Post Sale Update: This Welbike sold for $10,100 after 54 bids on eBay.
At the request of the British government, Excelsior developed the Welbike, a tiny single seater that was designed to be dropped into combat situations via parachute-equipped containers. The goal was that it could be unpacked and ready to ride within 11 seconds.
Italy, Germany, and America had similar designs – I’ve featured the American take on this parachutable-motorcycle before: a Cushman Model 53. In a 2 year period, 3,461 Welbikes were built, though few actually spent time in combat. To fit into the container, the Welbike had no suspension, lights or front brake. Unfortunately, there were flaws in the design that came to light when the bikes were most needed: the weight difference between a soldier and the motorcycle meant they typically did not land near each other after leaving the plane. In addition, the bike wasn’t suitable for rough terrain because of the minimal power and tiny tires. Because of this, many Welbikes were either captured by the enemy before they were even used or abandoned on the battlefield by soldiers who figured they could get to their destination easier on foot.
While they may not have been as effective as desired on the battlefield, the history makes them interesting collectibles in modern times. The seller states that he bought the bike from an “older gentlemen whose father brought it back from the War. I have the name of the man who brought it back, as well as pictures of him riding an old indian in 1939 before he left for the war. He had brought it back, and showed his son around age 6 (whom I bought it from) how to “ride a motorcycle” on it.” It’s highly original, though it has been repainted and the seller goes into some detail to describe the difficulties with keeping the repaint as accurate as possible. While it turns over with compression, it does not currently run. The seller will include drawings and plans for a drop container to help you complete the visual effect of how this bike would have been thrown out of a plane decades ago.
Find this Welbike for sale in Reno, Nevada with bidding up to $5,500