Top 10 Defunct Motorcycle Brands

Defunct Motorcycle Brands
Photo by Momentmal

You will be knowledgeable about the few leading motorcycle brands in the world as aficionados and keep a keen watch on their most recent innovations.

However, most people are unaware that there have been several previous prestigious motorcycle companies.

They have fascinating histories that, tragically, have all but disappeared since their closure. Motorcycle brands have enjoyed a period of relative stability for the previous 40 years or more. 

However, the Big Four Japanese automakers Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha, as well as Harley-Davidson and BMW, continue to thrive and appear impervious to harm.

We’ll talk about some of the defunct motorcycle brands and why they failed to catch on with consumers.

1. Hodaka

If you’ve ever ridden a dirt bike, Hodaka may at least partly be blamed. Most of America was introduced to the style during the 1960s and 1970s.

When encountering these defunct motorcycle brands, you could mistake them for a typographical error in “Honda.” Most likely as a result of your prior exposure to lead paint.

A Japanese firm with a US office in Athena, Oregon, made hodaka. Even though the business collapsed, the town celebrates Hodaka Days in June. This includes a procession of Hodaka motorcycles, a bike exhibition, real trials, and motocross competitions.

It wasn’t because of their quality that they failed. The declining exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen were mostly to blame.

Additionally, road bikes saw a rebirth around this period. Hodaka’s inability to adapt was constrained by a lack of funding, ultimately leading to the company’s demise in 1978.

Hodaka was an innovator with very lofty goals. It would have been wonderful to witness them achieve their objectives, keep their market share, and ride off into the distance in 2020.

2. Victory Motorcycles

ATV maker Polaris created the American cruiser motorcycle brand Victory, one of the now defunct motorcycle brands, as a more competitive alternative to Harley-massive Davidson’s V-twin cruiser behemoth that was more reasonably priced and better designed.

To take advantage of the cruiser motorcycle sales boom of the 1990s, it entered the market in 1998 with the Victory V92C.

The brand established a name for itself and survived the 2008 financial crisis because of its cutting-edge designs and excellent performance. 

However, once Polaris purchased the Indian Motorcycle brand, they decided to discontinue the Victory name in 2017. This was so since India had quickly surpassed it in terms of legacy, sales, and growth potential.

3. Whizzer

Bicycles with motors are becoming more popular. Even to those who are too afraid to earn their motorcycle license and too indolent to peddle. The e-bike is back.

They are not recent creations. Over the years, many businesses have produced these; Whizzer is one of them. From 1939 through 1965, they operated a production plant in the US.

These defunct motorcycle brands 78got their start by offering engine kits that customers could attach to their pre-existing motorcycles.

After years of depressing sales, they introduced the “Pacemaker,” a complete bicycle and motor package. Sales never took off, and the business shut its doors in 1965.

About 20 years later, Whizzer emerged from the ashes to recreate the engines while making a few contemporary enhancements. But didn’t stop talking right away.

The question of how to classify powered motorcycles will always be discussed. Whizzer may have just sped up bicycles or slowed down motorcycles.

4. Ossa

Like many other motorcycle producers, Ossa initially produced something quite different. Movies on a screen. If you look attentively at their logo, it’s four movie projectors rather than a four-leaf clover.

Once they entered the motorcycle industry, they were undoubtedly content to let others believe differently.

These defunct motorcycle brands from Spain were lightweight and excellent for racing. Over the years, their motorcycles have won several championships, frequently from Santiago Herrero, their favorite rider.

Grand Prix champion Herrero was killed in a motorcycle accident while competing in a race in 1970. The Ossa took it hard and quit competing in road races entirely.

Over time, they were displaced by more affordable Japanese bikes, and by 1982, the final original Ossas were leaving the factory. In 2010, a new enduro line appeared when the trademark was bought. However, it was short-lived.

5. Vincent Motorcycles

Vincent, a renowned British motorcycle firm founded in 1928 by motorcycle inventor Philip Vincent, was the maker of the famed “Black Shadow,” one of the fastest production bikes of the 20th century.

The Black Shadow is the first superbike in history after setting a record of 150.3 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948.

Since these defunct motorcycle brands only built about 11,000 units before going out of business in 1955, a well-kept Vincent may sell for anywhere between $100,000 and $1,000,000 at auction today.

6. Matchless (AMC)

Matchless is the following brand on our list of defunct motorcycle brands (AMC). It is one of the first motorcycle brands in British history, founded in London in 1899.

The inaugural race of the Isle of Man TT championship in 1907, won by Charlie Collier, the son of the company’s founder Herbert Collier, was one of Matchless’s earliest major victories.

In 1941, Matchless gained notoriety for developing the “teledraulic,” or “telescopic fork,” front suspension system for its bikes. In 1966, Matchless closed its doors due to weak sales and subsequent insolvency.

7. MZ/DKW

One of the defunct motorcycle brands. The DKW trademark was first used in 1917 when Danish businessman Jorgen Rasmussen unveiled the “Dampkraftwage” (Steam Powered Car).

The plant, located in the East German town of Zschopau, began producing motorcycles in the 1920s and, by 1929, had grown to become the largest in the world. 

Following World War II, the Soviet Union removed the name DKW, and the business was renamed “Motorradwerk Zschopau” or MZ.

One of the most important motorcycle designs that helped the post-war world get back to work was their RT125 model, purchased as war reparation and produced by Britain, the US, Russia, and other allies.

The two-stroke MZ bikes, which were practical and quick while being less expensive than their Japanese competitors, achieved a sales milestone of 2 million units by 1983 and won multiple European Enduro Championship races.

The company was taken over by a Turkish and subsequently a Malaysian corporation after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Still, it was ultimately shut down in 2008 owing to ongoing losses.

8. Ace Motor Corporation

Ace produced huge, opulent 4-cylinder bikes between 1919 and 1924. William G. Henderson founded the business after launching and selling Henderson Motorcycles, another now-defunct company, years earlier. Go with what you know.

The Ace motorcycles resembled the Henderson bikes. Henderson loved bikes and wanted to travel faster than everyone else, tragically leading to his demise in 1922 when he was struck by a car while testing the Ace Sporting Solo and lost consciousness.

Soon after, the business went out of business and was bought by the Indian Motorcycle Company. It went under Indian Ace for a year before shedding the Ace moniker.

Nothing resembling the original Ace design was left after the four-cylinder engine’s production ended in 1942.

9. Cagiva

One of the defunct motorcycle brands with its company in Varese, Italy, and a founder called Castiglioni Giovanni, Cagiva began manufacturing bikes in 1978.

This was after acquiring the AMF-Harley-Davidson facility there. Due to the rapid growth of its two-stroke 125cc and 350cc motorcycle sales, it acquired rival companies like Ducati, Moto Morini, Husqvarna, and MV Agusta in the 1980s. 

During this period, Cagiva entered the Motocross, 500cc Grand Prix, and Dakar Rally Championships and achieved podium places in all three.

Under the direction of the famous designer and Bimota creator Massimo Tamburini, who created iconic motorcycles like the Ducati 916 and Mito 125, a favorite of Valentino Rossi, the Cagiva Research Center (CRC) was founded in 1987.

The Ducati and Moto Morini trademarks were sold off, and MV Agusta was designated the parent brand in 1999 because of financial difficulties and internal reorganization.

In 2008, Harley-Davidson acquired the company but sold it to founder Claudio Castiglioni’s son. The Cagiva brand has been inactive since MV Agusta receives all the attention.

10. Maserati Motorcycles

Maserati, the final brand on our list of defunct motorcycle brands, was well-known for more than just their supercars.

In the 1950s, Maserati, a grouping of different Orsi family enterprises, was divided among its three siblings, two brothers and a sister. Ida, the sister, bought the “Fabbrica Candele e Accumulatori Maserati” company’s spark plug section and the right to use the “Trident” brand.

In 1953, Fabbrica Candele e Accumulatori Maserati began its motorcycle business by purchasing the established motorcycle manufacturer “Italmoto” in response to the growing need for affordable motorized transportation.

Following the L/125/T2, influenced by the German DKW, their first model was a 160cc touring bike dubbed the “Tipo 160” based on Italmoto’s ideas.

Youth were drawn to Maserati motorcycles, which initially found popularity in South America, European, and North African markets.

However, due to fierce rivalry from other well-known Italian brands, the entry of FIAT’s compact automobiles into the price range, and financial difficulties within the Orsi family, Maserati Motorcycles was liquidated in 1960.

Conclusion

Some brands are well-known throughout the motorcycle business. Due to their longevity, most people are familiar with Harley Davidson, Indian, Triumph, Honda, and other brands.

Some folks may have encountered older, antique models. Throughout the time that you were unaware of and have since pondered “where they came from” and “where they went.” Your query will be answered by looking at this list of defunct motorcycle brands.

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