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20's production numbers? Harley, Indian and Excelsior?

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  • 20's production numbers? Harley, Indian and Excelsior?

    I've thought about this for some time and thought I'd pose a question, only part of which I can shed some light on. I'd like to see production numbers for the big 3 American makers for the period 1920-1930. It would be interesting to compare numbers. I suspect HD was the winner here, Indian being close and X / Henderson being considerably lower.

    To be fair, we should try and compare apples and apples as best we can, so breaking those numbers down by displacement if possible would be great but maybe not practical.

    Exceslior and Henderson production numbers are difficult to pin down. For years the only information to go by was a list of serial numbers compiled by Ballack and Company in St. Louis. Ballack took over much of the X and Henderson inventory and service business after X closed in 1931. These numbers don't always add up and great speculation surrounds their accuracy. One big issue is that X may not have done a good job of keeping serial #'s in sequence, some holes exist in the production figures. Thomas Bund and Bob Turek show considerably different numbers in their book AMERICAN EXCELSIOR. Those figures do not reflect specific model production, just total production for each year. I tend to believe these numbers over the Ballack numbers as the bulk of these figures come from annual reports of the Excelsior company.

    Here is a summary of those figures:

    Ballack production numbers:

    61" X twin 1920-1924: Approximately 5600
    45" Super X twin 1925-30: Approximately 6400 Total: 48,000 machines combined
    4 cylinder Henderson 1920-1930: Approximately 36,000

    Bund / Turek production numbers show a combined total production of approximately 27,676 machines for the period of 1920-1930.

    Obviously a big difference, Ballack numbers would indicate a total production of approximately 48,000 machines vs the 27,676 number from Bund / Turek. So, either X was cooking the books with production numbers or Ballack had numbers based on actual highest serial numbers seen and there were gaps in the sequence. Who knows!

    One interesting comparison that seems reasonable appears in American Excelsior, page 440. In a letter dated July 29, 1931 from W.A. Davidson to J.M. Grossmith, he lists production figures for January 17, 1928 to June 30, 1931. These numbers were used to determine royalty payments to F. Christofferson for his front brake patent. Total production figures were given as follows for the big 3:

    Harley Davidson: 63,845
    Indian: 30,249
    Excelsior: 6052

    So, can any of you HD and Indian experts show comparable figures? It would be interesting to see.

    Gene Harper
    Last edited by gharper; 07-31-2020, 10:54 AM.

  • #2
    Dear Gene, I've slogged through the Internet and existing motorcycle sources to find 1929-40 US motorcycle and car production. Both markets were sourced from essentially all domestic manufacture. Over this period, Harley outsold Indian a little better than two to one. The interesting parts for me were that 1933 was the worst production year for both cars and bikes, and over the period 140 US cars were sold for each motorcycle. Production numbers by model for Harleys in the 1920s are given in the Harley black book and are pretty good. You should be able to find Indian numbers and take a good guess at Excelsior/Henderson. I'm also interested in the results.