What American Motorcycle Brand Is Up For Grabs?
Start Your Own MC Business With An Iconic American Brandby Allyn Hinton, on
If you’ve ever wanted to have a motorcycle manufacturing business with a long-established iconic name, now’s your chance. The Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles brand and its intellectual property including, but not limited to, all federally registered trademarks, web domains, and existing frame and engine designs could be yours for the right price; that price to be determined at the 27th annual Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction to be held on January 27, 2018. Interested? Probably not. I’m sure they want a lot more money than I have, but it certainly is interest’ing’ when you consider that one of the big names in the motorcycle industry could be resurrected and put on a tank badge once again.
Continue reading for more on Excelsior-Henderson.
In 1912, it was an Excelsior motorcycle that was the first motorcycle officially clocked at 100 mph.
Back in the early days of motorcycle mania — we’re talking right around the turn of the 20th century — lots of manufacturers were fitting engines on bicycles and discovering the thrill of riding fast. Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company starting producing motorcycles in 1907, the same year that Indian Motorcycle was sprucing up its 1910 models to include innovations such as leaf-spring front forks and an automatic oil pump, as well as putting two-speed transmission on some of their models. It was the year after two fellas named William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson moved their production facilities to a bigger factory in Milwaukee to keep up with demand on these two-wheeled contraptions.
In 1912, a fella by the name of Ignatz Schwinn — yes, the Schwinn bicycle dude — bought Excelsior. It was also this same year that the first motorcycle was officially clocked at 100 mph; it was an Excelsior motorcycle that did it. In 1917 Schwinn bought Henderson motorcycles and made Henderson a division of Excelsior. Henderson motorcycles, it should be noted, were the only four-cylinder motorcycles produced in the U.S. between 1911 and 1921, and by the late 1920s, it was Excelsior-Henderson and Indian Motorcycle that dominated the 45 cubic-inch market. Life was good, and by 1928, Indian, Harley-Davidson and Excelsior-Henderson were the "Big Three" motorcycle manufacturers in the U.S.
By 1930, Schwinn saw the writing on the wall; the economy was sinking and in 1931 he made the decision to stop producing motorcycles and concentrate on two-wheeled conveyances without engines because people could better afford a bicycle to get around than a motorcycle. Excelsior-Henderson abruptly stopped production and closed up shop.
The Excelsior-Henderson name was resurrected in 1993 when Daniel Hanlon acquired the rights to the motorcycle names previously owned by Schwinn and set out to produce American cruisers and touring bikes in the design style of the old bikes. In 1999, Hanlon started producing motorcycles out of a plant in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. Through some bad market speculation and pressure by the revival of Indian Motorcycle and Polaris’ launch of Victory just before the turn of the 21st century, Excelsior-Henderson declared bankruptcy.
Why Does It Matter?
As one of the original "Big Three" American motorcycle manufacturers, to see Excelsior-Henderson on a tank badge once again would be worth a salute.
Today, Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles are collector’s items and still attract high-paying buyers. Three bikes — two Excelsiors and one Henderson — were among the highest-bidded items at last year’s Mecum auction, drawing nearly half a million dollars for a 1912 Henderson Four. The bikes of old are still sought after, and I think it would be awesome if Excelsior-Henderson could find its own Polaris to resurrect it like happened to Indian Motorcycle in 2003 when Polaris gave Indian new life. As one of the original "Big Three" American motorcycle manufacturers, to see Excelsior-Henderson on a tank badge would be worth a salute. I eagerly await the outcome of this auction, indeed, to see who walks away with the piece of American motorcycling heritage.
Source: Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles