This article was originally published in the April-May 1998 issue of Cycle World's Big Twin magazine.
Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And if the person doing the beholding happens to be a mechanical engineer, beauty may well be found in the way the object works rather than in the way it looks.
To a large extent, that describes Erik Buell and the H-D Sportster-powered motorcycles he builds under his name. Buell the motorcycle-company owner (in partnership with The Motor Company) is an engineer’s engineer, a man who dreams and designs things that work wonderfully first, and are wonderfully stylish second. As a result, Buell motorcycles tend to have a certain look that many gearheads find appealing but that often falls a bit short in the eyes of those who value form over function.
Bob Dron set out to change all that with a visually striking machine he calls the Dron Mk. I Buell concept bike.
A couple of years ago, Dron—owner of Oakland Harley-Davidson and the Bob Dron Design Center, both in Oakland, California—discussed some of his styling ideas with Erik Buell. Buell was impressed, enough so to send Dron a new S1 Lightning as a testbed, and to give him a free hand to come up with something new and fresh.