Journal: Excelsior Specialized in Lightweight Racing Machines

Excelsior Specialized in Lightweight Racing Machines

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
February 5, 2014

Throughout motorized history countless companies have built motorcycles. But the Excelsior Motor Company stands out as Britain’s first. They got their start building penny-farthing bicycles but turned to building “motor-bicycles” in 1896 and later built small cars as well.

While they’d already been around for a while, their greatest racing successes came beginning with their win in the 1929 Isle of Man Lightweight TT on a B14, which soon became their most popular model. Their resulting popularity allowed Excelsior to emerge in sound financial form from the Great Depression and to commission a 4-valve racing engine. Dubbed the Mechanical Marvel, it won the 1933 TT in its first outing. It enjoyed great success for the remainder of the season, as well as the following, but was then retired because it was deemed too complicated for sale as a production racer.

Excelsior reverted to a 2-valve design, but with an overhead camshaft. They were unable to win another TT after the 1933 4-valve, but won the European GP in 1936 before 200,000 people in Chemnitz, Germany.

Sadly, the years following WWII weren’t kind to Excelsior as consumers eschewed complex racing machines for cheaper, simpler motorcycles. They never truly recovered from the lean post-war years and built their last motorcycle in 1964, finally shuttering the company in 1965. At least we can still honor and remember Britain’s first through these images.

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Jared Lowell
Jared Lowell

Not to pick at nits, but you’ve made a classic misstep with your photos, which depict two different Excelsior companies. The UK company, the focus of your feature article, and the American company (there was also a German company of the same name). The lead photo of the board track racer in action, as well as the other with the gent in the white sweater, both show American Excelsiors – Super X models (maybe the other board track photo as well?). The tank logo featuring the distinctive X with a cross behind it, will say “Chicago, ILL” on the bottom… Read more »