In 1945, hundreds of thousands of men came home from Europe and the Pacific and settled down to a quiet, peaceful life.
Except it was a little too quiet and a bit too peaceful. Veterans craved the excitements and thrills and dangers that used to be a part of their daily lives. For tens of thousands of these young and anxious men, the answer to that craving came in the form of a motorcycle.
A new nation of riders meant a world of opportunity for Nation's Cycle Center. A small range of accessories soon became a wide range of accessories, and business boomed.
One of National Cycle’s lobby bikes, a 1947 Harley-Davidson FL, fully equipped with Nation-Bilt accessories from Nation’s Cycle Center.
Note the Little Firefly Spotlight Bar, Chrome Fender Rails and Bumpers, N601 De Luxe Mirror, N202 “Texan” Windshield, Handlebar Grips and Safety Streamers. These are all genuine 1940s accessories from Nation’s Cycle Center.
The chrome spot studs and rhinestones from Nation’s Cycle Center were a popular dresser accessory in the 1940s through the 1950s. They were sold by the bagful and could be attached to leather saddlebags (or leather apparel) in any design the owner imagined.
Chrome Fender Rails, Bumpers, Airstreamer Fender Tip, Rocket Lights by the license plate, and Tailgunner Lights on the Fender Rails above the saddlebags. And the fringed leather seat skirt and fringed leather “De Luxe Senior” saddlebags? They were also accessories from Nation’s Cycle Center.
Another lobby display bike, this time a 1948 Harley-Davidson 125SS, often called a “Hummer”. Note the wire frame and beaded edge on the windshield. They were used to make the Pyralin shield stiffer.
Nothing on this immaculately restored bike was left unadorned. Nation’s Cycle Center produced the N218 Small Shield, N610 De Luxe Mirror, the N1310 Safety Streamers, the N311 Airstreamer Front Fender Tip, N701 Chrome Fender Rails, N480 Chrome Safety Guards, N904 Rocket Light on the fender, and the N901 Tailgunner Lights on the headlight cowl.
The N407 Chrome Rear Bumper, N311 Airstreamer Rear Fender Tip, and N905 License Plate Bracket with Rocket Lights really dress up the little bike’s back end. Four N701 Chrome Fender Rails grace the rear fender. The N1103 Saddlebag Plates gave a cleaner look to mounted bags.
While the owner of a Harley Knucklehead or an Indian Chief would opt for the N1101 “De Luxe Senior” Saddlebags, a kid with a 125SS would likely choose the N1110 “Little Fellas” Saddlebags.
A page from the Nation’s Cycle Center 1948 Catalog featuring the Little Firefly spotlights as well as replacement handlebars. “Nation-Bilt” was the trademark name of products manufactured by Nation’s Cycle Center. Though long known as the leader in motorcycle windshield manufacturing, Nation’s Cycle Center had a deep history in high-end metal fabrication.
A page from the Nation’s Cycle Center 1948 Catalog featuring their De Luxe Mirror with their patented coneback design.
A page from the Nation’s Cycle Center 1948 Catalog demonstrating their wide range of accessories.
This is the blue Knucklehead that sits in National Cycle’s lobby today. The rider, with N1007 Chrome Letters spelling out “Herb” on his cap, also sports N1105 Handlebar Muffs (gloves).
The Airstreamer Fender Tips were highly popular in the early days, and are still manufactured and widely sold by National Cycle today.
The chromed steel Buddy Seat Rail was a natural accessory for a company with extensive metal fabrication equipment. Passengers certainly appreciated it.
Some of the windshield options in the 1948 catalog included the “Californian” and the “Continental”. If you read the description you’ll see that, just like today, no effort or expense is spared in making the best quality windshield a rider can buy.
As soon as motorcyclists hit the road, they needed a way to carry a change of clothes, a quart of oil, and a few quarts of beer, so saddlebags were always a popular accessory. These leather bags were not outsourced, but cut and stitched in Nation’s Cycle Center’s own factory.
The opening page of the 1952-1953 Nation’s Cycle Center Catalog illustrated the company’s factory and original street address (National Cycle is now a few miles further west, but still in Maywood).
Founder Gordon Willey in the factory’s tool room in the 1950s.
A worker at Nation’s Cycle Center in the 1950s pays close attention to the quality of his work in the tool room.
Nation’s Cycle Center president Gordon Willey gives a riding lesson to Barry Willey, National Cycle’s current president.
The family that rides together stays together – Barry, Gordon and Betty Willey on their new Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide.
Nation's Cycle Center didn't make tricycle accessories, but that didn't stop Barry Willey from dressing up his trike with their Chrome Fender Tips and Chrome Fender Rails. The other kids on the block stepped aside when Barry pedaled by.
Nation’s Cycle Center patented this U-Clamp design in the 1950s. Here it’s used to mount a Nation’s Cycle Center De Luxe Mirror.
The cover of the 1952-1953 Nation’s Cycle Center Catalog.
A page from the 1952-1953 Nation’s Cycle Center Catalog showing their new windshield mounting system. Making the world’s best windshields wasn’t enough – they had to make the world’s best windshield mounts, too.
A page from the 1952-1953 Nation’s Cycle Center Catalog showing their range of windshield sizes and styles, with typical 1950s names.
This page features the Tailgunner Lights and Rocket Lights. Lighting accessories were always a hallmark of Nation’s Cycle Center.
More lighting and fabricated metal accessories from tool and die expert Gordon Willey. The N707 Gear Shift Knobs shown here were made by a young Barry Willey, when he had time away from elementary school.
Spotlight Mounts were custom fabricated to fit various models of Harley and Indian, as well as Triumph, BSA, Matchless and AJS. Not content to make a “universal” fitment, Nation’s Cycle Center strived for a perfect and exact fit for all motorcycle models.
A page from the 1952-1953 Nation’s Cycle Center Catalog showing their updated saddlebags.
In its early days, Nation’s Cycle Center didn’t just manufacture accessories – they also did custom repair and rebuilds. The leather “Junior Tool Kit” is no longer made, but it started a trend that continues today.