The ex-Steve McQueen, sold at the McQueen Sale of 1984, 1926 Excelsior Flat Tracker
Engine no. CC474
Excelsior motorcycle manufacture began in 1907 with the common configuration of a belt-driven single-cylinder machine, but with the engine forming part of the frame. It was a popular inlet-over-exhaust ‘F-head’ design, because, although limited in performance, it enabled the exhaust valve to be directly cooled by the incoming mixture, a positive advantage at the time.
For 1911 came a 61ci or 1,000cc V-Twin to join the range, at which time Excelsior was acquired by bicycle maker, Ignaz Schwinn. 1913 models offered all-chain drive, followed by a two-speed planetary transmission and a leaf-sprung, Indian-style front fork the following season. Alongside rivals Harley-Davidson and Indian, Excelsior offered a three-speed countershaft transmission for 1915, at the same time introducing a new frame with curved top tube and a smoothly rounded tank, a first for Excelsior. ‘Military’ olive green was adopted as the Excelsior livery in ‘17 and would remain the only option until 1920 when navy blue became the norm. In 1921 a 74ci (1,200cc) v-twin was added to the range, but by this time Excelsior had acquired the manufacturing rights to the Henderson Four and the days of the big v-twins were numbered. They were gone by 1925, Excelsior preferring to concentrate its resources on the Four and the newly introduced Super-X 45ci (750cc) v-twin.
Introduced to the American Market in 1925, the Super-X retained the Big Twin’s F-head valve gear while reverting to the leading-link front fork used on its earliest ancestors. Elsewhere though, it was extensively redesigned, featuring unitary construction of the engine/gearbox and geared primary drive encased with an alloy casting, innovations doubtless inspired by the contemporary Indian Scout and Chief. Schwinn eventually ceased motorcycle production in the spring of 1931.
The Factory-raced, Alcohol-powered OHV ’26 Super-X offered here in original Flat Tracker specification was purchased from the late-Gary Hite collection is 2014 by the current owner. Hite had an enviable collection of all-American machines, displaying the collection in a museum near his home in Hauser, Idaho. However, the provenance of the bike becomes rather more interesting back in the 1970s, when it was purchased by Bud Ekins for friend, fellow ISDT team memberand Hollywood and car/motorcycle racing dignitary, Steve McQueen. McQueen supposedly kept the bike at his Santa Paula ranch, riding it around the property and the local country lanes! The bike was sold as lot 514 at the Las Vegas McQueen Estate Auction in 1984, and the extensive documentation from that sale accompanies the sale, including the original Las Vegas sale bill/auction flyer, and Certificate of Authenticity signed by both Terry and Chad McQueen (photographed below).
A Super-X is rare. A wonderfully original factory racer is even more rare. Steve McQueen owned only 1. Is this the most important and desirable Super-X?