High Achiever: 1916 Excelsior Twin

Saved from the dump 50 years ago, this very original Excelsior has been put back to a running, riding motorcycle.

  • 1916 Excelsior Model 17-3.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The twistgrips use bell-crank assemblies to control the carburetor (right grip) and clutch for hill starts (left grip).
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1916 Excelsior Model 17-3.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1916 Excelsior Model 17-3.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1916 Excelsior Model 17-3.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • “I thought it would just be something beautiful to look at, but now I want to jump on it and ride it,” owner Mark Harrigan says.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Mark Harrigan aboard his Super X Deadwood Special.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The 85-cubic-inch 50-degree X-twin featured fuel injection.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The 61-cubic-inch inlet-over-exhaust V-twin is fueled by a single Schebler Modex HX carburetor.
    Photo by Nick Cedar

1916 Excelsior Model 17-3
998cc (61ci) air-cooled IOE V-twin, 3.328in x 3.5in bore and stroke, 6:1 compression ratio (approx.), 15-20hp (est.)
Single Schebler Model HX
3-speed hand shift, chain final drive
Bosch ZEV magneto ignition
Single downtube keystone frame w/engine as stressed member/59in (1,499mm)
Cradle type, trailing link with 5-leaf nickel steel spring front, rigid rear
Independently operated internal expanding drum (left pedal) and external contracting band (right pedal, fully depressed) rear
3in x 28in front and rear
Weight (dry):
275lb (125kg)
Seat height:
27in (686mm)
Fuel capacity:
2gal (7.5ltr)
Price then/now:

Discoveries of really old motorcycles are supposed to involve a barn. There aren’t a lot of barns in the suburban area where Mark Harrigan, the owner of this 1916 Excelsior, lives. But there are good neighbors who help each other, which led to this bike’s recovery. This Excelsior has survived thanks to a little help from many friends.

Once upon a time, there was a telephone lineman named Dick who knew nothing about motorcycles, but liked old things. While out fixing telephone lines one day, he saw a pickup truck headed for the dump, with an old motorcycle and a bunch of parts in the bed. Our hero intercepted the pickup truck — and got the contents of the truck for free. He then stowed the lot in the back of his garage. That was 50 years ago, and just a few miles from where Mark Harrigan lives.

Time marches on

Five years ago, the now-grown children of a neighbor and friend of the telephone man offered to help clean out the garage so as to get a look at the bike. They had been hearing about the old motorcycle their entire lives, but had never seen it. The family ended up with the bike and almost all of its parts in exchange for their help. Son Jason began restoring the motorcycle, a World War I-era Excelsior, and started looking for some missing pieces, but never got very far on the project.

This is where Mark Harrigan and Mike Lynch came in. Mark had started a local Facebook group called “Motorcycle Memories.” The brother of the Excelsior’s then-current owner (who lived only a few miles from Mark) posted some photos of the bike to the group. There were a lot of comments. A few months later, the brother sent another post to the group. Jason had decided to sell the bike, and Mark started thinking about buying the old twin.

Mike Lynch is a neighbor of Mark’s. Talented with a wrench and equipped with a complete machine shop, Mike has made a paying hobby of restoring pre-World War II American motorcycles. He’s rebuilt engines for several Cannonball competitors, and one of the stars of American Pickers currently has Mike rebuilding his Ace 4-cylinder.

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