Hercules Motorcycle History
Jack Crane purchased a small business called the Petros Cycle Company. His sons Harry and Ted (Edmund) Crane learned their trade there. In 1910, Harry and Ted set up the Hercules Cycle & Motor Company Ltd and production started the following year. They eventually became the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world.
At the beginning, production was 25 bicycles a week; after 6 months it was 70 a week, so they moved to larger premises, which they named Britannia Works. They now (in 1913) employed 10 staff. Their next move was to a former Dunlop factory in Aston, where they employed 250 workers. They now made 10,000 cycles a year.
In 1912 they started marketing motorcycles too, fitted with Precision single cylinder engines. Precision engines were built by Frank E. Baker Ltd, whose factory was in Moorsom Street, close to the Crane’s premises.
Hercules (as well as Sun, Precision and many other manufacturers) stopped motorcycle manufacture and sales when the Great War started, and did not resume production afterwards. Hercules factories made armament shells during the war.
As you can see from the photos above and below, the Hercules machines were re-badged Sun models. So in lieu of a Hercules motorcycle catalogue, I’ve illustrated details of the Sun machines.
Frank Baker already had a reciprocal arrangement with Sun: as well as supplying Sun with Precision engines, he bought Sun frames to mount Precision engines so Precision could also sell motorcycles themselves.
The Sun factory was also close to Hercules premises, in Aston Brook Street, and Hercules motorcycles were re-badged Sun machines. Sun and Hercules both offered a 211cc Villiers powered machine in 1913.
The Hercules company was sold to Tube Investments in 1947; TI later took over Raleigh too and became Raleigh Industries.
Hercules did not make another motorcycle until 1955 when, as Raleigh Industries, the Hercules Grey Wolf moped was launched.
Though its badge showed the Hercules name, the Grey Wolf was instantly renamed the ‘Her-cu-Motor’ or ‘HCM’ so it did not really carry the Hercules brand name. Therefore the only other motorcycle after 1914 to bear the (British) Hercules name was its final model, the Hercules Corvette.