Remember these? 15 Forgotten Motorcycle Manufacturers
There are many underrated motorcycle manufacturers that are probably forgotten about. If we were to name everyone, we’d be here all day and that’s not just in regards to writing about them! Here at WeBuyAnyBike, we’re lucky enough to have purchased some of these bikes in the past. However, there are some that are still on the list that we’d love to own! If you have one, please do not hesitate to contact us!
This company started back in 1870 in Birmingham with joint owners James Starley and William Hillman. However, initially, the boys didn’t make motorcycles, they just made bicycles. The production of motorcycles didn’t start until 1903. In that same year, the company was to be taken over by Components Ltd – a very original name but we won’t judge for the era! BSA mentioned later in this post, purchased Ariel in 1951 with production ending in 1967.
A few weeks ago, you might remember when we wrote about some iconic motorcycle songs. One song that featured was ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ by Richard Thompson. Vincent Motorcycles started its journey back in 1928 by a gentleman called Howard Raymond Davies. Initially, the company was titled HRD Motors. Howard had thought about the idea of making a motorcycle when he was imprisoned in Germany. It wasn’t until his release when he met Philip Vincent that the pair set out to produce what Vincent had already made… a motorcycle!
In 1948, Vincent was proudly crowned, 'the owner of the fastest motorcycle’, when Rolland Free set out on a Vincent Black Lightning. He succeeded in setting a record of 150.313 mph. Vincent ended their production line in 1955.
Rupp motorcycles are one of the lesser-known companies. They had a short but sweet production line that started in 1959 and ended just short of 20 years later in 1978. It all started in the basement of race car driver Mickey Rupp’s Ohio-based house. Rupp began making and selling go-karts in his basement, which would later grow into the more successful off-road bikes and mini-bikes… and go-karts! Oh, and they made snowmobiles too.
You may or may not know Fabrique Nationale Motorcycles as FN Motorcycles. This forgotten company first made a name for itself back in 1899 Belgium. For the first 2 years of its life, FN was a strict producer of firearms. In 1901 the company decided to delve into motorcycles and soon became one of the first companies to produce a four-cylinder motorcycle. Production ended in 1967.
Just as Fabrique ended their line, Münch started theirs. Their journey began back in 1966 Aldenstat, Germany. The story goes that a former employee, Friedel Münch, of Horex Motorcycles, was made redundant when the company went into liquidation. Münch purchased the remaining stock and set out to make a range of motorcycles. He was first commissioned to build a bike by former sidecar racer, Jean Murit. Münch had a small success, with only 500 motorcycles being built and only 300 remaining to this day. The company continued production until 1980.
Ok, so this one’s close to home here in the We Buy Any Bike office. In case you didn’t know, we’re based in Bradford. Scott Motorcycles were produced practically next door to us in Shipley! The company was founded by Scottish born Alfred Angas Scott in 1908. Production of the first bike was a project that begun in 1904, though the success of it didn’t come to fruition until 1908 – that gave him a nice few years to work on it! To say it was a success is an understatement.
Scott Motorcycles first competed in the Isle of Man TT just 2 years after their first production in 1910. They continued to participate until 1914. The most famous bike produced was the Scott Squirrel which was first made in 1922. The company continued to make bikes until 1978.
Alike Rupp, Merkel Motorcycles was first established in Ohio, however, it was first introduced many years earlier. Joe Merkel started making engines back in 1902. Their most and definitely not forgotten famous piece was the Flying Merkel that was produced from 1911 to 1915.
The end of the Flying Merkel production came shortly after Joseph resigned from the company. In 1917 the whole company officially closed its doors. However, the great-great-grandson of Joseph, Greg Merkel can be found reviving the forgotten brand today. You can find his website here.
The original founders of forgotten Francis Barnett motorcycles were Gordon Francis and Arthur Barnett, who started the business back in 1919. The story began back in Coventry when the bikes produced were locally known as ‘Franny B’. They were known to be the most affordable motorcycles at the time and were used widely across the UK.
The company was taken over in 1947 by AMC who combined the range with James Motorcycles in 1957. In August of 1966, the company was later taken over again by Maganese Bronze, who unfortunately seized production in October of the same year. Today, however, you can find a new Francis Barnett company located in Kenilworth in Coventry.
Crocker Motorcycles were produced over the course of 10 years, from 1932 to 1942. They were the brainchild of Al Crocker and the company were responsible for producing some of the finest speedway bikes to grace the earth. Although, there were just over 30 in total. Today, Crockers are known to be some of the most expensive bikes on the planet. In 2006, one of the bikes sold at Bonham's and Butterfield Auction for $276,500. Oh, that’s nothing. If you happen to stumble upon one of these at Vegas’ Mecum Motorcycle Auction, the figures will blow your mind. In January 2019 one sold for $704,000, and later in August, another was out-bid by selling for an astounding $750,000!
I know what you’re thinking… ‘these aren’t forgotten!’. Well, technically they aren’t, but they have only recently been bought out after a near 40-year hiatus! The Birmingham Small Arms Company was first registered back in 1861, but it didn’t actually start the production of motorcycles until 1910. Prior to this, they just made guns.
The first BSA motorcycle to hit the roads was the 3 ½ hp which was first introduced at Olympia London. The company was successfully run until 1974 and was revitalised in 2016 by an Indian Company.
The forgotten Brough’s story initially begun with Brough Motorcycles produced by William E. Brough back in 1908. Years later, his son George, who was an avid motorcycle racer and designer started his journey in the trade with Brough Superior; this was 1919. Brough Superior Motorcycles were commonly referred to as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of motorcycles. Although, the company was forced to seize production in 1940 as the war began, and sadly never set to produce again.
We’ve mentioned the Brough Superior story before on our blog. Have you ever heard of how Lawrence of Arabia passed away? He was riding one of his many Superiors!
Ace Motor Co
This story starts in Philadelphia in 1919 with a gentleman called William Henderson. This wasn’t Henderson’s first adventure. He initially contributed to the business of Excelsior Motorcycles and proceeded to fall out with his fellow peers in response to a new design. So, Ace Motors was born! However, the production didn’t last long. William tragically passed away when on a test ride of a new model in 1922, and the company went into liquidation in 1927.
Another forgotten brand is Matchless motorcycles; first produced in London in 1899 under the foundations of Henry Herbert Collier. The name Matchless rings many bells in reference to the first Isle of Man TT in 1907 when a young Charlie Collier won the first single-cylinder race on one. In 1938 the company was purchased by AJS and continued to produce bikes until 1966. In relation to Vincent, Matchless was also referenced in our recent blog post in reference to the song ‘Little Honda’ by The Beach Boys.
Personally, I think it’s such a shame that Douglas Motorcycles were not produced on the Isle of Man. Instead, they were manufactured in Bristol. Manxers – you missed out on that one, didn’t you! So, they were made in 1907 too… can’t they just fake that they were made on the Isle of Man.
Anyway, moving on – the production of motorcycles only started in 1907. Douglas actually served as a Blacksmith originally. That was until brothers William and Edwin Douglas were commissioned by Light Motors Ltd (by Joseph F Barter) to build a Fée bicycle engine system. Shortly after this Douglas had a stint of making cars, from 1913 until 1922. The production of motorcycles ended in 1957.
Get this, so the original title of this company was ‘Taylor, Gue Co Ltd’ we’re pretty glad they changed it, we don’t know about you! Taylor Gue and Co originally started their production line in 1896 with John Goodman (Taylor) and William Gue. I tell you what, there’s a lot of Williams isn’t there?! When 1905 rolled around, the company struggled to sell, so that company went under, and thus Velocette was born!
As time progressed, John’s sons Eugene and Percy set up their own company on the side. Their business was producing vehicle parts and John would purchase them. Following the dissolvement from Eugene and Percy’s company in 1916, the boys later joined Velocette. The company later went to win the TT with Alec Bennett on a Velocette KTT. This was before the company seeped into voluntary liquidation in 1971.
Here are our forgotten motorcycles… have we missed any? Let us know below!
9 Aug 2021
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