by Dan Hanlon
401 pages, $32.95
Union Hill Press, copyright 2003
by Sev Pearman
I finished this book before Christmas, and I am still struggling with an opinion as we go to press in mid-February. If there is a subject that needs a decent analysis, the story of the reincarnation of the Excelsior-Henderson brand name is it. Briefly, the 1920s were a time of motorcycle brand consolidation in America. Chicago bicycle magnate Ignatz Schwinn shuffled the cards and turned E-H into the 3rd largest brand, after Indian and Harley Davidson, until he closed it one Monday morning in 1932.
The brand lay dormant until two Hanlon brothers from Belle Plaine, Minnesota quietly acquired all trademark rights and commenced design of an all-new proprietary motorcycle. The Super-X is not another H-D clone of catalog parts. To the Hanlon’s credit, it has its own unique engine, designed by Weslake, a motorsports engineering legend. Whether or not the bike worked, or the company could have evolved into a solid dependable player, we’ll never know.
It requires tremendous leadership and a healthy ego to run a corporation in America’s business oligarchy. Mr. Hanlon makes the case that inspiration and leadership got E-H as far as it did. I came away with the impression that he was able to motivate and inspire both the “Road Crew,” as E-H employees were dubbed, as well as the financial community, where Mr. Hanlon repeatedly raised capital. The author has a healthy ego as well and makes no apologies for his vision of his company and how he almost pulled it off. Since the author was both founder and CEO of Excelsior Henderson, Riding the American Dream is a sympathetic read. There is no check to Mr. Hanlon’s ego, no balance against his perspective of events. The book has three titles for Chrissakes.
It’s this lack of balance that ultimately disappoints. This book isn’t so much a history of the E-H marque or the creation of the modern Super-X motorcycle as it is the author’s take on playing with Big Dollar$. Riding the American Dream is better filed next to business titles by Michael Milkin and/or Harvey Mackay. While students of corporate America may enjoy this, it goes without our recommendation for the riding enthusiast.
MBA Student–How to Kite Millions While Avoiding the SEC
Average Joe–Didn’t his brother work there too?
Former Super-X dealers–Git a rope…