Friday, January 8, 2010

Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Excelsior

The Excelsior brand got its start in 1876 as a bicycle manufacturer called the "Excelsior Supply Company" in Chicago Illinois. Their first motor driven cycle was built in 1909, and had a single-cylinder engine with a leather belt-drive, and a top speed of around 40 miles per hour.

In 1910 the Excelsior 'Auto Cycle' Motor Mfg. & Supply Co. introduced its first v-twin engine under the models 'F' and 'G.' The 1,000 cc v-twin motor helped Excelsior win several speed, endurance, and reliability records, and in 1912 the Excelsior was the first motorcycle to reach a recorded 100 miles-per-hour.

Early model Excelsior motorcycles were designed by George H. Meiser, who went to work for the short-lived Black Hawk Motorcycle company in 1911, and the Black Hawk design bears a striking resemblance to Excelsior's 'Auto Cycle' design. The 1915 "Big Valve X." with a new three-speed transmission was advertised by Excelsior as "The Fastest Motorcycle Ever Built."

Excelsior Auto-Cycle "Model X"

In 1912 the Schwinn Bicycle Company purchased the Excelsior Company for $500,000. In 1916, the Henderson Motorcycle Company was sold to Excelsior, becoming Excelsior-Henderson. One of the last 1919 runs of a 1920 "Model X" Excelsior was owned by renowned aviator Charles A. Lindbergh.

In late 1917, the Henderson Motorcycle Company was sold to Excelsior owner Ignaz Schwinn, and folded into the Excelsior Motor Mfg. & Supply Company.

Excelsior Super X

The newly redesigned "Model K" was introduced in 1920, and the "Super X" was introduced in 1925. Excelsior's Super X constituted a major design upgrade from the 'X,' with its newly designed 1300cc 61 cubic inch motor, and leading-link front forks.

Due to economic pressures from the Great depression, Excelsior-Henderson's parent company Schwinn decided to close down the motorcycle plant in 1931, ending Excelsior's distinguished 55 year history.

1919 Evans Power Cycle

The 1 1/2hp Power Cycle was manufactured by the Cyclemotor Corporation of Rochester, New York, from 1919 to 1925

Vintage Motorcycles: E. R. Thomas 'Auto-Bi' Motorcycle

The "E.R. Thomas Motor Company" located in Buffalo, New York, was founded by Erwin Ross Thomas in the late 1890s. The E.R. Thomas company began as a manufacturer of "Cleveland bicycles," but was one of the many companies that decided to diversify into the world of motor-driven bicycles, motorized tricycles, and automobiles that were becoming the latest fad at the turn of the century.
The E.R. Thomas Motor Company's "Auto-Bi" or "Auto-Bike" began production in 1901, making E.R. Thomas one of the first manufacturers in the United States to mass-produce motor driven cycles. The factory was located at 1202 Niagara Street, in Buffalo.

The E. R. Thomas Auto-Bi Company

The "Auto-Bi" was manufactured under the "Buffalo Automobile and Auto-Bi Company" which manufactured cars and motorbikes. The 1901 E.R. Thomas 'Auto-Bi' had a 442cc single cylinder motor, wood wheels and handlebars, and a leather belt drive.

E.R. Thomas Motor Company Links

Motoring Memories: 1907 Thomas Flyer by Bill Vance

1914 Dayton Model 9 - 9 hp 1000cc V-Twin Motorcycle

Manufactured by the Davis Sewing Machine Company of Dayton, Ohio from 1914 to 1918

Owner: Dennis Varni, California

Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Cyclone

The Joerns Motor Manufacturing Company located in St. Paul, Minnesota, was the builder of the 'Cyclone' motorcycle between 1912 and 1917.

Although the Cyclone had a short-lived history, the motorcycle did receive notoriety on the board-track and dirt-track racing circuit. In 1914, a Cyclone broke the one-mile speed record perviously held by Excelsior, coming in at just over 35 seconds. Over the next few years the Cyclone won several races, earning it the nickname of the "speed demon."

The Cyclone 1000's 61ci (996cc) 45 degree V-Twin SOHC engine was designed by an engineer named Andrew Strand, who worked for the Jackson Automobile Company in Detroit (Jackson Auto's car placed 10th in the 1911 Indianapolis 500).

1929 Cleveland Tornado Four 1000

Manufactured by Cleveland Motorcycle Mfg. Co. USA from 1915 to 1929

Owner: Richard Bunch, California

1912 Black Hawk BH Antique Motorcycle

Designed by George H. Meiser, manufactured from 1911 to 1912 in Rock Island, Illinois

Owner: AMCA President Peter Gagan

1923 Ace XP-3 Experimental Motorcycle

Featured in the the Guggenheim Museum's Art of the Motorcycle exhibit

Founded by William G. Henderson in 1920, the Ace Motor Corporation began manufacturing high-performance inline four-cylinder motorcycles that were styled after Henderson's compelling Excelsior-Henderson Model F and Model G inline-fours. Henderson's goal was to build the fastest motorcycle in the world, and the first bikes produced by Ace were a series of five experimental four-cylinder engines known as XP1 through XP5.

By early 1923, Charles 'Red' Wolverton defected from Excelsior-Henderson to become Ace Motor Corp's chief test-rider. To aid in the tuning of their magnesium-cased engines, Ace was one of the first motorcycle manufacturers to use a brake dynamometer to extract every ounce of horsepower. According to Wolverton, their first engine blew up on the dynamometer, sending the magneto past his ear. The management at Ace was so confident in their new engines that they put up $50,000 to any other motorcycle manufacturer who could beat their bikes.

In November 1923, Ace set two world speed records with their EXP-4 which reached 129.61mph, and their EXP-3 sidecar version which reached 106.8mph. The EXP-3 used a detuned version of the EXP-4 engine, with aluminum crankcases and a pressure-feed lubrication system.

Arthur Lemon became the company president in 1923 after the passing of William Henderson. Despite the legendary achievements of the company, financial troubles led to the sale of the company to Indian in 1927.