|Sprite/American Eagle405 Talon-Brand Name Roulette - 1971
American Eagle arrived on the USA motocross scene in 1967 with a big ad budget and small racing team (that included a young Brad Lackey). But, in truth, there was no American Eagle motorcycle factory. The American Eagle was a private-label bike that was built by Sprite Developments in Oldbury, England by Frank Hipkin. Brits could buy the bike as the Sprite 405 Talon, Americans were offered the bike as the American Eagle 405 Talon, Australians knew it as the Alron 405 and Belgiums thought it was the BVM 405. All the bikes were identical, with the exception of the American bikes having American Eagle cast into the engine case. Amazingly all the different national distributors tried to pretend that the Sprites were designed in the home countries. It wasnt until many years later that each country learned the truth about the other Sprites.
Most distressing of the clone engineering behind the $1195 American Eagle 405 Talon was that the engine itself was a clone. It was an Italian-built copy of a late 60s, four-speed, 399cc, Husqvarna engine. Many Husqvarna parts would fit in the Italian engine, but not all. Most American Eagles racers remember the gearbox with particular distaste. Additionally the Talon had a Sprite-built fork that was a direct copy of a Ceriani fork.
Sprite Developments in England showed rapid growth from 1964 to 1974. Owner Frank Hipkin started building lightweight, Reynolds tubing frame kits for Villiers, Triumph Cub, Husqvarna and Maico engines. Amazingly enough, if Hipkin had kept the Sprite motorcycle company small he might have lasted longer. Success killed the Sprite, Talon, Alron and BVM. When Hipkin started exporting Sprites in large numbers the British government closed the tax loopholes that Sprite was using and, following the collapse of the U.S. American Eagle distributor (Galaxy Wholesale in Garden Grove, California), the financial losses were too great to absorb.
Today, Sprite Development still exists, but it builds RVs, caravans and motor homes.
WHAT THEY COST
Although it was quite rare to find the Sprite or its stepchilds on EBay, collectors dont seem to be drawn to them. This un-restored example was purchased in 2006 for $2600. A good core (original but in need of restoration) Husqvarna of the same year would easily go for twice this amount.
Eagle 125 CMXR (125cc Sachs engine), Eagle 250 GMXR (250cc Husqvarna clone), and the Eagle 405 TMXR (405cc Husqvarna clone).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Eagles came with several different fuel tanks (2.0gal or 2.5gal) made of either fiberglass or aluminum and either Dunlop Sports knobbies or trials tires. The side panels are aluminum as are the fenders and the front and rear hubs are polished aluminum. If these items are in good shape, the bike will make a beautiful addition to any collection.
It is very difficult to find parts for the Sprites. Vintage Husky in San Marcos, CA at 760-744-8052 may be able to help. In Europe, try Frans Munsters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images are property of The Early Years of Motocross Museum, ®2006