The Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Company was founded by Dan Hanlon in Burnsville, Minnesota, USA, as Hanlon Manufacturing Company (HMC) in 1993, and thereafter changed its name to the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Manufacturing Company. The company set as its mission to design and manufacture American-made cruiser and touring motorcycles. The company secured the motorcycle names from the past of Excelsior and Henderson previously owned by Ignatz Schwinn of the Schwinn companies, and proceeded to design and manufacture OEM proprietary motorcycles with design originality of the former Excelsior and Henderson motorcycles.
Mr. Hanlon had earlier started several companies and previously was employed with two Fortune 500 companies. He recruited a management team, which included Tom Rootness as Chief Financial Officer, Al Benz as Vice President of Engineering, Allan Hurd as Vice President of Manufacturing, and John LaVoie as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Mr. Hanlon's brother Dave Hanlon, and his wife Jennie Hanlon, also joined the company. The company set up a new factory and finishing facility.
Financing came from Mr. Hanlon and his family and friends. As the company grew, public and private debt, and private accredited investors were added to the equity mix, and ultimately the company conducted an IPO (BIGX) during 1997. The stock symbol BIGX was chosen in respect to the former Excelsior motorcycle company that had furnished USA military motorcycles to the World War I effort. The soldiers nicknamed the motorcycles, the "Big X" due to the large x emblazoned on the fuel tank.
New Super X motorcycle
The motorcycle is a new vehicle, including a new engine, frame, and all related drive and styling components. The motorcycle styling and engineering was adopted from the earlier Excelsior-Henderson motorcycles from the 1905-1931 timeframe. The 1929 Excelsior Super X is credited among historians as being the first modern-day cruiser motorcycle design.
From 1997 to 1998, the company constructed a factory in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. The factory was equipped for a capacity of 10,000 motorcycles per year, and, with a few minor assembly and finishing line changes, would have had a capacity of 20,000. The company hoped to achieve full production in the fifth production year. The first calendar (not model year) production year was projected at 4,000 units, which would include parts of two model years.
Excelsior-Henderson introduced it first production model, the Super X, in December 1998, and commenced production in early 1999. The company established 140 dealers throughout the United States. The motorcycles averaged an MSRP around $18,500. Via the assembly line, the company produced for retail sale approx. 1900 motorcycles in various configurations; 1161 units in model year 1999, and 720 units in model year 2000. VIN number 0001315 was the last 1999 model produced, and the 2000 model year began with VIN 0001316. In total, the company produced an estimated 1950 motorcycles, which would include motorcycles produced and not designed for retail dealer sales; such as dealer promotional bikes, test prototypes and non-assembly line produced motorcycles.
The waiting list for a popular Harley-Davidson model was up to two years, and Excelsior-Henderson positioned to capitalize on the growing market and unfulfilled demand. During this same timeframe, additional companies (OEMs and after-market custom bikes) had also decided to enter the industry, with most of them later succumbing. Noteworthy are the Indian Motorcycle revivals, which invested an estimated $240 million, and the Polaris Victory motorcycle launch, which invested an estimated $200 million.
The impending financial market collapse (dot-com bubble) of 1999-2000 resulted in Excelsior-Henderson having difficulty completing the next scheduled capital infusion, and became an indirect casualty of the financial marketplace. Therefore, on December 21, 1999, Excelsior-Henderson filed for reorganization under Chapter 11, Title 11, United States Code. As an outcome of the process, the company was sold to a Florida investment group, which later filed for reorganization. Production of motorcycles never commenced. Today, the motorcycles are coveted by some as high quality collector's items.
There is an official Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles website that maintains information and links about the company and motorcycles. In addition, a book was published, titled Riding The American Dream.
- Wehrwein, Sven (September 2010). "Wipeout". Twin Cities Business Magazine.