When people dream Excelsior most have visions of the American Excelsior, a big V twin that graced American highways (or most likely dusty bumpy old roads carved out by wagon wheels). But what about the English Excelsior? Well to most that would have to be the Excelsior Manxman race bike, its road going and less common Warrior, or the 1950s 2 stroke machines.
Well, for 1929 Excelsior was to produce 14 machines for both the home and overseas markets.Undecided as to what to call the various models they adopted a more simplistic approach and gave them numbers. There was the No 1, the No 2, the No 3, right up to the No 11 model, the 3 ½ hp OHV 2 Port Tourist Trophy. As basic as their model naming was the machines themselves were very impressive, from lightweight 2 strokes up to the 5 hp OHV Two Port, some machines even supporting impressive checker paint jobs on their petrol tanks. Excelsior were to do themselves proud with successes for 1928 racing events at the famous Brooklands racing circuit as well as overseas events, with full credit to the riders as well.
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An interesting story about a Manxman in NZ (and for those of you who aren’t interested in the meanderings of an old mans mind – just skip over this).
In the early 1980s whilst racing I met up with a elderly gentleman who had owned a Manxman and had obtained it in a very unexpected way. In the 1940s, post WW2, Jim had owned a motorcycle shop and the demand for 2 wheeled transport was very high, so much that the demand outstripped the supply. With the opportunity to clear surplus war stock the army was auctioning off reconditioned motorcycles to the public at various places throughout NZ, and it was these auctions that Jim used to source stock for his business. As on so many previous occassions Jim was bidding on BSA M20, Norton 16Hs, and Royal Enfield WDCs and WDCOs. He said that the boxes that contained the motorcycles were only marked by numbers, and that very little was given as to the correct matching of numbers to the machines contained on the inside, only a few boxes had the side opened up to show what you could be bidding on. You can probably imagine the rest. With little knowledge as to what he had definitely bought, money was changed hands and Jim loaded up his boxes, transporting them back to his shop. He said his surprise on opening up the box that contained the Manxman was more of “what a waste of money, nobody is going to buy that to ride to work!!” But as we all know, we all like to play with things and Jim was no different. He said that it didn’t take long to get it sorted and it was to provide endless hours of fun.
Eventually discussion evolved as to who had owned this with several overseas people making claims, however as no paperwork on ownership could be produced and all sales of surplus army goods being final Jim had himself a nice piece of kit (as the English say). However it does pose the question of how did it end up in that box? Perhaps a little bit of sculdugery that clearly went wrong? We will never know.