JOHN P STEEL
WILD AT HEART
I have several businesses a landscaping company that I started while in high school, a hardwood floor refinishing and installation company and of course my favorite is Hi-Speed catering to XR-750 & XRTT Harley Competition bikes.
However, my passion is dirt track bikes. When I was a young boy I would buy all the Triumph & Harley model kits and take all the parts and build dirt track bikes from the parts. As I got older I started collecting dirt track bikes. I had a huge dirt track collection, one of each new, never raced, dirt track bike made, none of which were restored: Power Dyne, KTM, OSSA, Bultaco, Rotax, etc. I had everything but the Harley XR-750. I always felt that if I had an XR-750 I would have the ultimate collection. The styling of the XR-750 and it’s Harley orange color is what drew me to it. This was the bike to find.
I found one in Canada about twenty-seven years ago. The seller told me it was stock. At that time there wasn’t much known on the XR-750. I drove day and night, picked it up and drove home. After looking at photos, talking with some people I found that it was no where near stock. Here is where my quest began. Over a period of a few months, I bought twelve XR-750’s. Unfortunately to buy these XR’s I had to sell most of my dirt bike collection. I was able to get one 1980 complete stock XR-750 out of the twelve bikes I bought plus the one from Canada. After doing so, I was just about broke. So I put that XR up for sale. Nobody really wanted it, so I took it to the Daytona Bike Week auction many years ago. Everybody told me I would never get what I was asking for it so I was too nervous to attend the auction. I got there about half way through the auction and found out that my bike sold to the owner of the LA Times for his museum and actually the price went through the ceiling. I took this money; sold the rest of my dirt bike collection and bought twenty more XR’s to get those twelve stock. By doing this my passion for the XR became a full-time business. I sold those twelve and just continued to buy sell and restore.
Out of 520 full production bikes ever produced by Harley-Davidson, I have restored 136 of them. I have been fortunate to meet a lot of great people doing this: racers, collectors, motor builders, Harley-Davidson dealers, etc. and my friend Carl Patrick has been building my motors since the start. Carl is a motor builder / tuner for current racers and he also raced XR-750’s. He has held the number one plate several times with his motor building over the years. Carl’s motors are extremely clean, beautiful and built to perfection.
Our bikes are being raced and sold all over the world, Japan, Italy, Germany, Switzerland. New Zealand, UK and more. They are displayed at Harley dealerships, museums, in private collections, and other various places around the world. I have noticed that the XRTT road racers are big overseas and the XR-750 dirt trackers are popular here in the US. When we sell a bike with parts from a well known racer like Scott Parker, George Roeder, Jay Springsteen, etc. the race history really makes the bike more valuable and collectible.
We continue to build/restore XR’s but have noticed that stock parts are very hard to come by. It takes over two years to finish an XR and almost three years to finish an XRTT. Most racers have made modifications to parts to create less weight. Now-a-day’s to get a bike 100% stock is nearly impossible. Sure you can put one together but as far as looks go you would definitely want to rethink it; crashed tanks, tails, dry rot tires, you name it. We are constantly buying parts for our race bikes and selling what we do not use.
We also buy back and take on consignment XR-750’s that we have previously sold.
Out of all my business, the motorcycles have been the most fun.
John is known as Mr. XR. He is the go to guy for anything XR-750. John works with NADA for current pricing of the XR & XRTT. He has also given appraisals to collectors for valuations and insurance purposes.
See our DVD under Literature section. This is a compilation of years of bikes in and out of our shop, what to look for when purchasing or restoring an XR, interesting facts and general XR information. Watch to the end and see John burn out a tire.