1911 Excelsior Auto-Cycle Single
Engine no. 12999
Of America's early "Big Three" motorcycle manufacturers, Excelsior should have been the one with the best shot at longevity. By the time Chicago-based Excelsior Supply Company made its first motorcycle in 1907, it already had three decades of producing frames and parts for the bicycle industry. Building on that experience, Excelsiors quickly gained a reputation for rugged dependability on the corrugated roads of the day.
This 1911 Excelsior Auto-Cycle is powered by a 30.50ci (500cc) four-stroke single that was highly engineered for the time, featured a force-fed lubrication system when others relied on hand pumps. "Never Goes Wrong!" claimed the ad copy. "Developed to the Highest Point of Mechanical Perfection." That high build quality attracted Ignaz Schwinn of bicycle fame, who was planning on manufacturing motorcycles to meet the growing demand for motorized two-wheelers. But why start from scratch when neighboring Excelsior might be open to an offer? The deal was completed early in 1912, with Schwinn acquiring all of Excelsior's assets for $500,000. In 1917 Henderson with its upscale four-cylinder model was added to the Schwinn stable of motorcycles.
As it turned out, after going from strength to strength, Excelsior closed its doors in 1931. Rather than risk a slow death during the Great Depression, Mr. Schwinn simply shut down motorcycle operations. It's unclear whether that was the right decision or not, but here's an Excelsior from the company's glory days when all was before them.