American Iron Magazine Articles

Past and Present American Motorcycle Manufacturers

Random Harley picture taken by Jude Drake 2021

Ace Motor Corporation was an American luxury motorcycle manufacturer that produced four-cylinder motorcycles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1919 to 1924. The company was intermittently active until 1927, when the Indian Motorcycle Company acquired it. Ace was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Alligator Motorcycle Company was the motorcycle division of All American Racers, a Santa Ana, California-based racing team owned by a former driver. The company is recognized for creating the Alligator motorcycle, which features a unique low-slung seating position that allows for its low center of gravity.

Allstate was an American vehicle brand marketed by Sears, which sourced its cars, scooters, and motorcycles from several manufacturers and rebranded them with the Sears “Allstate” name. Major suppliers of scooters included Piaggio and Cushman, while Puch and Gilera supplied mopeds and motorcycles. Cars were supplied at different times by the Lincoln Motor Car Works and Kaiser-Frazer. The 1965 Allstate Puch 250 SGS, which was showcased at the 2009 Seattle International Motorcycle Show, is perhaps the most renowned motorcycle produced under the Allstate brand.

Arch Motorcycle
Founded by Keanu Reeves in 2011, Arch Motorcycle is a high-end motorcycle manufacturer that produces radical and sleek designs with the latest technology and handmade craftsmanship. With three stunning models currently available, Arch Motorcycle has more in store for the future.

ATK Motorcycles
ATK Motorcycles was a leading American producer specializing in competition Motocross, sport bikes, ATVs, and off-road bikes for thirty years. Currently, they focus on manufacturing new parts for their previously marketed motorcycles at their shop in Centerville, Utah.

American Ironhorse Tim Edmonson and Bill Rucker founded American Ironhorse to fill the gap in large-quantity custom motorcycles for the American market. From 1995 to 2008, they built custom choppers until they ceased production due to financial troubles.

Boss Hoss Cycles was founded by Monte Warne in 1990 in Dyersburg, Tennessee. They specialize in fitting Chevrolet V8 Engines into cruiser-style motorcycle (and trike) frames, making them the world’s #1 producer of powerful motorcycles. You can still purchase Boss Hoss V8 motorcycles on their website today.

Brammo Inc.: Founded in 2002, Brammo Inc. initially sought to create a sports car that could accommodate its founder’s 6’3″ stature. After purchasing the rights to the Arial Atom, Brammo shifted its focus to creating electric motorcycles. In 2015, Polaris Industries acquired the brand, but Brammo Inc. ceased production in 2017 when Polaris announced the closure of the Victory Motorcycles brand.

Buell Motorcycle Company: Erik Buell started his brand in 1983 after leaving Harley-Davidson. Buell Motorcycle Company enjoyed success, manufacturing over 136,000 motorcycles before ceasing production in 2009.

Confederate Motors: Founded in 1991, Confederate Motors is based in Birmingham, Alabama, and specializes in manufacturing exotic street motorcycles. In 2017, the company announced plans to switch to all-electric motorcycles with a partnership with Zero Motorcycles and rebrand itself as Curtiss Motorcycles. The company’s Warhawk model is its final gasoline motorcycle.

Cooper: Frank Cooper founded Cooper in 1973 to provide motorcycles that fit between the entry-level Japanese and higher-end Euro bikes in the American market. However, the company only lasted from 1973 to 1975 before being purchased by Southern California Yamaha and rebranded as Ammex. The company failed after the Mexican peso was devalued in 1976.

Crocker Motorcycle Company: Based in Los Angeles, the Crocker Motorcycle Company produced single-cylinder race motorcycles, V-twin cruisers, and motorized scooters from 1932 to 1942. The remaining inventory of parts was sold in 1947, but the motorcycles remain a highly sought-after collector’s item.

Erik Buell Racing: Erik Buell created this sub-brand of Buell Motorcycles to produce V-twin race-spec motorcycles in East Troy, Wisconsin. The company enjoyed success in the Superbike World Championship from 2011 to 2015 before folding when the main Buell brand failed.

Excelsior Motor Manufacturing & Supply Company was a motorcycle manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois between 1907 and 1931. Ignaz Schwinn, the owner of Arnold, Schwinn & Co, acquired the company in 1912. Excelsior developed the world’s first motorcycle that could reach 100mph. By 1928, their popularity had grown tremendously, with the brand ranking third behind Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles.

Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle

Hanlon Manufacturing Company Daniel Hanlon established Hanlon Manufacturing Company in Burnsville, Minnesota back in 1993. The brand boasted a line of cruiser bikes inspired by the former Excelsior and Henderson motorcycles. The manufacturing facility in Belle Plaine, Minnesota was equipped to produce anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 motorcycles per year. However, due to financial limitations, the company struggled to secure investment and ultimately filed for reorganization in 1999. Sadly, Hanlon Manufacturing Company was forced to dissolve.

Fischer Motor Company began producing sport bikes in 2006 but reportedly ceased production in 2012. The MRX 650, their first mass-produced motorcycle, was a V-twin sport bikes that boasted incredible styling and an aluminum perimeter frame. The company only manufactured a few dozen bikes during its three-year run, making the MRX 650 a rare and highly sought-after model.

Flying Merkel

The Flying Merkel: A Technological Triumph of the 1910s
The Flying Merkel was a motorcycle brand produced by the American company Merkel, which was based in Milwaukee before moving to Middletown, Ohio. The motorcycle was in production from 1911 to 1915 and was regarded as a technological marvel of its time. The Flying Merkel’s engine-control system was simple but effective, featuring an automatic inlet valve and a preset outlet valve. The V engine had an initial displacement of 884 cc (53.9 cu in) and capable of delivering 6 hp (4.5 kW) through a two-speed gearbox and belt drive, with a top speed of 97 km/h (60 mph).

Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company The most recognized and largest motorcycle manufacturer in the USA to date is Harley-Davidson. The company started manufacturing motorcycles in 1903. The road to success has been a long hard-fought journey for Harley-Davidson. The company’s history has been through many ownership agreements, bailouts of different kinds, close to bankruptcy on a few occasions, and not to mention stiff global competition. Harley-Davidson has gone from just a company to a full-fledged branded lifestyle for many riders and the company. The introduction of the V-twin chopper cruiser market in America has enabled the company to consistently with heavy air-cooled V-twin cruisers until they have recently checked into other possible motorcycle markets for the brand. An example is the Live Wire electric motorcycle market and the Pan America adventure motorcycle line.

Harley-Davidson India is a wholly-owned subsidiary of H-D. It operates its motorcycle sales from Gurgaon, Haryana, India, and entered the Indian market in 2009. Its first dealership opened in 2010, and since then, H-D India has been providing Indian H-D enthusiasts with 11 models of American cruisers, including all the necessary parts, accessories, and merchandise to fuel their American chopper dreams. Presently, H-D has 29 dealerships scattered across the country’s major cities. Although based in India, it is a regional branch of an American company.

Hodaka, a joint American and Japanese venture, produced around 150,000 motorcycles from 1964 to 1978. Before launching their own brand, Hodaka manufactured engines for the Japanese Yamaguchi brand. The company has been credited with laying the foundation for the immensely popular trail bike industry in America today.

Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company briefly held the title of the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world over 100 years ago. Today, the brand is best known for producing some of the most attractive and comfortable cruisers on the market. The Chieftain and the Scout Sixty are just two examples of the brand’s exceptional offerings.

Janus Motorcycles, located in Goshen, Indiana, is an American manufacturer of small-displacement motorcycles. The company was founded in 2011 by Richard Worsham and Devin Biek, who initially repaired, restored, and tuned vintage mopeds. This led to their interest in developing small, lightweight bikes and building relationships with local component vendors. Janus Motorcycles has been delivering motorcycles since 2013.

Lightning Motorcycle Corp. is a San Carlos, California-based American manufacturer of electric motorcycles. Founder Richard Hatfield started the company in 2006 after participating in an electric Porsche race team. Lightning Motorcycle is a specialist in electric motorcycle research and development, with their ‘LS-218’ EV bike being recognized as the world’s fastest production motorcycle.

MotoCzysz Initially created to compete in the MotoGP circuit, MotoCzysz brought us some excellent innovations, including their patented slipper clutch with twin clutches. Their flagship electric race bike, the E1pc, had a successful racing career, setting a record for the track and division and taking first place in the 2010 TT Zero event at the Isle Man TT.

Penton In 1968, John Penton, a well-known American off-road motorcycle racer, established Penton. The company provided KTM-manufactured bikes rebadged for the American market until it ultimately folded in 1978.

Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company: This Buffalo, New York-based manufacturer started in 1901 and produced an array of vehicles from trucks and boats to bicycles and motorcycles. The Pierce Four was the first four-cylinder motorcycle in the United States, setting it apart from the V-twin models of the time. The company closed its doors in 1938.

Ridley Motorcycle Company: In 1999, the Oklahoma City-based company introduced America’s first automatic motorcycle, a cruiser featuring a continuously variable (CVT) transmission called the Ridley Speedstar. However, Ridley filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and its assets were sold at public auctions in early 2010.

Simplex Manufacturing Corporation: Founder Paul Treen started this New Orleans-based company with a $25 investment. Simplex was the only motorcycle manufacturer in the Deep South until Confederate Motorcycles emerged. The company produced bikes from 1935 to 1975, sticking to a minimalistic design philosophy with few changes over the years.

Thor: Aurora, Illinois-based Thor began by producing engines for Indian Motorcycles from 1901 to 1907 before launching its own line of motorcycles until 1920.

Titan Motorcycle Company: Phoenix, Arizona-based Titan filled a void in the supply of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles by customizing older models with new parts. However, the company filed for bankruptcy twice and closed for good.

Victory Motorcycles: Victory Motorcycles produced bikes from 1998 to 2017, with its final assembly facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa. It was an American motorcycle manufacturer that proved to be a competitor in the cruiser segment.

Z Electric Vehicle: Based in Morgantown, West Virginia, Z Electric Vehicle Corporation is an active electric scooter manufacturer and distributor that started in 2006. It was founded by Darus Zehrbach Jr., who began selling his electric scooters in global markets, offering cost-effective alternatives.

Zero Motorcycles Inc. is a California-based company that produces an array of electric motorcycles. The company was founded in 2006 by a retired NASA engineer and has since been leading the charge in American-made electric motorcycles. The company’s latest model, the Zero SR/S, is a street bike-style EV motorcycle designed for speed and handling.