Motorcycle Manufactures Who Disappearedmotoplex | September 11, 2020 | 0 | History , Lists
There are names in the motorcycle industry that have become staples in the field. Most people know Harley Davidson, Indian, Triumph, Honda and more because they’ve stood the test of time. Over time some of you may have run into older, vintage models that you never heard of and wondered “where did they come from, and where did they go?”
Here’s a few motorcycle makers who’ve gone defunct, and why.
If you’ve ever ridden a dirt bike, then you somewhat have Hodaka to thank. During the 60’s and 70’s they were introducing the trend to most of America. Growing up, the first time I saw one I thought someone had misspelled “Honda”. But then I may have been exposed to a bit of lead paint back in the day. Hodaka were produced by a Japanese company who had a US location in Athena, Oregon. Though the company has failed, the love for bikes still rides there as each June the town has Hodaka Days which includes a parade of Hodaka motorcycles, a bike show, observed trials and motocross competition.
Their failure wasn’t due to their quality. It was in most part due to the failing exchange rates between the U.S. Dollar and the Japanese yen. Also, at this time, there was a resurgence towards road bikes. The lack of capital handcuffed Hodaka’s ability to adapt and sadly, the company folded in 1978.
Hodaka had some innovations and pretty big dreams. It would have been a treat to see them hit their goals, maintain a place in the market and watch a 2020 ride off into the sunset.
Motorized bikes are making a comeback. Especially to the demographic of people too lazy to pedal and too scared to get their motorcycle license. E-bikes are back. For how long? We don’t know. But, they aren’t a new invention. Many companies have made these over the years- Whizzer being one of them. They had a U.S. production facility from 1939 to 1965. Whizzer got their start by selling engine kits that a consumer could attach to their existing bike. After years of humbling sales, they introduced the “Pacemaker” which was a complete bicycle and motor package. Sales never took off and by 1965 the company closed its doors.
A little over 20 years later, Whizzer popped up from its ashes to reproduce the engines, with a few modern day improvements. But not soon after, went silent.
There will always be the debate over motorized bikes, and how to categorize them. Whizzer might have just made bicycles faster, or motorcycles slower. Who knows?
Like many other motorcycle manufacturers, Ossa started off making something completely different. Movie projectors. If you look closely at their logo, you’ll learn that it’s not a four-leaf clover, it’s 4 movie projectors. I’m sure once they moved into the world of motorcycles, they were happy to let people think otherwise.
Made in Spain, Ossa motorcycles were light-weight and perfect for racing. Their bikes won many competitions over the years, many from their favorited rider Santiago Herrero. Herrero, a Grand Prix championship, died in a motorcycle accident during a race in 1970. The Ossa took it hard and withdrew from road racing competitions all together.
Over time they lost out to cheaper Japanese bikes and by 1982 the world saw the last of the original Ossa’s heading down the production line. The trademark was purchased and a new enduro line popped up in 2010, but it didn’t last long.
This LA brand launched in 1932. Makers of a single-cylinder racing and V-twin road bikes. They boasted up to 55-60 hp, exceeding the horsepower produced of both the Indian and Harley of the day (38-40 hp). Unlike other motorcycle companies of the time who during WW2 build bikes for the war, Crocker won a contract for making aircraft parts. The success of this venture left motorcycle production a low priority and by 1961 they had built their last bike.
Then and still today, Crockers are considered to be one of the most expensive bikes. in January 2007 in Las Vegas, a 1941 Crocker big tank motorcycle sold for $230,000. At the Gooding & Co. auction in 2006 in Chandler, a 1931 Crocker 61 sold for $236,500. At the Bonhams & Butterfield 2006 auction in New York, a 1937 Crocker “Hemi-head” V-Twin brought $276,500. At the 2006 auction of Bator International in California, a 1939 Crocker 61 cubic-inch side valve model sold for $200,000. The most recent Crocker Motorcycle sold through Mecum Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas, January 2019, and achieved a record breaking $704,000 sale price. At the Mecum Monterey Auction, August 2019 1936 Crocker Small Tank achieved a record $750,000. Crocker fans are dedicated, and have deep pockets.
Ace Motor Corporation
Between 1919 and 1924 Ace made large, luxury 4 cylinder motorcycles. The company was started by William G. Henderson who years early started and sold Henderson Motorcycles, another defunct company. The Ace bikes looked very much like the Henderson bikes (go with what you know). Henderson’s love of bikes and desire to go faster would sadly related to his death as in 1922 he was hit by a car while testing the Ace Sporting Solo, and never regained consciousness.
Shortly after, the company failed and was purchased by Indian Motorcycle Company. It was renamed Indian Ace for one year until losing the Ace name completely. The four-cylinder engine was produced until 1942, after that nothing notable remained from the original Ace design.
There are dozens more manufacturers who are no longer making bikes today. Leave your favorites in the comments and we’ll write about them next time.