Early American icon, from an important Long Island collection
1913 Flying Merkel Model Seventy Twin
Engine no. 8329
Road or track, it was difficult to ignore a Flying Merkel, and not just because of the brand's signature bright-orange paint. Merkels displayed perhaps the finest engineering of early American motorcycles, with components that were literally years ahead of their competitors.
Credit for that goes to founder Joseph Merkel, a self-trained machinist who went on to study mechanical engineering at university. A motorized tricycle he built in 1900 is credited with being one of the first self-propelled vehicles in Wisconsin. Soon after he was in the business of selling motorcycles. Where others were happy with bronze bushings inside their engines, Merkel insisted on German-made ball bearings, which quickly led to a reputation for reliability. Likewise, in contrast to the standard atmospheric pressure intake valves, Merkel designed a cam-actuated valve mechanism for both intake and exhaust. He also developed a throttle-dependent engine oiler way before Harley or Indian adopted that useful feature.
Merkel then turned his attention to suspension. Bone-jarring rigid frames wouldn't do for Flying Merkel customers, so he designed telescoping systems at both ends with concealed springing. The so-called Spring Frame and Spring Fork gave his bikes an unsurpassed ride, leading to the advertising slogan, "All Roads are Smooth to The Flying Merkel." The forks in particular were so good that many a competitor's bike turned up wearing a complete Merkel front end!
With such advanced features, Merkels were never intended for mass consumption; in fact, company literature played up the brand's high quality and exclusivity. From Merkel's 1913 sales brochure: "Quantity production with its attendant short cuts and rush methods can result in but one condition imperfect workmanship and inferior quality. We shall leave such methods to our competitors. For ourselves, we prefer to make half so many, but to make them right."
Sadly, that expensive approach did not mesh with a contracting motorcycle market and the upheaval of World War I. Nor did a poorly designed self-starting mechanism one feature too far? that led to warranty work and lawsuits. When America's motorcycle makers geared up for peacetime work after the hostilities, The Flying Merkel was not among them.
Here is a chance to acquire one of the rare icons of early American motorcycling history: an authentic, original and unrestored survivor in all of its original glory. The Merkel offered here is from 1913, the pedal-start-only Model Seventy road bike, a 7hp, belt-drive V-Twin displacing 61 cubic inches (1000cc). This original unrestored motorcycle has been on static display with the current owner since March of 2003. Offered on a bill of sale.