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Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Crocker Motorcycles

Vintage 1939 Crocker Motorcycle

Al Crocker and the Crocker Motorcycle Company

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The legendary Crocker Motorcycle Company was founded by Albert G. Crocker (1882—1961) in 1936. The history of Al Crocker's high-performance motorcycles is extremely short, and his now-legendary company only produced around 100 bikes in its brief six year period making them extremely rare.

After graduating from Northwestern University's Armour Institute with an engineering degree, Al Crocker went to work for the Aurora Automatic Machine Company's motorcycle division, the Thor Moto Cycle and Bicycle Company in Aurora, Illinois.

1929 Crocker Indian
1929 Crocker Indian with original Al Crocker conversion kit

Al formed a friendship with George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstršm, founders of the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company, and by the late 1910s, he was working as a designer and engineer at Indian.

Crocker moved to Los Angeles, California in the early 1930s, and while still working for Indian running their dealership in L.A., he began to design his own single-cylinder dirt-track and short-track speedway race bikes. In total, Al Crocker built only thirty-one speedway bikes, and of those, only twelve remain.

1934 Crocker Speedway
More Photos: 1934 Crocker Speedway

Around 1935 Crocker and fellow speedway racer Paul Adelburt Bigsby (aka P.A.), went to work on designing a high-performance touring motorcycle, and the Crocker V-Twin was born. The two Crocker street models were the "Big Tank" and "Small Tank" which were built at their factory at 1346 Venice Blvd. in West Los Angeles. Only thirty-eight Big Tank Crockers were ever built, and even fewer of the Small Tanks.

1934 Crocker Big Tank
More Photos: 1934 Crocker Big Tank

Crocker motorcycles shared a striking resemblance to the OHV Harley-Davidson 'Knucklehead' or the Indian Cheif of the mid 1930s, but the performance of the Crocker was where any resemblance faded.

Legendary Crocker Performance

Big-twin street Crockers were fitted with engines ranging in displacement from 1000cc to 1500cc. The 61ci (1000cc) 45 degree hemi OHV V-twin had a short stroke compared to the Harley or Indian, with a nearly "square" bore ratio of 3.25" (bore) to 3.625" (stroke).

1939 Crocker 'Big Tank' 1200
1939 Crocker Big Tank 1200 owned by 'Crocker Jack' Lilly of the Boozefighters MC Club

A 'stock' 61ci Crocker pumped out 60 bhp, producing a top speed of around 110 mph. This type of performance was so far ahead of the competition that Al Crocker guaranteed a 'full refund' to any owner who lost a race to an Indian or Harley-Davidson.

1939 Crocker OHV Hemi V-twin
1200cc 45 Degree OHV Hemi V-twin Motor

The Crockers were also built, or overbuilt to be nearly indestructible, with every moving part being made over-spec. The "Big Tank" models had a three gallon cast aluminum fuel tank, while the "Small Tank" held under two gallons.

1936 Crocker Small Tank
More Photos: 1936 Crocker Small Tank

American's major V-twin manufacturers were caught by surprise at the Crocker's performance, and its timing to market several months before their (Harley's) launch of the OHV 'Knucklehead.' Sensing a threat, the 'big two' allegedly influenced the Edward G. Budd Wheel Company of Auburn Hills, Michigan, and the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Company of Jackson, Michigan (suppliers of wheels for the Ford Motor Company), not to sell their wire-wheels to Crocker. In response, Crocker sold his motorcycles without wheels.

Like the Brough Superior, each Crocker was hand made to order, and no two were alike.

1933 Indian Crocker Speedway
1933 Indian Crocker Speedway 45ci OHV V-Twin Reproduction

Al Crocker also created a small Vespa type scooter called the Crocker "Scootabout" in the late 1930s. The Scootabout had sweeping body work (ˆ la mid 1940s Indian four and Chief) and an Art Deco paint scheme.

1935 Crocker Speedway
More Photos: 1935 Crocker Speedway

The economy was still reeling from the Depression, and the Crocker V-twins were expensive motorcycles for the time, due to the inefficiencies of such limited production. As a result, Crocker and Bigsby threw in the towel in 1942.

After the demise of the Crocker Motorcycle Company, Al Crocker, along with son Albert, went on to manufacture war-related machinery and aviation parts for the Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California. The remaining inventory of the Crocker Motorcycle Company was sold to ex-employee Elmo Looper, who was a member of the 13 Rebels Motorcycle Club (13 RMC) of Southern California. Al Crocker died at his home in South Pasadena at the age of 73.

1940 Crocker Big Tank Detail Photo
More Photos: 1940 Crocker Big Tank owned by Elmo Looper

Paul Bigsby went on to invent guitars, creating the "tremolo arm" (aka "Bigsby vibrato arm") and the pedal steel guitar, founding Bigsby Guitars, selling his designs to Gibson, and other guitar companies.

Vintage Crocker Today

At the point less than 100 Crockers had been produced, making them extremely rare, collectable, and valuable today. A Crocker in restored 'Concours' condition could be worth more than $100,000 in today's market.

The Crocker's Resurrection

The Crocker name was resurrected by collectors Markus Karalash and Michael Schacht in 1997, to supply replacement parts for the original Crockers. By using the original blueprints created by Al Crocker and Paul Bigsby, as well as reverse-engineering the original Crocker using CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine) technology and CAD, Karalash and Schacht hope to manufacture new carbon-copies of the original Crocker motorcycle by this year (2007). The new Crocker Motorcycle Company is located on 1719 Flint Road in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

Crocker Motorcycle Links

Crocker Motorcycle Company

The Legend That Could Have Been

The Crocker

Thor Moto Cycle and Bicycle Company

Jack 'Crocker Jack' Lilly

Elmo Looper and Crocker

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