Vintage Motorcycles

The Vintage Motorcycle Museum is a private collection owned by Virgil Elings. The museum is housed in Solvang, California.

To see the collection, phone the number noted at the front of the building or walk to the noted Suite to get someone to let you in (and collect the entrance fee of $10). The emphasis of the collection is toward racing bikes, since Virgil and his son were involved in racing. Motorcycles from the collection are constantly rotated in and out of the museum so it will remain fresh on return visits.

Crocker The 1940 Crocker Big Tank shown to the left and below is one of around 100 made by Al Crocker beginning in 1936. The photo to the left is through the Museum’s window.

Crocker made this 1,000 cc V-twin to compete with Indian and Harley. Crocker offered a full refund of the purchase price to any buyer who was beaten by an Indian or Harley. No refund was ever awarded.

For More Information on the Crocker Big Tank, see 1940 Crocker Big Tank.

Arial This 1934 Ariel Square Four is an overhead cam 600 cc four cylinder. Ariel manufactured single and twin cylinder motorcycles beginning in 1902.

The Square Four was an odd looking engine since it carried the exhaust for four cylinders through two exhaust pipes.

For more information on the Ariel Square Four, see 1934 Ariel Square Four.

Matchless  The 1933 Matchless Silver Hawk shown here is equipped with a 600cc V-Four overhead cam engine, coupled with a four-speed transmission. It was considered to be a top-of-the-line luxury model, but was unfortunately developed during the Great Depression, so sales were small.

For more information on the Matchless Silver Hawk, see 1933 Matchless Silver Hawk. 

NSU The NSU shown here is a 1904 V-Twin. NSU ranked with BMW and DKW as Germany’s most famous motorcycles. NSU began manufacturing in 1900. Their motorcycles won the 250cc world championship in 1953, 1954, and 1955.

NSU became involved with Felix Wankel’s rotary engine in the 50s. Due to engineering difficulties, the involvement spelled the end of NSU and they were eventually bought out by Wolkswagen.


This 1955 Triumph TR5 was a 500cc motocross bike, even though it came with street lighting.

Note the short travel on the front forks. This bike was restored from a basket case over a period of 2 years (it was difficult to find the original tires). When he died, James Dean owned one of these.


This 1936 BMW R12 (below) was known for its reliability and is frequently seen in WWII war film footage.

Because it was so reliable the U.S. Army commissioned Harley Davidson to produce replicas of it, but none were produced before the war ended.


This photo shows the 1966 Velocette Thruxton.

The Thruxton was made from 1965 to 1970 and had numerous successes in production racing, but the timeing for this bike was poor, because the Japanese bikes were about to eclipse the British machines. Because someone stole them from the factory, the last ones did not have the big GP carburator. 

Indian This 1946 Indian Chief was the primary reason I was motivated to visit the museum. When Lisa and I located the museum early in the day, I spotted the Chief through the window and knew I’d have to return in the afternoon for a better look.

Since the 1950s when I first was introduced to motorcycles, the Indian Chief has always remained the one bike I’d most like to acquire. For more information on the 1946 Indian Chief, see 1946 Indian Chief.