Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Motorcycle Throwback - The 1926 Cleveland
The ""Fowler Four"" would be Cleveland Motorcycle's attempt at keeping up in the market.
With all of the fast paced evolutions that were occurring within the motorcycle industry in the 1920's, some manufacturers thrived. The Cleveland Motorcycle company was not one of these. Never really heard of them? There's a reason.
This short lived motorcycle company started out in 1902 when motorcycles were beginning to become such a hot commodity. Much like many of the other manufacturers at that time, Cleveland motorcycles were just a hodge-podge of generic parts with their name thrown on the side. The only slight difference that the company made with their motorcycles was to put the engine in a separate cradle between the frame and rear wheel to give it a very low center of gravity. However, these bikes still only managed to look slightly different from the very popular Indian motorcycles during that time period.
Over the years, Cleveland motorcycles tried to further set their rides apart by making their frames low and long. However, this design was just odd. It held a small two-stroke single that was turned 90 degrees to push power through the chain drive to the rear wheel. These bikes managed to sell at first because they were so simple and lightweight as well as inexpensive.
But as time went on, motorcycle engines evolved quickly. Four cylinders were introduced in the mid 1920's and the public fell in love. The extra power made two strokes quickly obsolete and Cleveland motorcycles found themselves needing to step up to the plate. In 1926, this featured motorcycle was put out to meet demands. Cleveland's 1926 motorcycle was run off of a four cylinder T-head engine that put out 600 ccs. The perk of this engine was that it was much smaller and lighter than most of the four cylinders, and even V-twins, being produced at the time. With an improved clutch and three-speed transmission, this bike was dubbed the ""Fowler Four"" and held great promise for the company.
But lighter did not mean faster. The public found the new 1926 Cleveland motorcycle to be lack-luster. Only 100 were produced before Cleveland motorcycles attempted to recover by putting out a flathead version that put out 750 ccs and then one that threw out 1000 ccs but the damage was already done. With the Great Depression in full swing and so many other motorcycle companies already having cornered the four cylinder market, Cleveland motorcycles found their production coming to halt quickly after.