This Crocker motorcycle is worth 10 Harley-Davidsons. But why?

Crocker might be the highest-performance motorcycle brand you have never heard of. In a time where Harley-Davidson and Indian were churning out twin-cylinder production bikes by the thousands, Crocker built bespoke speed machines. How wild were these hand-built motorcycles? Pretty wild.

Albert Crocker didn’t come out of nowhere to create the high-powered Big Twin. He got his start as an engineer, but quickly found his way into an Indian Motorcycles dealership on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles. In 1930, Crocker began producing speed parts for the budding sport of speedway racing. After developing an overhead valve conversion for the 45-cubic-inch Indian V-twin, Crocker graduated to building a lighter and faster single-cylinder engine of his own design. Though his speedway bikes made a splash, he was concentrating on the Big Twin, which would become synonymous with the Crocker name.

It was now 1935, and Crocker left the lithe and fragile Speedway racers behind. Instead he chose to create a durable, powerful, and fast machine that could be used on the road. The base was a 62-cid, 45-degree V-twin equipped with hemispherical combustion chambers that housed the overhead valves. The over-built three-speed transmission featured a case that was utilized as part of the frame, with tubes brazed directly to it.

1940 Crocker 'Big Tank' Big Twin engine
1940 Crocker 'Big Tank' Big Twin tail light

1940 Crocker 'Big Tank' Big Twin Gas tank

The defining feature, though, was the decision to use cast aluminum for the oil and gasoline tanks. Early bikes held just 2.5 gallons of fuel and became known as the “Small Tank” models, while 1938 and later bikes received a higher capacity and thus the moniker “Big Tank.” These Big Twin models were capable of speeds in excess of 110 mph, a feat Harley-Davidson could only achieve after building a new engine design.

World War II came, and with it, restrictions on American manufacturing. Crocker was forced to end production during the war effort, and chose not to continue when the restrictions were lifted. In all, less than 75 Crocker Big Twin motorcycles were produced. With more power and a better chassis than a contemporary Harley-Davidson or Indian, the Crocker models were coveted—and still are.  

The highest price achieved was during Mecum’s Las Vegas auction this January, where a 1939 model realized $704,000. Now a second Big Tank is set to cross Mecum’s auction block next week in Indianapolis. With the rarity and history behind this special American motorcycle, it could reach a price of 10 times a comparable Harley-Davidson EL. Do you think it is worth it? Let us know in the comments below.

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    Great article. But unfortunately these bikes have been subject to fakery for many years. In 1998 a ‘company’ was formed to produce reproductions, but instead of producing NHTSA-compliant reproductions, some of the group found it more profitable to pass off reproductions as being original, with a laundered provenance. It’s a problem that has plagued the marque for years. And personally I am not aware of any major auction house that has managed to flog one of these, since the year 2021. Thanks.

    Interesting. I’m not finding any record of a company producing Crockers in 1998. Do you have a name or starting point where I can find more information?

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