The upcoming January Mecum motorcycle auction in Las Vegas has a really wonderful line up of bikes for sale (Really, you should check it out!), but their featured attraction is the sale of the Excelsior Henderson brand name and associated intellectual property. A rather colorful write up extols the illustrious history of the brand and its previous owners, but I wonder what a storied old name like this has to offer a buyer today.
The brand had some wonderful motorcycles in its past, a very nice inline 4 among them, but the company went out of business in 1931 only to be resurrected for a short time in the late 1990s with the production of a V-Twin cruiser. It's been dormant since and now it's up for sale.
I've had my doubts before about the sale of old marques if the intention was to bring them back to life. What would a new Excelsior Henderson be in 2018? Its heritage centers around its motorcycles of the early 20th century and though collectors may highly prize those machines, would a new one be anything more than a curiosity?
When I wrote about this previously I said:
When an individual or investment group buys the rights to call their new creation the continuation of the great XYZ company, do you feel all warm and fuzzy remembering old bikes from your childhood? They hope you do but the name and shape of the logo mean nothing except in fond memories and fast moving antique auctions, the new motorcycle must stand on its own merits. Why should a new company run the risk of dragging a great name into the mud or, if the new bike is a great success, why would they want to share the pride of building a new marque from nothing?
Of course, they may buy the name and use it on something else altogether. I remember the brand name Bell and Howell from my childhood as a respected maker of 8mm movie cameras and other audio visual equipment, but then the company went under, the name was sold and now you see it advertised as the distributor of electronic gadgets on TV. What would an Excelsior Henderson be if not a motorcycle?
It will be interesting to see what happens at the auction. Will someone step up and fulfill their dream of being a motorcycle manufacturer by starting with a great name from the past? Is there a motorcycle already on the drawing board just waiting for the right name, or will we see a new series of cheap gadgets plastered with a logo that has no connection to what the company once was? We'll know soon.