Jack Lilly on a Crocker Big Tank
A Crocker becomes a time machine for legendary Boozefighter Jack Lilly, circa 2001.

We’re proud of the coverage of Crocker motorcycles in our November issue, as it will become the most up-to-date reference for the mysterious history of these fabulous machines. We filled so many pages with Crocker reporting that we didn’t have enough room for this wonderful story from Daniel Statnekov, which is truly heartwarming.

Statnekov was the caretaker of the 1939 Crocker Big Tank previously owned by Jack Lilly, a member of the infamous Boozefighters Motorcycle Club. He found Crocker #103 sitting in a ramshackle garage in Weatherford, Texas, in the mid-1980s, and spent a couple of years rebuilding it with the help of Ernie Skelton and others.

He owned it for more than 20 years before it was sold to Don Whalen, who then passed it over to Joe MacPherson before it was auctioned off at Joe’s Garage in Southern California in 2008 for $275,000. For Statnekov, the best part of owning his Crocker is related in the story below, an uplifting example of how motorcycles reach our souls.

Crocker Big Tank

I owned and rode Crocker #103 for more than 20 years. But before it was sold, I hauled the Crocker to Fort Worth, Texas, where it was reunited with its second owner, Jack Lilly. In 1939, Lilly purchased it secondhand from the bike’s original owner, who also became a member of the Boozefighters MC after they had served during WWII.

Fast forward to a night in 2001 at the Boozefighters national clubhouse in Texas. The walled, barbwire-topped courtyard looked like it could have been used as the model for a movie set about outlaw bikers. There was quite a crowd assembled inside, full of tough-looking guys with tattoos and long, greasy braids who had been drinking beer and downing Jell-O shots all afternoon.

Part of the scene was a contingent of girlfriends who provided a variety of anatomical crevices from which the guys were slurping down those shots and, as contestants in the wet T-shirt contest, had begun the “contest” without the benefit of wearing any T-shirts at all.

But everything stopped when I fired up the Crocker and helped Jack into the saddle he hadn’t experienced for 60-some years. The most transcendent expression of wonder came over the face of the 80-plus-year-old man as he blipped the throttle and listened to the sound of his old bike’s engine. It seemed as if Jack was transported back in time to when he was the young guy with turned up cuffs on his dungarees, seen in an antique photo of Jack and his bike.

I had stepped away from Jack and the Crocker and was watching the crowd. The tough veneer of those guys melted away, and a childlike softness came over their faces. Each and every one of them – independently of the others – watched the expression of wonder on Jack’s face as he listened to the roar of that Crocker motor.

The women knew something was going on, and their raucous antics quieted, too. It was then I understood, and I have known it clearly ever since: Beneath the hard exteriors of these biker guys are tender hearts.

That moment with Jack Lilly in the Boozefighters clubhouse was worth more to me than all the rides I ever took on that green and cream Crocker, worth more than seeing the bike in the spot in my house where I kept it for years, and worth more – far more – than the money I received for it, or even what it would bring today.

It was an enriching experience beyond what I can express here in words, but perhaps you’ll get the flavor of it. At least I hope so.