Albert Crocker (1882–1961) was an American inventor and the founder of Crocker Motorcycles. His innovations had a substantial influence on the motorcycle and racing business.
College and racing years
Crocker graduated from Armour Institute, part of Northwestern University, with an engineering degree. His first job out of college was with the Aurora Automatic Machine Company; he worked in the motorcycle division, engineering new products. Although he was an engineer, he loved motorcycles and racing, competing in and winning many endurance contests.
During his racing years, Crocker met Oscar Hedström and Charles Hendee, the president and chief engineer of Indian Motorcycle of Springfield, Massachusetts. A close friendship developed between Crocker, Hendee and Hedstrom that eventually evolved into a full-time position for Crocker at Indian.
Marriage and move to the West Coast
Crocker's personal life was deeply affected by the 1911 accident in which the famous board track motorcycle racer Eddy Hasha was severely injured in a race and died from his injuries shortly after. Crocker later met Hasha's widow, Gertrude Jefford Hasha, in 1919, while both were working at the Indian branch in Denver, Colorado. They were married in 1924 and had one son also named Albert.
In that same year, Crocker took over the Indian motorcycle dealership in Kansas City. The dealership functioned as a distributor for several Midwest states. Eventually, however Crocker moved to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, Crocker bought Freed Indian, an established Indian Motorcycle dealership. Al Crocker and Paul Bigsby must have spent many of their spare hours designing and developing their own bikes, for in 1931, they introduced their dirt track racing bikes to the world of racing.
Crocker, a very capable designer and engineer, invented the Crocker 30-50 cu. in. single-cylinder speedway bike. It became the bike of choice for many of the best riders on the Pacific coast when speedway racing was at its height. Crocker ultimately built about thirty speedway bikes, giving the big-name speedway bikes some tough competition.
He later sold his Indian dealership and moved on to create Crocker Motorcycle Company in a small factory at 1346 Venice Blvd in downtown LA.
The Crocker Twin
In the mid-1930s, Crocker and Bigsby began to work on a heavyweight, high-performance, overhead valve, v-twin motorcycle and in 1936 the first Crocker rolled out of the factory. Crocker knew there was a good market for high-speed touring bikes, but even he was surprised when he received more orders than he could possibly fill for his new 1936 Crocker "Small Tank" 61 cubic inch 1000 cc Hemi-Head model. The Crocker Twin was widely regarded as the fastest production motorcycle in the world. In 1939 Crocker introduced a new and improved model named the Crocker "Big Tank". However, as Crocker was producing during the height of the Depression, it became increasingly difficult for him to manufacture vehicles in small quantities, and in 1942 he abandoned production of motorcycles altogether.
Al Crockers son worked in the Crocker Motorcycle factory machining oil pumps and other parts on weekends and between School. In 1998 Al Crocker Jr. attended the induction of his late father into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and accepted the medal on his behalf. Al Crocker Jr.now lives in northern California with his wife Mary Jane. They and their entire family attended both the 2006 and 2007 "Legend Of The Motorcycle" Concours d'Elegance at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay California where the legendary brand his father created over seventy years ago was one of two featured marques. Today Al enjoys a close relationship with the team at the resurrected Crocker Motorcycle Company.
Many Crocker Twin motorcycles are still in existence and are among the most highly prized collectible motorcycles today. Crocker parts are still sought after and coveted. The most recent conservative estimate of the value of an original Crocker hovers between $375,000 and $600,000 U.S.
Over 30 speedway motorcycles were produced before Al Crocker shifted his interest to creating a V-twin road machine that would outperform anything seen on the road. The first V-twin entry for Crocker had a 61 in³ (1,000 cc) "Hemi Head" producing 55-60 hp, far exceeding the horsepower produced by both the Indian and Harley of the day (38-40 hp). Many Crockers were manufactured to order and the largest of them were known to have had a 91+ cubic inch engine (about 1,491 cc), and was the largest-capacity "production" motorcycle of the time. When production ceased in 1942, approximately 200 of the V-twins had been produced in all. The remaining inventory of parts were sold in 1947 to Elmo Looper. Many of these parts went into restorations of the surviving examples of which 68 or more still exist today, according to a registry started by Charles "Chuck" Vernon and Johnny Eagles, two members of a group of original Crocker owners in Southern California. Although total production of all models is not known it is thought by some to be around 300 units (about 40–50 speedway, 40–50 "Scootabout" scooters, and 200+ V-Twins). Al Crocker also produced an overhead valve conversion kit in the late 1920s for the Indian 101 "Scout".
The proprietor and founder of the company, Albert Crocker, ceased motorcycle production in 1942 when the war effort put a shortage on critical materials. Indian and Harley received contracts with the US Army for military motorcycle production and Crocker got a contract with Douglas Aircraft making aircraft parts. That became a more lucrative business than Al Crocker ever enjoyed with motorcycle manufacturing and in 1942 Crocker Motorcycle became Crocker Manufacturing. Crocker later sold out to a company named Borg Warner. Al Crocker died in 1961. Designer of many of the components, Paul Bigsby, went on to fame as a designer of guitars and particularly of the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece.
Because of their rarity and quality, Crockers are among the most expensive motorcycles an enthusiast can acquire. At the MidAmerica Auctions motorcycle auction in January 2007 in Las Vegas, a 1941 Crocker big tank motorcycle sold for $230,000. At the Gooding & Co. auction in 2006 in Chandler, a 1931 Crocker 61 sold for $236,500. At the Bonhams & Butterfield 2006 auction in New York, a 1937 Crocker "Hemi-head" V-Twin brought $276,500. At the 2006 auction of Bator International in California a 1939 Crocker 61 cubic-inch side valve model sold for $200,000. At the 2015 Mecum auction in Los Vegas the E J Cole 1942 Crocker Big Tank sold for $385.000. Pedigreed Crocker’s like Chuck Vernon’s #1x Small Tank sold for over $600,000.
Crocker Motorcycle Company reincarnated
It had been over sixty years since the last Crocker rolled out of 1946 Venice Boulevard in Downtown Los Angeles before the New "Crocker Motorcycle Company", first began (1997) to produce parts. After an enthusiastic response to the many high quality parts produced for some of America's top restorers, and with inquires from original Crocker owners, it was decided to officially incorporate Crocker Motorcycle Company in January 1999. In early 2002 Crocker Motorcycle Company began to trademark Crocker world wide, an aggressive stance was taken to accelerate their parts making process and the quest was on to create all the parts needed to assemble complete and exact reproductions of both the coveted "Big Tank" and "Small Tank" models. The website was launched and their market grew further still. Crocker's customer base has been global since the late 1990s.
Crocker Motorcycle Company produces parts that are exactly as the originals by incorporating "old school" pattern making methods with ultra modern measuring and machining technology. Crocker uses CMM (coordinate measuring machine)part measuring for quality control and in many cases CNC machining techniques to ensure the exactness of each part they make. Crocker's casting patterns are made by old world craftsmen who have a dedication to making things correctly, rather than quickly. To ensure a strict quality control, Crocker has created an extensive library of Cad-Cam engineering drawings for every part they produce. All Crocker parts are made in the USA.
Since late 2008, after relocating to Southern California, Crocker Motorcycle Company has been busy refining all their engineering, tooling, metallurgy and manufacturing techniques with the assistance of some of the best mold makers, engineers and Aerospace machine shops in the world. The end result is a stunning example of the Crocker Big and Small Tank motorcycles, visually identical to the originals, manufactured to the highest quality standards and winning the prestigious "Industry Award" at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, CA in 2012.
The company began taking orders for its very limited production in October 2012 and now builds complete and authentic original type Big and Small Tank Crocker motorcycles to customer specs as Al Crocker did back in 1936-1942.