2 Wheels

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod: A Cruiser With a Porsche Engine

Porsche collaborated with several automakers in the 80s and 90s. The partnership with Mercedes led to the 190E 2.3-16 sports sedan. And working with Audi, the two created the RS2 Avant, the first high-performance Audi wagon. But Porsche hasn’t only worked on projects with automakers—it also worked with Harley-Davidson. The result was the Harley-Davidson V-Rod cruiser. And while it looks like most other cruisers, the V-Rod arguably helped usher in the idea of ‘unconventional’ Harleys like the electric LiveWire and upcoming café racer.

How the Harley-Davidson V-Rod was developed

2002 Harley-Davidson V-Rod side
2002 Harley-Davidson V-Rod side | Porsche

As RevZilla explains, in the early 2000s Harley-Davidson was struggling to attract new owners—as it still does. And one of the biggest issues, The Drive reports, was that Harley didn’t really have any affordable, reliable bikes. To try and address these problems, Harley turned to a company that was becoming a by-word for quality performance engineering: Porsche. The Harley-Davidson V-Rod was the result of the team-up.

Harley-Davidson V-Rod Porsche engine badge
Harley-Davidson V-Rod Porsche engine badge | Matthew Skwarczek

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod, RideApart explains, was a big departure from the rest of the brand’s lineup. Yes, the V-Rod still used a V-twin. But this ‘Revolution’ engine was water-cooled and had dual-overhead cams—both Harley-Davidson firsts. It also revved to 9000 rpm, Autoweek reports. And to prove the engine was reliable, Porsche subjected to its Düsseldorf Test, which required running the V-twin for 500 hours straight. The engine never failed.

Harley-Davidson V-Rod
Harley-Davidson V-Rod | Matthew Skwarczek

The V-Rod also didn’t look quite like other Harley-Davidson cruisers. For one, it had a hydroformed tube frame, not dissimilar from Ducati’s trellis frame. And that’s not a gas tank on top: that’s actually the airbox. The fuel tank is under the seat.

What was the Harley-Davidson V-Rod like to ride?

Although Porsche helped design and manufacture the V-Rod’s engine, Cycle World reports the basic design came from a Harley-Davidson race engine. Fittingly, the V-Rod’s performance is still fairly impressive.

2006 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Destroyer
2006 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Destroyer | Bring a Trailer

The original Harley-Davidson V-Rod came with a 1131cc V-twin, which produced 115 hp and 74 lb-ft. Then, in 2008, the engine was enlarged to 1250cc and put out 125 hp and 84 lb-ft. And briefly, Bring a Trailer reports, Harley also made a drag-racing version: the V-Rod Destroyer. Although not street-legal, its 1300cc Revolution V-twin produced over 165 hp. When Cycle World tested it, the bike was so fast it was actually banned from the drag-strip for anyone without a pro license.

Weighing in at 673 lbs, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod wasn’t exactly light. But RevZilla reports the engine’s position helps keep the weight centered and low. ABS was standard from 2008 onwards, and though the bike’s long wheelbase and steeply-raked forks meant it was more straight-line cruiser than sportbike.

Pricing and availability

2007 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Night Rod Special
2007 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Night Rod Special | Bring a Trailer

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod was offered from 2002-2018. In addition to the standard bike and Destroyer, Harley also offered several cosmetics packages along the way, such as the blacked-out Night Rod Special.

2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S | Bring a Trailer

Unfortunately, as a Porsche spokesperson mused to Autoweek, the V-Rod suffered from a similar issue as the 996-gen 911. Namely, the bike was too different from what Harley had offered in the past. However, a 16-year run means the V-Rod wasn’t exactly a failure. And it seems that some Harley riders are starting to appreciate it more.

Some examples, CycleTrader reports, are selling for almost their original $15,849 asking price. And the Destroyer drag-racers can go for as much as $28,000. But bargains can still be found. A 2007 Night Rod Special sold on BaT in 2019 for $7,850. And as of this writing, there’s a 2006 Destroyer with a current bid of $6,600 on BaT.

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