Back to the FutureWed, 26 Nov 2008
Crocker Motorcycles. Who? Exactly. Most people have never heard of these American pre-war two-wheeled hot rods, of which less than 100 were ever built. An appearance in a 1998 motorcycle exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York brought these bikes back from obscurity, aside from the few collectors who own the few left in existence. Prices for those rare bikes are said to range from $85,000 to $100,000 each.
The marque languished until a new Crocker Motorcycle Company began to produce replacement parts for the old machines in 1997. The Toronto-based team team can now produce all of the parts needed to assemble exact reproductions of the coveted Crocker classics. And, amazingly, the company is taking orders for a production run of 100 new bikes.
Evidently the custom fabricated craftsmanship that made Crocker bikes so sought after also made them unable to compete with the mass produced motorcycles such as Indian and Harley-Davidson. So the story goes, Al Crocker was a perfectionist who preferred to make things himself rather than relying on substandard parts from others. As a result, each of these bikes were essentially custom machines, with cast aluminum fuel tanks and lovingly assembled custom engines. The first few dozen bikes from the company earned a reputation as winning speedway racers. In 1936, Al and Paul Bigsby introduced a 1,000 cc model that could cruise at over 90 mph. This was no small feat in 1936.
The Crocker Website states, “The Crocker was built heavy duty for maximum performance, custom-tailored to the individual rider’s order, and built in Al Crocker’s own facility. Each buyer could choose color, degree of chrome trim, and even gear ratio and displacement! Crocker introduced motorcycle design innovations that set his V-twin ahead of the Harleys and Indians of the mid 30′s and 40′s. The transmission could withstand incredible amounts of torque. This beautifully engineered three speed transmission coupled with a unique proprietary engine of Crocker’s own design laid shame to anything that dared cross its path”
Crocker was allegedly so confident with his machine that he offered to refund the full purchase price to any buyer who was beaten by a rider on a factory stock Harley or an Indian. No refunds were ever recorded. Performance figures that were unmatched prior to Germany’s invasion of Poland aren’t exactly competitive in the current market, but you would be hard pressed to find a ‘new’ motorcycle with as much character as a Crocker.
By Dustin Woods
See also: Harley Davidson Dealer Selling Stock, Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!, Motorcycle.com Weekly Community Round-up.