Mid-size 500cc Harley-Davidson based on Benelli Leoncino spotted

A brand-new 500cc cruiser-style motorcycle wearing Harley-Davidson branding is spotted in what appears to be its latest project with Chinese firm QJ Motor

Harley-Davidson 500, QJ Motor, Benelli

Images purporting to show an unknown Harley-Davidson branded motorcycle with a 500cc engine have emerged after it was spotted popping up in a video posted by Chinese firm QJ Motor undergoing dyno testing.

The shots come as something of a surprise given Harley-Davidson’s other project in association with QJ Motor (Qianjiang) - the 338R roadster - has gone noticeably quiet since a pre-production model was spied in 2020, shortly before the Milwaukee firm underwent a major boardroom shuffle with former CEO Matt Levatich being ousted for Jochen Zeitz.

However, Harley-Davidson’s desire to establish a more affordable, low-capacity range of motorcycles appears to have been reignited after Harley-Davidson branding was spotted on documents linked to the 338R’s donor model - the QJ SRK 350 / Benelli 350S - which were submitted to the US NHTSA.

Now a brand-new, larger motorcycle has appeared purporting to be a cruiser-style Harley-Davidson with around 500cc at its disposal.

The twin-cylinder engine is thought to be that which started life in the Benelli Leoncino 500, the Italian marque being QJ Motors’ western arm. Assuming similar specifications, the Benelli at least offers 47.6hp at 8,500rpm, a tubular steel frame and a USD fork, while you’d need to play ‘spot the difference’ to differentiate from many of the Leoncino 500’s mechanicals.

However, QJ does also have a 549cc engine at its disposal, for use in its QJ SRV 550, but the larger unit - though marginally more powerful - would not be A2 compliant, unlike the 500cc version.

Where things get different is on the surface with a reshaped tank that apes the 338R and a re-designed single headlamp front-end. At the rear, the Harley blends in to the range with its synonymous bobber-style tail-end.

Will the Harley-Davidson 338R and ‘500’ come to Europe?

The re-emergence of the 338R recently came as something of a surprise.

Though the model appeared on the cusp of being ready to hit the road when it was last seen, Zeitz’s appointment as CEO and the elapse of two years since gave every indication the project had been mothballed.

Indeed, though Harley-Davidson had never said as much, Zeitz’s insistence on reverting to its core business model of big, bruising cruisers hinted at the axe being swung over the 338R, not least because it was one of a handful of Leviatch’s bold diversification projects, of which few had been notable success stories.

However, far from the 338R being a simple attempt to expand into the lower reaches of the market, it was designed primarily to give Harley-Davidson a foothold in the Asian market, where such models rule the roost.

Regardless of whether the 338R or this new 500 model aligned with Harley-Davidson’s premium big bike image is almost irrelevant, Asia is where money can be made and as it stands the American firm is priced out of the mix with its tax duty-levied range.

It means we’re unlikely to see either of these models make it to sale in the US or Europe, though the latter would be substantially easier to justify and activate if it followed the track forged by Benelli.