History: Mini Bike Factories, Suppliers and Dealers

#1
This thread will attempt to record for posterity, information and photographs relating to mini-bike production plants and factories, both then and now. Unfortunately, most or all of these manufacturing operations have been lost to time and progress(?)

Some of the structures still exist, albeit it with a different tenant and a different line of manufacturing....but it’s still kind of interesting to see what it looks like.

Perhaps with any luck, the ghosts of mini-bikes past still haunt these places…..

Also included in this thread will be photos of notable dealerships, retail outlets, and trade shows from back in the day……

This may prove to be an arduous or perhaps even futile task…surely it will be a work in progress for some time to come…..but I think it's worth a try.




Think you’ve got something to contribute…? maybe a factory photo from an old trade journal or magazine…???

Post it up or send me the info or links and I’ll place it in the proper format from here we're going to try and keep it neat and orderly…….

I have already assembled a small team of crack detectives who are "working the beat"...I may be looking to recruit some more but I must warn you the hours are long and the pay is lousy...:detective:


Coming soon:
Stellar Industries
Harrison Research
RUPP Industries
Steen’s
Powell Industries
Michrina Bros. (Lil Indian)
and more........
 
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#2

CHEEFTAH / LOMART

Lomart Engine Products
980 Alabama Ave
Brooklyn, NY



History:


Martin Hoffinger, a tireless crusader for the pool manufacturing industry and longtime head of aboveground pool-maker Doughboy, died on Jan. 23, 2010. He was 88. As CEO of Hoffinger Industries, Marty, as he was best-known, was revered as much for his willingness to speak out against frivolous lawsuits and defects in the American legal system as he was for his revolutionary pools and filtration systems.

“He was a classic entrepreneur ever since he was a small child,” said Doug Hollowell, president of Hoffinger Industries in Olive Branch, Miss. “He was definitely an innovator. And he would often say, ‘You can always sell quality and value, in any economy.’”

Hoffinger and his wife Lorraine founded Lomart Industries, a small tool and die company in Brooklyn, N.Y. The pair toiled for several years until one day, in 1954, Hoffinger decided to buy an aboveground pool, a status symbol at the time.

Hoffinger would go on to acquire the Clinton Engine Co. in 1966, followed by Doughboy Recreational in 1974.







Martin Hoffinger (r) at aquisition of Clinton Engine Co. 1966
******************Pictured above a brochure showing Clinton Powered Cheeftahs



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Today:



(Photo by OMB member mc73cromags)

Current tenant or usage : Action Rack Manufacturing/ Display Fixtures for Garment Industry



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#3

STELLAR INDUSTRIES

Stellar Industries
131 Sunnyside Blvd
Plainview. L.I., NY








Today:



(2012 Photo by OMB member mc73cromags)



(2016 Photo by OMB member BigBoyToys)



Current tenant or usage : Hit Toy Company

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#4


LI'L INDIAN




" The Michrina brothers--Ray, Larry and Regis--generally are regarded as the fathers of the classic mini-bike, i.e. a tubular frame with 4-inch wheels and 3- to 5-horsepower lawnmower or Go-Kart engine.

Inspired by a motorscooter frame given to them by 1952 Indianapolis 500 winner Troy Ruttman, the brothers designed a scaled-down version using Go-Kart wheels and a Clinton A-400 Go-Kart motor. Ruttman bought the first three L'il Indians produced to get around the pits at race courses.

"Troy wanted to know what to call these little scooters," says Ray Michrina, "and up to that point we just called it `little scooter,' but that didn't fit the product very well. We thought of miniature ... but miniature what? Motorcyclists called their motorcycles `bikes,' so we put the two together and came up with miniature bike, but that didn't flow too well. One of us, I forget which one, shortened miniature to mini and coined the word `mini-bike.' The name Li'l Indian came from our mother, who told us `not to act like L'il Indians' when we went out in public."

(Michrina also notes that they were smart enough to register the name "Li'l Indian," but nobody thought to bother with "mini-bike.")



Original Drawing for the First "Lil Indian" Mini Bike by Regis Michrina_Circa1959

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#5


Go Kart Manufacturing Co., Inc.
6300 N. Irwindale Avenue
Azusa, California


Everything from A to Z in the U. S. A.


Bill Jeffery

The History:
as recounted by Don Boberick (9/18/98)

"As to Go Kart Manufacturing, Co. Inc., it came into being in 1958. The principles, Duffy Livingstone and Roy Desbrow, were partners in a muffler business called "GP Mufflers," in Monrovia, California. Both Duff and Roy were experts at fabricating welded components. After seeing Art Ingles' one-off creation, Duffy and Roy fabricated their own versions and then improved on them. And, Duffy built a couple for friends (including Bill Jeffery who did the upholstery for everybody - that's Bill in the above racing photo). Bill Rowles, then a salesman of surplus materials in the L.A. area, was a frequent visitor at the GP Muffler shop in Monrovia. Bill had located a source of inexpensive engines from a failed West Bend rotary lawn mower venture. The three individuals, operating out of GP Muffler's facilities, formed a loose partnership to manufacture and sell kit components for karts. They called them "Go Karts" after the name Lynn Wineland, a commercial artist, had coined in an ad referring to GP's products. "Dart Kart" was another Lynn Wineland creation. The kits GP produced were offered mail order for $129 and the business grew like Topsy.

I can remember one day lounging in the small office at GP Muffler with Bill Rowles and Duffy Livingstone when the postman came by with a handful of envelopes addressed to "Go Kart Manufacturing" and saying "It looks like another thirty orders today, guys." That kind of demand became constant and it became apparent that the business had to be elevated several levels. I formed a corporation for the company and it leased a five acre facility in Azusa from AeroJet General Corporation. The company had six stockholders. Roy Desbrow, Duffy Livingstone and Bill Rowles were the principal stockholders. Jim Patronite (the company's accountant, who later formed Azusa Engineering), myself and the companiy's office manager were the three minor stockholders. Go Kart Manufacturing Co. Inc. continued to thrive in its Azusa facilities into 1963.

In 1962, Art Linkletter Enterprises made an offer of $750,000 for purchase of the shares. The offer called for $250,000 up front with the balance of $500,000 to be paid at the end of one year. Go Kart declined that offer because the proposal gave management control to the Linkletter group prior to final payment and we did not trust their ability manage the company. Unfortunately Go Kart had, less than a year earlier, hired a very experienced, energetic and enthusiastic individual to manage the sales end of the business. To promote the product, Go Kart began to fly the six driver and four mechanic racing team, seven or eight karts plus spare parts to places like Mansfield, Ohio, Rockford, Illinois and the Bahamas. As spending escalated, sales hit a plateau industry wide. From just a handful of manufactures in 1959 the industry had grown to over thirty manufacturers by 1962. Go Kart failed to accommodate the recession in sales of its products by cutting back on spending. It went into bankruptcy.

One bit of irony in the demise of Go Kart Manufacturing Co, Inc. is that for a couple of years Go Kart was involved in trade mark litigation with Fox Body Company of Janesville, WI, over the trade mark "Go Kart." Fox called their kart the "Go Boy Kart" which we said was akin to calling a cola drink "Coca Boy Cola." Fox, on the other hand filed a petition to dissolve our trade mark "Go Kart," claiming it was generic. After Go Kart Mfg.. went through bankruptcy, Fox bought the "Go Kart" name for just a few dollars from the bankrupt estate. That was "Go Kart" from beginning to end--with a lot of fun in between.

Postscript:

Jim Patronite went on to make Azusa Engineering a success and it is still going strong with his son and nephew at the helm. Roy Desbrow has since passed on. Bill Rowles is enjoying life in southern California. (Anyone wishing to get in contact with Bill should contact Don Boberick for more info.)

Before the company went into bankruptcy I gave up karting to get back into aviation. Then I got into aviation law and moved out of Pasadena. Duffy Livingstone spent several years operating a specialty welding company in Costa Mesa. He is now retired and living in Grants Pass, Oregon. I just talked to him tonight and he is in the process of restoring his original FKE kart, "the Mole." He was able to recover all of the original parts except for the body shell. The original shell hangs in someone's garage in Monrovia but the individual (despite having obtained it for nothing from Jeff) refuses to now part with it. Unfortunately Duffy has not gotten into computers so we cannot attract him to your web site."



















Today:

Sadly it looks as though the building is gone without a trace of its former glory......



6300 N. Irwindale Ave. Azusa, CA
 
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#6


POWELL MANUFACTURING COMPANY

Powell Manufacturing Company
2914 North Alameda St.
Compton, California




Powell Manufacturing Company (PMC) was a company based in the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. It was best known for its line of motor scooters that peaked in popularity in the late 1940s. From September 1954 to March 1957, Powell manufactured "Sport Wagon" pickup trucks and station wagons. In the 1960s and 1970s, they manufactured the "Powell Challenger" trail bikes.

The Powell Brothers--Hayward and Channing Powell--started off manufacturing radios in the mid-1920s, immediately after they graduated from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. In the mid-1930s, they moved into scooter production. The Powell manufacturing facility in Compton, California switched to war production in 1942. After World War II Powell again returned to scooter production with the C-47, P-48, P-49 step through models. The Powell Streamliner model, used by U.S. Airborne troops during World War II, was copied and served as the basis for the original Fuji Rabbit scooter in June 1946 (six-months before the first Vespa scooter).

In the 1960s, the company reorganized as "Powell Brothers, Inc., and manufactured the "Powell Challenger" trail-bike. During this period, the company relocated to a larger facility in South Gate, California. Hayward Powell died in March 1978, and with Channing Powell retired, the company officially dissolved and closed its doors in April 1979. Channing Powell died in 1988. During its life-span it produced thousand of radios, approximately 1,200 pickup trucks, 300 station wagons, 3 motor homes, and tens of thousands of scooters and trail bikes.



Alan Powell test riding a Challenger in back of the Powell factory in SoCal. His job was to find design flaws in their frames..



19yr old Alan Powell put the product on the map by winning five Saddleback Park races.







Interior shot of the Powell Factory, ca. 1960's




Related Links:

Welcome to the Powell Registry

Powell Manufacturing Company - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Candlelight Guitarist® ...about Brad ~ The Candlelight Guitarist™
 
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#9
Excellent work Detective Tom.....:detective:


Yeah, Lomart bought Clinton. I always wondered why? I thought it was more toward '70 though. I did not realize it was as early as '66 if I read that correctly?
I know they used their 'own' engines on the 1971-'71 bikes.

Some of this info, if your compiling it should probably be moved, eventually into the photo history area so it gets preserved.

Someday, when I feel up to it I'll see if I can't copy what you do here and put it in there. I'll credit whoever adds it to your thread.

This is a very good idea! Thanks for taking the time to do it.:thumbsup:
 
#11


HARRISON RESEARCH

Harrison Research
50575 Ryan RD.
Utica, Michigan 48087


Minibikes Flourishing In Shelby

By Marilyn Maloney
(article appeared xxxxxxxxxxxx)

There’s a lot of revving up of the engines going on at Harrison Research, Inc. in Shelby Township, but it isn’t just a lot of noise.
What it IS is a success story that proves an individual man with a good idea can still make money in an age seemingly dominated by huge business-commercial-industrial conglomerates.
The engines at Harrison Research belong to minibikes. That’s what the make there. The owner of the firm, located at 50591 Ryan Road, is Leon Harrison, who lives with his wife and five children.

Harrison worked for the government for 14 years as a flight engineer and then quality control before he got the idea that the minibike business might be a profitable one.- for him. "The market looked good" is how he explained it.

So after trying the idea for four or five months in his basement and "getting enough equipment" Harrison opened Harrison Research , Inc. in July of last year and it’s been growing like Topsy.
Harrison has nine full-time employees working for him, including his dad and several brothers which made it a real "Family Affair". They’ve been working 20 hours a day since they began operations”, Harrison said, and the only slow times are “when the kids go back to school and income tax time.”

The minbikes are sold to retailers in almost every state and two weeks ago they got their first order from an African firm that ordered 30 bikes. “We’ll probably send the first bike by boat to see how the shipping arrangements go, “ Harrison said.

Harrison sold the first mini-bike on his 35th birthday and since that time he’s sold “ a little over 5,000.”

Harrison said he’s got about 94 competitors to worry about and that his company is probably about 95th on the list size-wise. “But we’re trying to be number one, “ he joked.
The minibikes are sold under the names “Wildcat” and “Bobcat”, with the Bobcat being a do-it –yourself kit and the Wildcat already assembled. The bikes vary in price, depending on how fancy a machine you want, and range from $199 to $259.
The bikes have a top speed of 35 miles per hour and can easily ride two people. The bikes themselves carry a 30 day warranty and the engine, made by Briggs and Stratton of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has a one year warranty.
“the machine is very stable” Harrison said, “I wouldn’t put anything on it that’s sub-standard”. With normal wear and tear, the bike can be expected to last from three to five years, he said.
It’s also possible to convert the bike to a “poor man’s snowmobile” Harrison said by purchasing a ski adapter that sells for $29.95.

“Most of our customers are adults,” Harrison said and he went on to tell a story about the gentleman in his late 70’s who bought two bikes- one for himself and one for his wife.

The bikes are advertised at sporting goods shows and displays all over the country, as well as “Minibike Guide,” a magazine devoted entirely to minibike fans, and on such television programs as “newlywed Game, “Let’s Make A deal,” and “beat The Champ,”.

Detroit Tiger pitcher Mickey Lolich also does promotional work for the company and his name and picture are used frequently on posters and brochures. Yes, Mickey owns a bike.

About the only problem Harrison has been bothered by is one of theft. Minibikes have been stolen from both his home and the building on Ryan Road. But he hopes to have solved the problem with his recent purchase of a watch dog, a German shepherd.

“I didn’t want to get the dog,” he said, “but I had to do something,”.

All in all, things look good for leon Harrison, who said the business had developed “Much better than I anticipated,” And with the popularity of minibikes there seems to be no reason why things shouldn’t continue that way.








This is the home in warren where the first wildcat was made and Leon in the yard



Proto bike in back yard of the Warren house










Inside the Utica Factory









This is my aunt outside the Utica Factory






Taken in the shop



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Hounddog

Active Member
#12
A big Thank You to KK, Bayman and others! That was some great history reading. I really liked the interior factory photo of Go-Kart manufacturing with the line up of Scramblers....:thumbsup:

HD
 
#13
MICRO MANUFACTURING INC.
208 South Norfolk
Tulsa 20 , Oklahoma

Micro Cycle Tulsa Oklahoma, I live here and know less about the company than I should. I know a Micro Rebel is hard to find, I have an ad up often searching for one and am offering a stupid dollar amount for the right one. Got the $ set aside specifically for that purpose. Here is all I have on em:



Today:



This vacant building sits at 208 South Norfolk Street in Tulsa , Oklahoma.

Is this the old Mico-Cycle mfg. plant?? Looks too "modern" to be a building from back then...... We may have to send our resident "Okie" Outlaw Ace over there to get some answers.......
 
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#14
Carlisle Tire and Rubber Division














Today:


Sadly, after 93 years the original plant in Carlisle, PA shuttered it's doors forever:

 
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#15

FANTIC MOTORS


Fantic Motor is an Italian manufacturer of motorcycles. The company began in 1968, manufacturing and exporting enduro motorcycles, mini-bikes and go-karts. Today they continue in the same genre, though the names have changed to dual-sport and motard (supermoto), and they have not returned to the US market.

Fantic began exporting to the United Kingdom in 1972, as part of a wave of manufacturers who took advantage of "sixteener laws," legislation that forbade sixteen-year old motorcyclists from riding motorcycles up to 250 cc, as they had been used to. As a result, European and Japananese manufacturers exported their sporty and lightweight below-50cc engines, which had been common in Europe, to England also. Fantic produced a "sensational chopper moped" and a TI ("Tourismo Internazionale)," both of which became very popular quickly, with the reputation of being some of the fastest mopeds on the market, going as fast as 70 mph.




















Today:



 
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#17
BUG / K&P MFG.
330 South Irwindale Avenue
Azusa, California













Today:

Well interesting to note that there appears to be a sand casting foundry called MAGPARTS at the Irwindale Avenue address now...not sure if it's still the same building left over from the 60's....anybody care to take their camera and go on a little reconnaissance mission...?



http://www.magparts.com/company.aspx



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#18
Where do you all find this cool stuff, America use to be a industrial giant sadly like the cool minibikes from the 50's and 60's the manufactures are gone but luckily a lot of the bikes were saved in barns,sheds and garages. I wouldn't trade mine for anything like these pictures my minibikes bring back fond memories and I feel like a kid again when I ride one of them. :scooter:
 
#19
Where do you all find this cool stuff, America use to be a industrial giant sadly like the cool minibikes from the 50's and 60's the manufactures are gone but luckily a lot of the bikes were saved in barns,sheds and garages. I wouldn't trade mine for anything like these pictures my minibikes bring back fond memories and I feel like a kid again when I ride one of them. :scooter:
Bob I been getting a LOT of help on this thread from fellow members...but you're right, there's something about the old pics...makes you wish you could go back.
 

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