The founder of the company, Joe Merkel, began designing engines for motorcycles in 1902, and built his own motorcycles beginning in 1903, including a one-cylinder engine with a capacity of 316 cc, which was also used in the contemporary Indian. In 1908 he set up a company under the name of Light Manufacturing and Foundry Company in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. His motorcycles displayed the trademark "Merkel Light" on the tank. In 1910 he offered the first two-cylinder engine. In 1911 the company was taken over by Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company of Middletown, Ohio. Subsequently, the trademark was changed to "Flying Merkel", and a bright and shiny orange paint was used, which was later described as "Merkel orange".
The Flying Merkel had a conservative engine-control system featuring an automatic inlet valve and a pre-set outlet valve. The V-shaped engine initially displaced 884 cc and delivered 6 hp through a two-speed gearbox and a belt, and had a maximum speed of 97 km/h (60 mph). A motorsports version without brake was available with a 997 cc motor including roller bearings, Bosch magneto ignition, Schebler carburetor and chain drive. The roadworthy version had a band brake on the rear wheel and was sold for $325 USD.
An innovation was the motorcycle fork, patented by Joe Merkel as a "truss fork" and which could be seen as a predecessor of the telescopic fork. The Flying Merkel had an automatically dripping oil feeder, which was subsequently copied by Indian and Harley-Davidson. In 1913 a new model appeared: the engine had now an automatically controlled inlet valve and a spring-loaded kickstarter. Production ceased in 1915. The Flying Merkel achieved its iconic status through the shape of its tank and the colorful body paint.
A replica of the racing version was auctioned in January 2012 at Bonhams for nearly €30,000. A 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer went for US$423,500 in 2015 and a 1911 Flying Merkel for US$201,250 in 2011.
Currently Greg Merkel, the great-great grand nephew of Joeseph Merkel, has taken ownership of the trademark "Flying Merkel" and has started a revival of the brand called "Flying Merkel Inc".[better source needed]
- List of motorcycle manufacturers
- List of motorcycles of the 1910s
- List of motorcycles of 1900 to 1909
- Jerry Hatfield: Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles. 1898–1981. Krause Publications, 2006, ISBN 978-0-89689-949-0., pp. 378–384
- The Art Of The Motorcycle. Guggenheim Museum, Las Vegas, 2001, ISBN 0-89207-207-5., p. 114.
- bonhams.com Auktion 19679, lot 303 (downloaded on 18 October 2013)
- Gizmag - World's most expensive motorcycles
- About, Flying Merkel Inc
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