Rare Birds: Restoring a 1907 Curtiss Motorcycle

Dale Axelrod’s restored Curtiss motorcycle is both a personal treasure and a valuable antique.

| June 2012

  • vincent-in-barn-cover-image
    It’s every motorcyclist’s dream: The classic bike parked and forgotten, waiting to be discovered and turned loose on the road again. In “The Vincent in the Barn,” Tom Cotter has chased down 40 great stories of old bikes and the collectors who unearthed them.
    Photo courtesy Motorbooks
  • Curtiss-Motorcycle-Right-View
    Collector Dale Axlerod is fascinated with Curtiss products, especially because founder Glenn Curtiss built both motorcycles and aircraft. According to Axlerod, probably fewer than six twin-cylinder Curtiss motorcycles—like his original-paint 1907 pictured here—exist today.
    Photo by Dale Axlerod
  • Curtiss-Motor
    Axlerod collects Curtiss motors like this 1904 twin. Curtiss’ motors were called Hercules from 1902 through 1905, but they changed to the Curtiss name from 1906 to 1910.
    Photo by Dale Axlerod
  • Curtiss-Twin-Engine
    A 1908 Curtiss Roadster twin. These motors could have been purchased for use in motorcycles or dirigibles. Because of their rarity, Curtiss motorcycles and engines are extremely valuable today.
    Photo by Dale Axlerod

  • vincent-in-barn-cover-image
  • Curtiss-Motorcycle-Right-View
  • Curtiss-Motor
  • Curtiss-Twin-Engine

Every motorcyclist dreams of hearing the magic phrase: “You know, I know where there’s this old bike that’s been sitting at the back of this garage for years …” With those momentous words, the hunt begins. Too often the machine revealed is a worthless Hondazukimaha pile of hopeless oxidation, but sometimes, it’s a collector’s dream: a genuine classic motorcycle. The Vincent in the Barn (Motorbooks, 2009) by Tom Cotter offers 40 stories of motorcycle-hunting dreams come true. In this excerpt from Chapter 6, “Rare Birds,” Dale Axelrod tells the story of restoring a Curtiss motorcycle to its original splendor. 

Dale Axelrod became interested in Curtiss motorcycles years ago. It’s actually a dual fascination for Axelrod. He loves old motorcycles, but he also loves vintage aircraft. The retired diving instructor and paramedic from Middleburg, Florida, explained how his two passions are contained in this one bike.

“Just like the Wright brothers, who went from building bicycles to airplanes, Glenn Curtiss went from building bicycles to opening a bicycle factory, then motorcycles, and finally airplanes. Interestingly, it was Alexander Graham Bell who talked Curtiss into becoming involved with flight.

“The Wright brothers also built bicycles, but I’ve never found one. That’s why the Curtiss motorcycle is so interesting to me.”



Glenn Curtiss was an early aviation pioneer, who later was actually in competition with the Wright brothers.

“The Wright brothers always criticized Curtiss for sneaking out and watching them fly their early airplanes and stealing ideas,” he said. “While they were alive, there was bad blood between them, but when they died, the government merged the two companies to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.






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