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1924 Big X

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  • 1924 Big X

    31 years ago, I purchased the bones of a Series 20 Excelsior from Carl Vandre. This started me down the Excelsior path!

    After years of searching, buying, selling, trading, fabricating, fitting and re-fitting It's finally together with all the correct parts. Yes, a few modifications for performance and safety but otherwise very correct. Last weekend I rolled it off the bench for a few pictures. Now it is completely disassembled and sorted for paint and plating as well as the remainder of the engine work to finish up. Plan to ride cross country with this bike next September, no not the Cannonball!

    Sorry I didn't post all my restoration details, and there were many, but I prefer to be in the shop, not on the computer!

    Gene
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Thanks Gene, for sharing. what a beautiful 1st build! Congratulations!
    Steve Swan

    27JD 11090 Restored
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClUPIOo7-o8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtuptEAlU30

    27JD 13514 aka "Frank"
    https://forum.antiquemotorcycle.org/...n-Project-SWAN
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNRB...nnel=steveswan

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSDeuTqD9Ks
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwlIsZKmsTY

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    • #3
      VERY NICE example of a relatively rare Excelsior. Can't wait to see the color when its finished. Good job !!

      Especially after a very long 31 years !! I thought my recently completed project ('45 Chief EU), took a long time to finish... nearly 5 years, whew! I'll bet you're a very happy guy.

      C2K

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      • #4
        Very nice Gene, thanks for posting that!

        Hopefully the little guy you're holding in one of the pictures is also into vintage motorcycles?
        Pisten Bulley is Harry Roberts in Vermont.

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        • #5
          Gene is being very modest as he is one of the most knowledgeable Excelsior enthusiasts, extant! Actually, the 1924 Big X is extremely rare with a number of one, and last year only features that Gene discovered through years of careful research. Our founder, Ted Hodgdon was also a fan of Excelsior and told a story of wanting to see one at the Excelsior/Henderson dealer in his town. The dealer said "I'll show you one if you buy it. I don't stock Excelsiors because I only sell Hendersons." The Big X was competition for the Henderson which was the reason Excelsior created the Super X. My hat is off to Gene, as I know first hand how difficult an Excelsior is to 'Make Good'.
          Last edited by exeric; 10-29-2020, 04:03 PM.
          Eric Smith
          AMCA #886

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          • #6
            The little guy in the picture is my daughter, less than 2 at the time. She is now 24 and could has no interest in old motorcycles, other than knowing I do. Maybe it's because of all the times I embarrassed her as a teenager when I'd ride a sidecar rig to school to pick her up, being sure to make a big deal of it in front of her friends!

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks for the kudos Eric! Indeed, this is the rarest of the rare (production) Excelsiors. I love the looks of the "Series 20" Excelsiors, it was my first X.....

              What is often referred to as the Series 20 X was made from late 1919 into early 25, though the "Series" designation was dropped starting in 1922 after which it was referred to as the Excelsior by the factory (as opposed to the Henderson). It was introduced in conjunction with the new Henderson Model K for the 1920 season. Both models shared many common assemblies and parts, such as the entire front end assembly, wheels, fenders, electrics, seat and blue paint. This was a smart move by Schwinn as it eliminated a lot of duplication in manufacturing of parts. In addition, incorporating the new much heavier front end, balloon tires, wider fenders and larger tank to the X improved the ride considerably and made it look a whole new machine. Problem is, it was still basically a 1915 design frame and powerplant, on par with the 1915 Indian. Over the years only minor changes were made to the 20's X, all of which were done to incorporate an off the shelf Henderson part. Interestingly though, for 1924 they made the most changes of the entire series, only to drop the line by the next year in favor of the 45" Super X. The changes for 1924 included Timken bearing hubs, 1 1/2" wide brake and wider frame to fit (vs 1" for earlier models), tool / battery boxes, elimination of the spring seat post and use of the external seat spring assembly and new Troxel seat, new style ammeter, headlight and switch, taillight and horn

              I've discovered that this model was really the neglected bastard child of the Schwinn family. I say this because virtually no engineering effort was put into the X during these years. The factory clearly spent their engineering efforts on the K Model Henderson for 1920 and the Deluxe for 1922, both significantly re-engineered machines. With the introduction of the Super X in 1925, this meant that the factory engineers were very busy designing this model for a few years before introduction in 1925. The Super X was a huge improvement in design: 45" Pocket valve cylinders , true unit construction crankcase, helical primary drive and a smaller, lighter but stronger chassis. Production figures tell an interesting story as well. For the years 1920-24, total Henderson production appears to be about 15,000 units VS Excelsior production numbers of about 6000, 4000 of which were produced in 1920 alone.

              So, the model I'm working on has all the latest updates and is the second highest serial # I know of, making it near the end of production sometime in late 1924. I like it because it is not just a regular old "Series 20", but the best of an old design. In essence though, it is a 1915 design dressed up with fancy new clothes and lots of lipstick!

              Attached are 2 pictures of a 1924 model, taken in front of a dealer in England. This is an English export model, note no EXCELSIOR lettering in the tank decals. Schwinn didn't hold the copyright to that name in England as there was an English motorcycle by the same name, so they had to eliminate that for models exported to England. Still able to see the name cast into the right side crankcase though..... Anyway, these pictures and the 24 sales brochure have been my guide for restoration.

              24 X left side NOS.jpg24 X right side NOS.jpg

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              • #8
                Gene, Thanks for the great photo of Carl. I miss him. We rode our to Super X's together several times and he brought his Henderson with sidecar to several of our road runs. Good job on the X.
                DrSprocket

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                • #9
                  Congratulations Gene. Can't wait to see the X dolled-up with new makeup.

                  *M.A.D.*

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by exeric View Post
                    Gene is being very modest as he is one of the most knowledgeable Excelsior enthusiasts, extant! Actually, the 1924 Big X is extremely rare with a number of one, and last year only features that Gene discovered through years of careful research. Our founder, Ted Hodgdon was also a fan of Excelsior and told a story of wanting to see one at the Excelsior/Henderson dealer in his town. The dealer said "I'll show you one if you buy it. I don't stock Excelsiors because I only sell Hendersons." The Big X was competition for the Henderson which was the reason Excelsior created the Super X. My hat is off to Gene, as I know first hand how difficult an Excelsior is to 'Make Good'.
                    Great response Eric and a nice job by Gene.

                    Mike Love

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gharper View Post
                      Thanks for the kudos Eric! Indeed, this is the rarest of the rare (production) Excelsiors. I love the looks of the "Series 20" Excelsiors, it was my first X.....

                      Anyway, these pictures and the 24 sales brochure have been my guide for restoration.

                      [ATTACH=CONFIG]30134[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]30135[/ATTACH]
                      Like this story and I ask that you consider telling it. Maybe just do one member bike build entry per week. We'll take that in return for the details and some work in progress photos.

                      Were or are you in the fire department Gene? I saw the Maltese cross on the outside wall of your garage. That's the profession I did as a career.

                      Mike Love

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                      • #12
                        Mike,

                        I'll think about more posts as I proceed..... like I've said before, I prefer to be in the shop and not in front of the computer! I find all the steps to post a bit frustrating.

                        The bigger story will be the "Lindbergh Ride". Myself and 4 other nut jobs are currently restoring Series 20 machines. We plan to ride them together next fall on a 3800 mile trip, retracing Charles Lindbergh's trip he made in 1921 on his Series 20 X. He rode from Madison WI to Jacksonville FL, then returned home to Little Falls, MN. There, the cat is out of the bag! And the answer to ALL is NO, you can't join us and ride along on your shovelhead etc! I made 4 iron clad rules when I invited guys to join me and I will not budge on any of them: 1. You must ride a Series 20 X (defined as 20-24 only). 2. You must restore the machine yourself, that way I know you're capable of keeping it running! 3. Pay your own way. 4. Get along. More on that later, assuming I can get the time....

                        I retired from the Fire Department as an Engineer, almost 3 years ago. Like many, I wore a lot of hats over the years: firefighter, paramedic and field instructor, rescue diver, RIT, SCBA Technician, wildland firefighter, driving instructor and more. It was a great run and I got out at a good time, while I still enjoyed the job and had a good attitude, but most importantly my health! Glad I retired because I sure wouldn't want to be dealing with the Covid crap now! Lots of my buddies at work are getting it, some no big deal, some are struggling, but then they all bring it home......

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                        • #13
                          Progress on the 24 Big X......
                          Nickel plating is all done, lots of shiny new parts. The Packard Blue paint is finally done and the pin striper has been here a couple times. Still need to stripe the frame and tank, but what he has done so far is great! These early machines had lots of hand striping on them, a testament to the craftsmanship of the day. Like I mentioned earlier, the 20-24 X was a dolled up 1915 design and I have to say, the dark blue with gold stripes dolls the old girl up pretty nicely!



                          Still waiting on my new connecting rods and engine pins so I can build and balance the crank assembly. In the mean time, I've been revisiting my cylinders. Hope to have 2 complete sets built up, all fitted and ready to drop on. In my opinion, this is the Achilles heel of these old bikes. Think about these fragile cast iron cylinders and how many times they have been heat cycled, over heated, run dry, then sat to rust, been dropped or banged around in storage. I've ben looking for years for good cylinders and finally have 2 usable sets, but only after a LOT of work! Broken fins, broken base flanges, ugly bores, damaged threads, all needed attention. My good friend Jim Wall has been really helpful with his welding abilities for fin and base flange repairs. Millennium Technologies in Wisconsin has been doing the Nika Sil bore coatings which turned out beautiful, super smooth and hard. Unfortunately, some of the pits were so deep they couldn't fill them all. So, as Howard Wagner said, "That just holds more oil". Also made new OS nuts for the intake cages. The threads are always worn in these holes and some of the nuts will blow out on compression, sending the intake rocker tower and valve cage into the tank, not good.


                          I'll try and post more pictures as I progress on the final engine build.

                          Gene Harper
                          You do not have permission to view this gallery.
                          This gallery has 5 photos.

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                          • #14
                            Wow! That paint is stunning!

                            Dale

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                            • #15
                              **Those 24's need to be right side up. I like your Daughter story Gene, it's still early, maybe she'll take a spin on your Excelsior when you're finished with the restoration.



                              *M.A.D.*

                              fullsizeoutput_10dc.jpeg
                              fullsizeoutput_10db.jpeg
                              Last edited by JoJo357; 02-13-2021, 06:01 AM.

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