Dedication to a Dream: 1919 Excelsior Boardtracker replica

I followed this project—experiment really—as it was being developed in 2005-6. It was an audacious project. More than that; it was a journey of discovery—an archeology of sorts. I was reminded of this sheer insanity of this experiment this morning, and looking back through it again today I am still amazed that it paid off. Paul Bodie’s build of a 1919 Excelsior Auto Cycle boardtracker might be the boldest home engineering and machining project I’ve ever seen.

1919 Excelsior Boardtracker

It’s uderselling it a bit to call Paul a home-engineer. His motorcycle shop, Flashback Fabrications, has spent many years building and maintaining race bikes of unusual origin. Racing takes a toll on any machine. If you’re going to go through the headache of rebuild after rebuild, and burn through a steady supply of disposable maintenance parts, you’ll want to do yourself a favor and pick a race vehicle common enough to not make every rebuild a quest for parts made of unobtainium. Paul is having none of that though, he raced a series of Aermaccis.

Home-made 1919 Excelsior V-TwinAll of this ended up being good training for what was to come: building a replica of a 1919 Excelsior. This is a bike with no surviving examples. There are a scant few photos of the bike, all of them from the right side. Armed with the photos and a partial engine case, he set about building the bike. The frame is easy enough, but engineering a overhead-cam V-twin from scratch, from a photo, that’s something else. There is no surviving engine to copy. There is no archive of technical drawings. Just a photo. Madness.

And somehow, he pulled if off. More importantly, he was careful to document it thoroughly for us to enjoy. Dig through the project page-by-page to see how you can mold a combustion chamber from perforated metal and bondo (to be sand cast later), and other seemingly impossible tasks. It’s a mind blower.

1919 Excelsior Combustion ChamberThe site chronicles the build from photo reference and sketches through the construction of a prototype. Paul has since built 4 more examples (of an eventual 10) which he’s selling at $155,000. That’s no small price for a motorcycle without brakes that you can’t drive on the street. Looking through the chronicle of the work that went into its development though; it’s a bargain.

In the time since developing this replica, Paul has since turned his attention to re-creating an 1896 Roper Steam Bike. I guess the plain-old Excelsior V-Twin was too easy for him.

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