Charles Linbergh's Excelsior "X"

Charles Linbergh is well know for his exploits in the field of aviation, becoming the first pilot to complete a transatlantic flight in 1927.  What you may not know is that before becoming an airplane pilot, Lindbergh spent a fair amount of time piloting an Exclesior motorcycle.

When Linbergh was in high school, he ordered a new twin-cylinder 1920 model Excelsior "X" motorcycle from Martin Engstrom's hardware store in his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota.  He paid $290 for the motorcycle and was known around town for his fast and sometimes reckless riding.  Locals remember him riding along the steep banks of the Mississippi River past a local power plant on his way back and forth to town.  The owner of the power plant became concerned that Lindbergh was going to ride right off the bank and into the river, so he blocked the trail, forcing Lindbergh to take a safer route to town.

Lindbergh didn't just use the Excelsior for around town rides, it also carried him some significant distances, especially considering the roads at that time.  In 1920, he rode from Little Falls to Madison, Wisconsin to attend engineering college.  Two years later he made a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska where he entered flight school.  That trip was made during the spring, when abundant rainfall made for poor road conditions.  Around the town of New Glarus, WI, Lindergh found himself in a particularly muddy stretch of road and eventually got stuck.

Lindbergh kept the Excelsior for 23 years, until finally donating it to the Henry Ford museum in 1943.  Ford and Lindbergh were good friends, so he thought it would be a fitting place to display the motorcycle. The bike sat in original condition for around 30 years, before being fully restored by Theodore Hodgdon (President of the BSA Motorcycle US Factory Branch) in the 1970's.



Unknown said...

I read an article years ago in "The Antique Motorcycle," magazine of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, by Ted Hodgdon himself (one of the founders of the AMCA), that when he first saw the Lindbergh Excelsior at the Henry Ford museum, it was a mess, and incomplete.

Someone had sandblasted it to bare metal and sprayed it with clear lacquer, apparently trying to "preserve" what remained of it. But it looked awful. Ted Hodgdon, being a pretty well known restorer and Excelsior enthusiast himself, made an offere to the Henry Ford Museum to restore it to new condition, and a deal was struck. The bare-metal "trophy" was transferred to him and he completely restored the old Excelsior, having all the parts it lacked, and he had it painted its original Excelsior blue and striped, as it appears today.

Wasen said...

I have seen Lindbergs Excelsior when flying for Sweden at the World hot air balloon chamionship in Battle Creec Michigan 1985. It was then labelled as an 1919 Excelsior.Having an unrestored Excelsior myself I asked the staff about it.I do not know if Bix X was produced already 1919.Anyhow I was shown the letter from Charles Lindberg to Henry Ford donating the Excelsior to the museum. I have a faint memory that he wrote that he had bought it 1919. I do not now if the model yaer has been changed today. Anyhow the deep blue color is the same one that I have found under the black ugly paint on mine.I have ssen light blue Excelsior but which is really the real royal blue? I have started up renovating my Bix X after 46 years(bought in in 1966) I am still missing original rimes and wonder where to find the, And will the swedish authorities accept AGA gas light?