Born in 1882, Albert Crocker was an American inventor and engineer whose innovations would have a profound influence on the world of motorcycling. After graduating from Northwestern University with an engineering degree, he went to work in the motorcycle division of Aurora Automatic Machine Company and got deeply into racing.
“Although he was an engineer, he loved motorcycles and racing, competing in and winning many endurance contests.” —Crocker.la
Through racing, he developed a close friendship with Charles Hendee, president and chief engineer of Indian Motorcycle, and went to work full-time for Indian, where the fatal 1911 accident of legendary board track racer Eddy Hasha impacted him deeply.
In 1919, Crocker met Gertrude Hasha, Eddy’s widow, while both were working at the same Indian branch, and they later married and relocated to Los Angeles, where Crocker began developing dirt track bikes, introducing the Crocker 30-50 cu. in. single-cylinder speedway bike.
“It became the bike of choice for many of the best riders on the Pacific coast when speedway racing was at its height. Crocker ultimately built about thirty speedway bikes, giving the big-name speedway bikes some tough competition.”
In the 1930s, he opened Crocker Motorcycle Company and began work on the Crocker Twin — a heavyweight, overhead valve, high-speed V-twin touring machine that first rolled out of the factory in 1936, featuring a 61 cubic inch (1000cc) hemi-head engine. Each customer specified displacement and the state of tune of the engine, with sizes ranging from 1000-1490cc.
The most common 62-inch Big Twin boasted 55-60 hp — 50% more than the Harley and Indian side-valve engines. The Crocker Twin was widely regarded as the fastest production motorcycle of the time, and Crocker backed up that claim with one very bold guarantee:
“So confident was Al Crocker in the superiority of his twins, he offered a money-back guarantee for any Crocker owner who was ‘beaten’ by a standard HD or Indian, and of course, no such buyback was necessary. Crocker had built the fastest production motorcycle in the US, with speeds over 110mph the norm.” —The Vintagent
Unfortunately, the material shortages of WWII caused him to abandon producing motorcycles in 1942, making Crocker Twins exceedingly rare machines.
The 1940 Crocker Big Twin you see here takes that rarity a step farther, as it’s powered by Crocker motor #40-61-113 — not only is it the 113th of ~200 ever built, this engine was owned and rebuilt by none other than Dale Walksler of the legendary Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
Of Walksler’s staggering array of rare and interesting two-wheeled machinery, his twin-cylinder Crocker was a favorite:
“Walksler was known to fire up the Crocker on occasion, lining it up inside the museum with a long stretch of open floor space many have dubbed ‘burnout alley,’ and takeoff screaming across the museum floor atop the Crocker, much to the joy of the spectators lining the museum walls. The Dale’s Burnout Special nickname quickly became inseparable from the Crocker powerplant, so much so that it accompanies that special engine’s listing in the Crocker registry today.” —Mecum
Fast forward several years, and Motorcycle Hall of Famer Walksler not only rebuilt that engine no. 40-61-113 at his museum, but sold it to the owner of this machine, who fitted it into his own frame during an extensive restoration! The result is one stunning Crocker powered by what is probably the most famous Crocker engine in existence.
This 1940 Crocker will be crossing the Mecum auction block this weekend in Monterey, California. You can learn more and register to bid at Mecum.com.
In 1936, ‘The Motorcyclist’ magazine, Al Crocker said in the debut article that “Twelve motors were going through production” , that gives an idea of the factory production capacity per year. It would take 16 years to build 200 bikes. When did Al Crocker give a money back guarantee ? There is no record of this comment. When did Al Crocker work at the Indian company ? He worked at Chicago Indian, its in ‘Motorcycle Illustrated’. Since 1968 Ernie Skelton used Harley rods and pistons because there were no Crocker con rods left in existence. He used Harry Sucher’s bike for patterns for his own little Westminster factory, this is recorded in ‘The Fabulous Crocker’ by Harry Sucher. Harley flat head piston > 3-5/16 x 3-5/8 = 62 cubic inches.