Post Sale Update: This Welbike sold for $12,433 after 33 bids on eBay in Seattle, Washington.
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. This example (VIN: 1593 MK II) was “purchased by a famous old Seattle motorcycle legend from a flea market in the 1970’s. He and his buddies rode it until he decided to park it in the shed. Unfortunately, he thought it would be a good idea to preserve it, so he shellac-ed the whole bike prior to long-term storage. I discovered the long forgotten bike last year and pulled it out into the sunlight. I slowly and meticulously began removing the shellac carefully to maintain what original paint was left.”
The owner replaced some parts to make it a runner (tires, coil, condenser, plug, gas cap, and cables) but the originals are included with the sale. The seller rebuilt the carb and says that it’s easy to start and ride though the “clutch is currently seized or stuck.” I would think that a stuck clutch wouldn’t jive with “easy to start and ride”, but:
I’ve featured a few of these but it’s rare to find a runner with the original paint, and I’m a sucker for that combo. Find this Welbike for sale in Seattle, Washington with bidding up to $5,300 and the reserve already met here on eBay.