By Tom White
American Eagle arrived on the U.S. motocross scene in 1967, but in truth, there was no American Eagle motorcycle factory. The American Eagle was a private-label bike built at 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 Belgians 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 their home countries. It wasn’t until many years later that each country learned the truth about the “other” Sprites.
Most distressing, however, was that not only was the $1195 American Eagle 405 Talon a product of “clone engineering,” but the engine itself was a clone. It was an Italian-built copy of a late ’60s, four-speed, 399cc Husqvarna engine. Additionally, the Talon had a Sprite-built fork that was a direct copy of a Ceriani fork.
Sprite Developments showed rapid growth from 1964 to 1974. 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, but success killed Sprite. 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 for Sprite to absorb.
1971 AMERICAN EAGLE 405 TALON FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
Although it is quite rare to find a Sprite on the market, collectors don’t seem to be drawn to them. This unrestored example was purchased in 2006 for $2600.
There were three American models: The 125 with a Sachs engine, 250 with Kawasaki or Husqvarna engines, and the 405 with Sprite’s Husqvarna clone engine.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
American Eagles came with several different fuel tanks (2 or 2.5 gallons) made of either fiberglass or aluminum. The side panels and fenders were aluminum, while the front and rear hubs were polished aluminum. If these items are in good shape, the bike is collectible.
It is very difficult to find parts for the Sprites. Vintage Husky in San Marcos, California, at (760) 744-8052 may be able to help. In Europe, try Frans Munsters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com