Buell Motorcycle Company is an American motorcycle manufacturer founded by former Harley-Davidson engineer Erik Buell. The first Buell bike came in 1983 and was dubbed the RW750. This model was designed for competing in the AMA Formula 1 motorcycle road championship, but the competition was soon canceled. The company was forced to look towards street bikes and they came up with a few models which utilized Harley-Davidson engines.
The company wasn't formed officially until 1994, when Harley-Davidson chipped in and became owner of 49% share of the company. Four years later, Harley bought another 49% in Buell Motorcycle Company, Erik Buell keeping only a 2% share and a long-term contract. Therefore, the Buell company was no longer in the possession of the man who started it, but a subsidiary of the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in America, Harley-Davidson.
In 2003, Buell decided to make some improvements and introduced an efficient engine which left behind all the emissions test requirements. On the same list of innovations were the ZTL perimeter floating disc brake system found on the new models, then the fuel-in-frame technology and the dual use of the swingarm as an oil tank. Thanks to these, the Buell bikes respected the stress put on what was called the "Trilogy of Tech": mass centralization, low unsprung weight and frame rigidity.
The complete list of Buell motorcycles released over the years goes like this: Lightning XB9S (2003), Firebolt XB9R (2002), Blast (2000), Lightning X1 (1999), White Lightning S1 (1998), Cyclone M2 (1997), Thunderbolt S3T (1996), Thunderbolt S3 (1996), Lightning S1 (1996), Thunderbolt S2T (1995), Thunderbolt S2 (1994), West Wind RSS1200 (1991), West Wind RS1200/5 (1990), West Wind RS1200 (1989), Battle Twin RR1200 (1988), Battle Twin RR1000 (1985) and RW750 (1983).
Some of them, the 2005 Firebolt XB12R 'street' and 'race' versions and the Lightning CityX are part of the Tourist Trophy video game, while the Firebolt can also be seen in the 2007 Transformers movie. Buell introduced another powerful street model in 2009 called the 1125CR.
But times changed for the worse for the company, as Harley-Davidson would announce on October 15, 2009 it would discontinue the Buell motorcycle brand. The last Buell bike exited the factory on October 30, 2009. With this bike, Buell Motorcycles brought the number of motorcycles built in its short life span to 136,923.
However, the company's story wouldn't end here, as in November 2009 Buell and Harley-Davidson announced the launch of Erik Buell Racing. Although the Buell name would live on, it would no longer have any ties with production motorcycles, but instead operate solely with race-only versions of the 1125R model for privateer teams in the AMA Sportbike Championship.