The Return of Crocker Motorcycles
By James Grahame
Crocker Motorcycles? Most people have never heard of them. Not surprising, considering that less than 100 of these two-wheeled hot rods were made in the years leading up to WWII.These magnificent machines might have been forgotten in the mists of time if it weren't for an appearance in a 1998 motorcycle exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Nowadays, these old bikes are a collector's dream, estimated to be worth more than $100,000 each.
Part of what makes Al Crocker's bikes special is that he 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. The world took notice.
"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.
At 3.25" Bore and 3.625 Stroke, the 61 cubic inch engines were almost square. Cylinders were set 45 degrees apart. The compression ratio was rated at 7:1 on most machines but was known to go at least to 11:1 on some specials. The machine was put together with customizers in mind, too. The cylinder walls were a full 3/8-inch thick to allow for over-boring. This led to the creation of some big-bore Crockers of over 90 cu. in. that blew off anything in their way."
Unfortunately, Crocker's craftsmanlike approach would be the company's downfall. The labor-intensive production line was slow and prices were high. They simply couldn't compete and folded in the tough economic times of 1942.
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. Back to the future, indeed.