A Pair of Special Crocker Motorcycles

Red, rough — and ready to run


| May/June 2008



crocker special 1

Neslted in a pre-World War II Triumph rigid frame, the 1939 Crocker engine looks surprisingly at home.

Photo by Gary Phelps

True rarities, Crocker motorcycles have culled a dedicated following.

Here I was, perched precariously atop a multi-story parking lot in Torrance, Calif., as the heavens opened and poured upon us in apocalyptic volumes. This was not supposed to be happening, not at the 2007 El Camino Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet.

What gods had we offended? Thor, Vulcan? Their namesake bikes sat a few feet away in the event’s vintage bike show area, drenched to their alloy rims. Rarely-seen Southern California rain clouds, dark and stormy, dropped buckets of water on our little group, crowded like sardines under the blue pop-up vinyl tents beloved by swap meet vendors. But there was a silver lining, for beneath that 8-foot square of dryness huddled some of the rarest of bike collectors. Not bikes, bike collectors. The bikes were outside being treated to the ultimate car wash, whether they liked it or not.

Collectors
Four guys, virtually indistinguishable from the hundreds of other T-shirt and blue-jean wearing bike fans attending the 32nd annual event, had a very particular shared interest. They’re all members of a club whose membership is more exclusive than the Skull & Bones fraternity. They don’t rule corporations or point their finger at the world and make it spin to their personal agenda. They’re investors, not in demon oil but in precious metals, yet neither gold nor uranium is their forte. Instead, it’s another unobtainium by the name of Crocker. Between their few numbers, they own perhaps a dozen examples of an American motorcycle of which only 50-60 are known to exist, with several still missing in action.

This select band of Crocker brothers had come to the El Camino show to see not one, but two examples of the fabled marque — one a beautiful specimen (“The Black Bike”) recently unearthed after a long absence from its homeland, and the second, rougher cycle (“The Red Bike”) accrued a half a century MIA. It’s the latter bike that draws our particular interest here, but it can’t be appreciated without understanding its unique relationship to the former.

Crocker motorcycles found
 “The Black Bike,” as it’s called by owner/rescuer Glenn Bator, is a 1939 Crocker 61-cubic-inch V-twin that has been treated to the finest of care and attention, with Old World Italian craftsmen attending lovingly to its ground-up restoration while its engine was entrusted into the hands of one of the world’s leading Crocker experts, the late Ernie Skelton of La Mirada, Calif. The engine and chassis were eventually reunited in Milan, after which the motorcycle was housed in conditions that would have been approved by the Medicis. And there, after a reported last kiss by its owner, it fell into the deep sleep of hibernation, where it languished from all eyes for some 20 years.





bike on highway

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