FORGOTTEN MOTOCROSS TECH: INNERMOST SECRETS OF THE BUELL GRIFFIN PROJECT

This is the Buell Griffin 450 prototype. It has the plastic mocked-up in clay and the engine is from 450cc ATV. It has no-link, singled-side rear suspension.

Motocross history is filled with examples of creative ideas that were heralded as groundbreaking, but, because of the rapid rate of change in development, sank into the swamp of forgotten technology. Although some ideas are best left abandoned, others were truly innovative (if not ultimately successful). MXA loves to reveal motocross’ tech trivia. Do you remember this idea? The Buell Griffin prototype.

Starting in 1982, Erik Buell had built a reputation as a racer and craftsman by building his own special one-off road racers. This led Buell to build a line of Buell street motorcycles using Harley-Davidson engines. They had unique features and appealed to an audience that was different from the traditional Harley-Davidson crowd. Given the engineering success and sales potential of Buell motorcycles, Harley-Davidson bought a majority stake in Buell’s company in 1998. Buell and Harley-Davidson had a profitable partnership for 18 years before Harley management announced suddenly that production of all Buell Motorcycles would cease.

The Buell’s aluminum frame was going to do double-duty as the fuel tank, which is why it is so wide. The engine connects the frame together as there is no frame cradle. The welded -up aluminum airbox wraps around the shock.

After being dropped by Harley-Davidson, Erik re-formed as Erik Buell Racing Motorcycles (EBR) and started back up by building exotic street bikes, highlighted by the $40,000 EBR 1190RS and followed by the EBR 1190RX in 2014; however, even with an influx of buy-in cash from Hero Motorcycles of India, Buell was forced to shut down again in 2018.

The history of Buell Motorcycles has been up and down, but perhaps Erik Buell’s most interesting project was the idea of building a four-stroke motocross bike. In 2007, Buell/Harley hired industry insider Dave Osterman to help guide the “Griffin Project.” They worked on it in NASA-style secrecy, eventually having a working mule that could be tested at private tracks by Kyle Lewis. But that was as far as it got, as Buell pulled the plug on the whole idea. Since everyone working on the bike had signed non-disclosure agreements, the Buell 450 Griffin Project has remained a secret.

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