New Bikes

Could this be the next V-Rod?

Will Harley revive its long-rumoured V4 project?

THESE pictures emerged on the web earlier this year and show what appears to be prototype components and a 3d-printed model of a Harley V4-engined project.

Now it looks increasingly like the V4 could be the basis of a new V-Rod, after the firm re-registered the old Street Rod trademark that was originally used on the sportiest version of the existing model.

A Harley V4 project was widely rumoured in the mid-to-late '00s, but never officially seen, and insiders said it had been ditched around the same time as MV Agusta was sold off and Buell was closed down, just as the financial crisis bit hard in 2008-9.

At the time, the thinking at Harley seemed to be to stop all extraneous projects and refocus firmly on the safety of the traditional V-twin cruiser market to reduce the firm’s exposure to possible losses.

But 2015 is very different to 2009. There’s now fairly strong growth in the market for big, powerful naked bikes. Even the sports bike sector, hit so hard during the recession, is growing again.

Meanwhile, Harley’s own shipment figures show that sales of its custom models – which include the V-Rod as well as the Dyna, Softail and CVO models –  have dipped slightly, while the Sportster, Street and Touring ranges have seen increases. A new V-Rod might help bolster those flagging custom sales by cashing in on the boom in powerful naked bikes.

The V4 in these pictures was developed under the codename Project Overlord, and shares similarities in thinking with the 1970s Nova V4 project. Just as with the Nova, the idea was to create a modern, water-cooled, powerful V4 engine that could also be spun off into a new, smaller-capacity V-twin.

While Harley went ahead and created small V-twins in the form of the Street 500 and Street 750, they don’t appear to be connected to the Overlord engine seen here. Overlord appears to be a much more sophisticated design then the new SOHC twins; it was a 70 degree V4 with dual overhead cams, and the proposed bike in these images is a long way from anything we’d normally associate with Harley.

Could it be revived? Of course it could. Harley will still have the information from whatever development work was done originally, and if the market conditions change to such an extent that the numbers add up a well as they clearly did when the project started, Harley is unlikely to turn down the opportunity to make money.

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