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1918 Thor Motorcycle – Steve McQueen

Written by Motorcyclepedia

1918 Thor Motorcycle

By 1918 the Thor Motorcycle Company was fading into obscurity. We know they brought a new model single out in 1918 mostly from left over parts. Enough changes were made that we know that the company was still producing bikes.

In 1919 Thor brought out a new sales catalogue however except for the cover and a change in name the motorcycle was identical. The parent company transferred motorcycle production to the Aurora Pneumatic Tool Company of Chicago Illinois. Which was simply just a different division of the same company. In 1920 the board of directors announced a halt to motorcycle production.

In 1965 an employee of Thor who was a semi-retired janitor sent a letter to the AMCA stating that he hard worked for Thor until 1916 when they stopped motorcycle production and sold everything to a salvage company. Based on this account many books erroneously state that Thor ended production in 1916. Well it is easy to prove that production continued until 1918 because of the changes advertised in their sales brochure. Many of those parts exist today as proof.  I don’t know of a complete machine that claims to be later than 1917 and even that one has the wrong motor. I have seen three motors in 1918-20 frames with serial numbers inside the case showing they were built in 1916! Maybe the last motors were built in 1916 who can say? Maybe the last machines were assembled in 1918 and sales were such that they continued to have inventory until 1920? It is hard to know. Thor did continue to produce power tools under the name Thor well into the 50s. A separate division of the Aurora Company known as Hubley Manufacturing produced a line of home appliances such as clothes washers, irons and dishwashers using the Thor brand name. At one time they produced a combination clothes washer – dishwasher which may help explain why they are no longer in business!

After the 50s it gets somewhat fuzzy. Several divisions were being sold off or closed. I am uncertain whom, if anyone owns the rights to the Thor motorcycle name however no division of the parent company is still using the Thor logo.

This twin was purchased at the November 1984 Imperial Palace Auction of the Steve McQueen Collection. Steve’s son Chad signed the Certificate of Authenticity. Bruce Lindsay restored the machine in 2011 keeping all the original accessories in place. Steve McQueen’s wife Barbara visited the museum in 2012 and signed the gas tank. This is the last motorcycle Steve purchased. He found the Thor in the Chicago area when he was filming the movie “The Hunter”. In the movie Steve played professional bounty hunter Ralph “Papa” Thorson.

The headlight on this motorcycle runs off of Acetylene Gas. Weaver Gas & AGL Welding Supply of Newburgh, NY and Kohl Gas of Lockport, NY who today are large suppliers of Industrial Gasses got their start providing Acetylene tanks for these early motorcycles.

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