Rob Iannucci inside the Team Obsolete office/museum in Brooklyn, posing with three generat
"The XRTT was a charismatic motorcycle," Iannucci says. "It had a brief moment in the sun, and nobody else was doing it. I like swimming against the tide a little bit. The BOTT rules left lots of freedom to develop chassis and engine innovations. I thought there was an opportunity to make the XRTT competitive again."
In 1980 Iannucci visited the Harley-Davidson factory and convinced O'Brien to supply him with some ex-factory XRTT parts to get Team Obsolete's BOTT effort off the ground. "I told 'O.B.' what my plan was," Iannucci recalls. "He looked at me through those thick, Coke-bottle glasses and said, 'Iannucci, you're either full of sh*t or crazy. Let's go upstairs and see what we've got.'"
O'Brien had so many parts that Iannucci threw his van's seats into a dumpster and loaded it up. One of the treasures he brought back to Brooklyn was an XRTT rolling chassis marked with Rayborn's name on the tail, believed to be one of the six machines Cal had raced during his time with Harley-Davidson. Iannucci's research indicated this was the bike Rayborn had raced in the U.S. during '73, but because the Harley-Davidson factory never kept detailed records, that remained unconfirmed.
Iannucci appreciated the special value of an ex-Rayborn bike even if the factory didn't, but that wasn't going to stop him from racing the machine. "Ride 'em, don't hide 'em" has always been his ethos, and even today he employs a full-time staff to maintain his bikes-most of which are unrestored in as-raced condition-in running order. Iannucci spent much of the '90s and into the early 2000s shipping his valuable bikes around the world to compete in various vintage races, often with legends like Giacomo Agostini and Jim Redman at the controls.
This year's event at Mid-Ohio was the first time back at the track in nearly a decade for
Some of Iannucci's most memorable vintage exhibitions featured that same ex-Rayborn XRTT. Rayborn's first son, Cal Rayborn III-a very fast ex-Pro roadracer-was the rider, lending a special symmetry to these appearances. The duo raced the bike at the Dutch TT Classic (where Cal III set the fastest lap) and Brands Hatch in '99, and again at Daytona and Seattle in Y2K. Cal III set a vintage-bike lap record at the latter en route to winning three of four races.
At the same time, one very special XRTT that was unquestionably an ex-Rayborn bike remained safely tucked away. This was Rayborn's so-called "best bike," the final-edition XRTT he rode during his last races for the Harley-Davidson team in '73. That bike was secreted away in the factory archives after Rayborn's untimely death and not uncovered until it was presented to Dick O'Brien as a retirement gift on October 31, 1983.
Ownership of this machine eventually transferred to O'Brien's daughter, Patty, who offered it for sale at a J. Wood & Company Auction in '06, three years after Dick's death. Iannucci was there and bidding, though he withdrew when the price reached $150,000. A phone bidder from Australia had relentlessly raised his every bid by $5K, and showed no sign of letting up. Iannucci almost immediately regretted that decision to stop. "I feel like I had a stronger bond with that bike than just about anyone else, outside of maybe some factory Harley race-department guys," he says. "With all of my contact at Harley, and my experience racing XR750s, and my admiration for Calvin, I just felt that bike needed to be in my collection."