Friday, July 20, 2012

1969 American Eagle 250 Geronimo

1969 American Eagle 250 Geronimo

Having made his fortune establishing American Honda in the early 1960s, advertiser extraordinaire Jack McCormack set about creating his own motorcycle company in 1968.  Known as American Eagle, McCormack’s new brand burst onto the scene with a complete line of off-road and street bikes, along with apparel, helmets, and an overnight network of 100 dealerships. But, having fired all its guns at once, McCormack’s Eagle exploded into space and was out of business by the end of 1970.

In its short lifetime the company pioneered a concept that was more American than 1960s America:  foreign outsourcing. Its 750cc streetbike was made in Italy by Laverda, its 125cc dirtbike in Germany by Zundapp, and the crown jewel of the American Eagle line, the 250 Geronimo, was powered by a Kawasaki engine aboard a British-style nickel-plated frame.

The 250 Geronimo could have begun a revolution. Debuting in 1968, it contained the same essential ingredients that Yamaha’s DT-1, also launched in ‘68, used to bring motocross to mainstream America. The engine:  a light, powerful two-stroke, the Kawasaki “Greenstreak” 238. The frame:  Dunstall-style, with nickel-plated beauty.  The suspension:  coveted Ceriani forks. The 250 Geronimo was a force on the motocross track, it was affordable, and best of all it was “American.” If not for American Eagle’s short existence, this 250 could well have been the “everyman’s dirtbike” that the Yamaha DT-1 became.

The American Eagle 250 Geronimo here is “really just an emotional umbilical cord to my mid-life youth,” says owner Al Padur. Padur bought three of them in Sandy, OR, at a bankruptcy sale after Eagle’s demise. He raced this one in the Vintage Dirt Racing NW series, which he founded in the early 1990s. If the bike is an attachment to youth, it’s working – Padur is 81 years old and still rides regularly, having recently joined SFRC on its annual 1000-mile Goldrush ride.

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