Book Review: Deeley -- Motorcycle Millionaire

There have been times in the past, believe it or not, when fortunes were made in the motorcycle business. Trevor Deeley is one of those people who have done just that -- and in spectacular fashion.

Accordingly, the biography Deeley -- Motorcycle Millionaire chronicles Trevor's oft-unbelievable quest for fortune and fame with an action-packed up-close-and-personal sequence that captivates and engrosses the reader in Trevor Deeley's life.

Trevor was born into a family that had already accumulated considerable wealth in the sales of vehicles. His grandfather, Alfred, had already established a successful business in bicycles, motorcycles, and Austin automobiles in England before emmigrating to Canada in 1912, finally setting up shop in Vancouver in 1913. Alfred first sold bicycles, then added BSA motorcycles in 1916. World War I stopped the supply of BSAs, and as a substitute, Fred Deeley Ltd. imported Harley-Davidsons. From then on, the company was dominated by the idea of selling as many machines, from as many sources, to as many customers as possible. This is not a bad approach. Today, Fred Deeley Imports is the sole Harley-Davidson distributor for all of Canada, and the only Harley distribution system not completely owned and controlled by the factory.

Hilliard traces Trevor Deeley's life from his birth in 1920, through an evidently neglected childhood, into his adolescence as a motorcycle racer, through young adulthood, working his way through the company ranks, and finally through the successive waves of the post-World War II motorcycle industry as the chief executive of this highly successful firm. Throughout, Hilliard handles the story with great sensitivity to Deeley's personal life, perhaps with a bit too much admiration, but thereby fleshing out what could be a rather skeletal business history.

Trevor Deeley's greatest impacts on the industry happened after World War II, when he used his acumen to ride the crests of the British bike wave, followed by the Japanese wave, and finally the still-current Harley-Davidson wave. Hilliard describes these activities in great detail, leaving the reader without a feel for how Trevor amassed his personal fortune of 20 million dollars.

Although he indulges in a bit too much amateur psychology -- which fits into the pulp-fiction larger-than-life style of the book and Deeley's life -- Hilliard spins a very readable tale. The book is well-written, well-organized, and well-illustrated. The glossy pictures of times past wedged into the middle of the book are first-class, too. It's definitely a worthwhile read. But hey, don't take our word for it, read the introduction to the book yourself.

Author: Frank Hilliard
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers, Box 468, Custer, WA USA 98240-0468
ISBN: 1-55143-025-8
Price: $12.95 US, $14.95 CAN

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