Why The Crocker V-Twin Is Worth A Million Dollars - SUV VEHICLE

Why The Crocker V-Twin Is Worth A Million Dollars

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Summary

  • An American Crocker V-Twin commanded a million-dollar price tag at auctions.
  • The Crocker V-Twin was faster and more powerful than Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles.
  • Crocker built bikes around the rider, offering customizability and a money-back guarantee.



Every now and then, Brough Superiors and Vincent motorcycles steal the spotlight as exclusive, bespoke relics of the past fetching close to a million dollars at auctions. But did you know that an American motorcycle shares the same esteemed pedestal as these legendary European brands? We’re talking about the Crocker V-Twin.

It was the fastest motorcycle in the world before the Vincent Black Shadow. And boy, was it a brilliant motorcycle! This legendary motorcycle was a true anomaly, as it beat Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles with ease, despite being from a small production company. Can you think of any other manufacturer bold enough to offer a money-back guarantee if one of its rivals beat you in a race? That’s how radical its maker–Al Crocker–was, and that is why the Crocker V-Twin commands a staggering price tag today. Al Crocker must’ve never imagined his motorcycles to demand a million dollars, especially almost a century later.


In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Crocker and other authoritative sources, including Mecum Auctions, Motorcycle Classics, and Classic Cycle.

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Al Crocker’s Al-Mighty Story

Albert Crocker, the visionary behind Crocker Motorcycles, was born in 1882. He earned his engineering degree from Northwestern University’s Armour Institute before embarking on a remarkable journey in the motorcycle industry. He soon moved to work for Thor Motorcycles, followed by Hendee Manufacturing Co. (now Indian Motorcycles). At Hendee, he developed motorcycles under Paul Bigsby, and these motorcycles were successful dirt track racers. He even produced various conversion kits for Hendee motorcycles. But Crocker’s passion for racing ran deeper; he wasn’t content with his work at Hendee.


If you know anything about automotive history, you’ll know engineering expertise and racing acumen often lead to iconic achievements in machine design. Think Enzo Ferrari, John Britten, or Carroll Shelby. Crocker became yet another name added to this exclusive club when he started building Crocker motorcycles from the ground up. He teamed up with Bigsby to produce his first bike, featuring a brand-new engine and frame — a single-cylinder 500cc OHV Crocker Speedway racer.

This motorcycle’s first race couldn’t have gotten any better, as it won 9 out of 12 heats on a single evening. This motorcycle bore some resemblance to the British Rudge and was superior to the Harley-Davidson CAC, but was soon overtaken by the more powerful J A Prestwich. Crocker made approximately 31 Crocker Speedway racers, only to soon abandon the project to develop a larger displacement V-twin roadster to take on its American rivals.


Alan Cathcart, Motorcycle Classics

The fact that Albert G. Crocker, their creator, was notorious for not numbering his products consecutively means not only that nobody knows exactly how many bikes he actually made, it also gives a hint of the kind of man he was.

An American V-Twin So Fast, Only A Vincent Could Beat It

1939 Crocker V-Twin Big Tank Studio
Mecum Auctions

In 1935, Crocker and Bigsby designed the Crocker V-twin, which was intended to be durable and powerful without sacrificing speed and agility. This motorcycle featured a new air-cooled 45-degree V-twin with hemispherical OHV cylinder heads and a famously tough 3-speed gearbox. Most of the components were built in-house, with Bigsby on the patterns, but the bikes still used some contracted components to save time and money on production. For example, the first Crockers used Harley-Davidson valve gears, Indian timing gears, Indian brake shoes, and a mix of HD/Indian headlamps. Other ancillary parts came from Autolite, Linkert, Messenger, and Kelsey-Hayes.


But this isn’t what made the Crocker V-twin special; it was its performance and attention to detail. Speaking of its build, no two Crockers were identical. You could purchase this bike from 986cc to 1,490cc. This was because the cylinder blocks were thick enough to tolerate over-boring. And thanks to the small-scale production and hand-built nature of the bikes, Crocker built the bike around the rider. You can already see this bike’s resemblance to Vincents or Brough Superiors!

Coming to the performance, a standard Crocker V-Twin was capable of producing 60 horsepower, around 40 percent more than the competition. This motorcycle had a top speed exceeding 110 MPH, making it the fastest production bike in the world for 12 years before the Vincent Black Shadow overtook it. Crocker was so confident of the bike’s top speed that he offered a money-back guarantee to any owner who was beaten by a Harley-Davidson or Indian motorcycle. Suffice it to say, no one ever came for a refund.


Crocker V-Twin Model Highlights

  • Featured cast aluminum fuel and oil tanks
  • First road-going American bike to feature an overhead-valve design
  • Two iterations of Crocker V-Twins — Small Tank and Big Tank
  • Featured a constant-mesh transmission
  • First 27 Crocker V-Twins had hemispherical combustion campers

Crocker V-Twin Performance Specifications

Engine Type

Air-cooled, OHV, 45-degree V-Twin

Displacement

986cc to 1,490cc

Frame Type

Keystone-type frame with the engine, gearbox, and skid plate as stressed members

Transmission

3-speed hand shift, constant-mesh

Suspension Type

Girder style dual inner and outer front springs, rigid rear

Power Output

65 HP

Top Speed

110 MPH

(Specifications sourced from Crocker Motorcycle)

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Timeless Crockers: Dale’s Burnout Special And The Only Unrestored V-Twin

Crocker V-Twin Dale's Burnout Special Engine
Mecum Auctions

Crocker wasn’t as lucky as Brough; the latter had few serious rivals, but Crocker had to compete with giants like Harley-Davidson and Indian. This led to Crocker going into loss with every motorcycle sold. As a last-ditch effort, he produced the Scootabout, a motor scooter, but only 100 or so were ever sold before the company shut its doors. He then moved to “war work” by constructing components for Douglas Aircraft during the war, never reviving the company again.


So, how many Crocker V-Twins were ever made? According to the company, approximately 200 V-Twins were produced in the company’s ten-year tenure. The remaining inventory was sold to Elmo Looper, which has sold out to restore the 68 V-Twins that survive today. While each Crocker is a rarity, some have gone down in the annals of automotive history for being all the more special. Here are two of them.

1940 Crocker Big Twin Dale’s Burnout Special

Crocker V-Twin Dale's Burnout Special Tank
Mecum Auctions

Dale Walksler, the founder of Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum in North Carolina, fell in love with bikes when he purchased a wrecked Harley-Davidson Servi-Car. He restored it and opened a custom shop, later opening a Harley-Davidson dealership in Illinois. Over the next 24 years, he continued collecting motorcycles and opened his collection to the public in 1999 with the Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum.


The museum has welcomed over 1.5 million visitors, and the most popular attraction there was Dale’s Crocker V-Twin. It wasn’t unusual to see him do a burnout on this bike in the museum itself. Soon enough, this bike was dubbed Dale’s Burnout Special, and even in the Crocker registry, the bike is listed as Dale Walksler’s Burnout Crocker. Walksler then sold the engine (Engine Number: 40-61-113) to someone, who then slapped it on an original Crocker V-Twin chassis as a restoration project. Today, the engine resides in a beautifully restored 1940 Crocker (also referred to as Crocker V-Twin Dale’s Burnout Special)

Finding a Crocker V-Twin is rare, but finding one with such a legendary story attached to it is even rarer. Unfortunately, a select few among us will ever have the opportunity to find out just why Walksler enjoyed doing burnouts on the Crocker V-Twin so much. The bike was slated for auction at Mecum Las Vegas 2021, but it is unclear whether the bike was sold or not. According to Classic.com, the bike hasn’t been sold yet.


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1936 Crocker V-Twin Small Tank: The Most Expensive Crocker Ever Auctioned

1936 Crocker V-Twin Small Tank Unrestored
Mecum Auctions

Another special Crocker V-Twin that survives today is the 1936 model. It was owned by Bob McLeod of San Francisco, who once had the largest Crocker collection in the world. The bike’s VIN Number is 36-61-12, which represents its production year (1936), engine displacement (61 cubic inches), and production number (12). Since the first fourteen models were machined and constructed almost completely by hand, and very few of these survive today, this one is extra special. But that’s not what makes this particular model the most expensive Crocker motorcycle ever auctioned.


This 1936 Crocker V-Twin Small Tank is the only completely unrestored model; it still has the original paint it was delivered with. Every other near-million-dollar Crocker V-Twin is either restored or rebuilt in one or the other way. And no true enthusiast could ever let go of this proposition as long as they had deep pockets. This motorcycle was auctioned for a whopping $825,000 at the Mecum auction in Monterey!

Mike Brown of Classic Cycle

Crocker motorcycles are rare, valuable, and highly desired, precious metal of another kind.

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