^ a b "AMA's Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum: 1960 Harley-Davidson Topper". Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. American Motorcyclist Association. Archived from the original on 2008-04-06. "The two-stroke mill was billed as 10 cubic inches (165cc) and rated at 9 ponies, but it was cooled only by whatever air could reach it under the seat—there was no fan." 
  6. ^ "History of Harley-Davidson in the 1960s". Harley-Davidson History. Harley-Davidson. Archived from the original on 2006-10-29. Retrieved 2012-02-24. "The Harley-Davidson Topper motor scooter is introduced and is the only scooter platform the Motor Company ever produced." 
  7. ^ a b "How Stuff Works: 1963 Harley-Davidson Topper". How Stuff Works. Archived from the original on 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2012-02-24. "Its 165-cc two-stroke single was started with a recoil starter, like a lawn mower, and drove through a variable-ratio automatic transmission called Scootaway Drive." 
  8. ^ "Lambretta Model E". Lambretta Club of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 2010-06-23. Retrieved 2012-12-24. "To start the scooter a pull cord (like that found on chain saws) was mounted in front of the magneto, the ignition on the E could be advanced and retarded for ease of staring (sic) on the pull cord, this ensured the machine did not 'kick back' injuring the person while starting it." 
  9. ^ Ismon, Alton, ed. (November 1962). "'63 Harley-Davidsons". American Motorcycling (Westerville, OH USA: American Motorcyclist Association) 16 (11): 12–13. ISSN 0277-9358. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  10. ^ Hicks, Clifford B., ed. (April 1961). "More power to you! on the new Harley-Davidson Topper H motor scooter". Popular Mechanics 115 (4): 229. ISSN 0032-4558. Retrieved 2012-09-02. "A 5-hp Model "U" Topper is also available to comply with junior licensing laws in some states." 
  11. ^ Ismon, Alton, ed. (December 1959). "Topper Makes Test Run at Death Valley". American Motorcycling (Westerville, OH USA: American Motorcyclist Association) 13 (12): 35. ISSN 0277-9358. Retrieved 2012-09-02.