1914 Flying Merkel 61ci V-Twin
Engine no. 980
Joseph Merkel started producing a motorized bicycle in 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Development moved quickly and by 1905, he had entered the racing forum with a single-cylinder motorcycle. With success and great innovation, the Merkel brand became synonymous with speed and ingenuity, particularly in the area of suspension, which included a fresh design fork arrangement and a monoshock rear. The company was purchased by the Light Manufacturing Company in 1909, and moved in its entirety to Pottstown Pennsylvania, producing machines with the “Merkel Light” and finally “The Flying Merkel” names. Merkel continued on, developing frame and suspension improvements and new engine designs.
In 1911 the Miami Cycle Manufacturing Company purchased Merkel, and production was moved to Middletown, Ohio. The Miami Company, organized in 1895, was building bicycles and motorcycles under the names Racycle,and Miami. The Merkel acquisition gave Miami the high-end product that it needed to be regarded as a premiere manufacturer. The factory racing team by then expanded to include names such as LS Taylor, FE French, CF Pinneau, and W Wikel. In 1914 The flying Merkel won the National endurance run from Chicago to St Louis. Maldwyn Jones then broke a world’s record on the Vanderbilt Course, returning to Middletown to a hero’s welcome.
Engineering innovation, high quality, and racing successes were not enough to sustain this progressive endeavor. The onset of war, a contracting market, and increased competition caused production of The Flying Merkel to falter. The final Merkel machines were produced in 1917.
The Flying Merkel on offer here, of 1914 vintage, was purchased as a complete restoration project by the seller from aficionado of early American motorcycles, Vince Martinico in 2011, who had purchased the bike in Pennsylvania from the family of the original owners! Complete it may have been, but in rough condition. With all original parts, it was a prime candidate for a full restoration, and marque expert, John Villjon of Seattle, Washington was charged with the job. Originally from South Africa, Viljoen moved to Seattle, bringing his business andexpertise to the meticulous concours restoration of early motorcycles. The winner of many a concours trophy, Viljoen’s knowledge and abilities are of the very highest levels. He once purchased an original frame section for a Flying Merkel, specifically to pull it apart to see a portion of original paint, from which he could accurately replicate the exact paint color. The result is a flawless restoration completed in 2015, a perfect jewel in the antique motorcycle world.
Although the machine has been on static display since completion, very little would need to be done to return it to regular use. Below is a video of it starting and running in Viljoen’s shop. A wonderfully consistent appearance to all finishes throughout the bike, it remains in truly immaculate condition today.This is a great opportunity to acquire an incredible example of a later chain-drive extant from one of the most alluring manufacturers of early American motorcycle innovation.