I love looking at antique motorcycles. I have ridden one or two over the years and loved the adventure but would I want to own one? I don’t think so. They take too much work. I like to appreciate the work that someone else did to keep a wonderful piece of history running. The love and dedication that goes into restoring and then maintaining an antique motorcycle, not to mention the money ($$$$$) is truly admirable.
A couple of years ago I toured the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh New York and was enthralled by motorcycle makes that have been long gone, makes that lasted just one or two years, makes I had never heard of. They were all there. Some beautifully restored, others rusty and dirty as the day they came out of a barn in Iowa. It was beautiful.
At the turn of the century (the 20th century) when fortunes were being made in the bicycle business a few started stuffing an engine into the bicycle frame and a new world was born. The world we love so much.
One of the company’s that was short lived also had an important part in one of motorcycling’s greatest legendary brands. Aurora Manufacturing in Aurora Illinois started making parts and tools for bicycles back in 1886, one of the companies buying these tools and parts was Hendee Manufacturing the makers of Silver King and Silver Queen bicycles…ringing a bell yet? it will.
In 1901 George Hendee sent Aurora an engine to be studied and parts and tools made for. Aurora went and produced the engine of Hendee’s design which was the basis for the beginning of the Indian Moto Cycle company. Is that cool or what? The deal was that Aurora would build the motors and sell motors to others (with a royalty paid of course) but they couldn’t build motorcycles to compete with Indian. No problem.
By 1903 Indian had its own manufacturing set up and Aurora was once again on their own. That same year Aurora founded the Aurora Moto Cycle and Bicycle Co. Thor Motorcycles was born.
At that point, Aurora/Thor was basically just a catalog company…here’s all the parts, build it yourself. Not much different from what we can do today…I build cafe racers that way.
By 1908 the Indian apron strings had been cut and Thor was complete motorcycles. Aurora/Thor built singles and then big twins under the Thor name. They had some success in racing, but nothing really of note.
Thor shut down motorcycle production somewhere between 1916 and 1918. The reason I say somewhere is that on paper, production ended in 1916 but bikes were assembled with existing parts into 1918 and rumor has it that a few bikes were sold up until 1920.
I found a really nice 1912 single on ebay today that would make a great restoration project. The reason I think this is great is because the bike is just about complete as it is! It’s not a basket case, it isn’t a rust bucket it just needs a few parts. Some you’re going to have to make yourself, some you might find on the internet. It is a 5hp single…not what you would call fast and not a bike that you could ride in the Cannonball Coast to Coast (even though it qualifies by age). The seller is not asking an unreasonable price for what you are getting. So if you have a desire to restore a very unique motorcycle with a pretty cool story behind it. Give this one a look.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.