Could the historic (yet ultimately short-lived) Excelsior-Henderson nameplate be resurrected for the 21st century by Indian firm Bajaj Auto?
By Ollie Barstow
We all love a dash of nostalgia in the motorcycle world, but it seems the Indian market loves them the most based on the frequency of once-forgotten brands being dusted off to live again in a new, modern age. Recently we have seen Jawa and BSA resuscitated by Mahindra, while TVS Motors is now the proud owners of Norton and though it has not been raised from the dead, Triumph is an iconic nameplate waiting to make more waves in India via its association with Bajaj. In fact, it is Bajaj that is potentially responsible for the latest brand rumored to be getting a 21st century makeover decades after the shutters were closed for the last time with the evocatively titled Excelsior-Henderson.
First, a history lesson: Excelsior-Henderson can trace its roots way, way back to the 19th century – 1876 to be exact – as the manufacturer of bicycles, which morphed organically into its first motorcycles in 1906, which progressed with the times over the ensuing decades. However, it gained a new lease of life in 1993 as part of the Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycle Company, basing itself out of Minnesota and focusing on that all-American Harley-Esque cruiser and touring market with its first model – the Super X – landing in 1998. Alas, the company burned bright but burned fast, the rapid investment during the boom years of the late 90s ill-timed to cope with the bubble bursting economy of the early 2000s. Investment dried up and just as Excelsior-Henderson was finding traction with buyers, it went bust. This brings us to 2020 and Bajaj, which has owned the rights to the name for two years and after pondering over what to do with it, seems ready to reveal some plans after a trademark was filed in the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office). While this could mean as little as clothing and accessories, it could also mean a whole host of new motorcycles on the horizon. Estimated guessing has us thinking it could be Bajaj’s reaction to Harley-Davidson and Hero’s recent link up to create new, affordable cruiser models. Time will tell, but given brand, revivals are in vogue at the moment, we’re very interested to find out where this could lead…