If loose lips sink ships, Buell won't be emulating the Titanic any time soon. While the Wisconsin-based manufacturer has announced that it's developing a Rotax-powered dirtbike (Motorcyclist, June), speculation about the company getting Austrian power for its street line was largely wishful thinking. Well, there have been some rumors, and a few message board posts, but no one at Buell or parent company Harley-Davidson would dare comment, and even off-duty employees plied with cocktails clammed up.
The only thing we know for certain is that Buell is hosting a press introduction for a new 2008 sport model at Laguna Seca Raceway on August 21-22. Pressed for details about the bike being introduced, a company spokesman let slip that they "would like to keep the air-cooled line alive," which we'll take to mean the new model is liquid-cooled. Another Buell associate confirmed the existence of the Rotax-powered machine, describing it as "about the coolest motorcycle ever" before realizing that he probably shouldn't be saying that to a moto-journalist.
The idea of a Rotax motor winding up in a Buell product isn't at all far-fetched. Harley-Davidson has in the past built Rotax-powered singles for the military, and Wood-Rotax dirt-trackers were routinely campaigned by the Harley factory team in short-track and TT races. Moreover, with Piaggio building the engines for Aprilia's new Shiver and Mana models, Rotax may need a new engine customer in the future.