The wider world first heard of Floyd Clymer in 1910 when he and his younger brother attempted to set a record by driving from Denver, CO to Spokane, WA – when he was just 14 years old. While that may seem like a young age to be engaging in such daredevil pursuits, he had already been driving a car for seven years and selling them for four.
The two of them did not make it all the way to their destination in Washington (due to lack of driveable roads, and a car that needed constant repair), but he never stopped being a fan and booster of motorized transport. To the right are the Clymer brothers in the Motor Field Magazine of 1910, as reprinted in Floyd Clymer’s Motor Scrapbook, just before leaving for Spokane.
As a teenager, Floyd was winning races and setting records on Excelsior, Indian, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including winning the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1916. By the 1920s, his Denver shop was the largest motorcycle dealership in the west, according to his advertising at least. When the Great Depression hit he packed up everything and started over in Los Angeles, CA with an Indian dealership, promoting the bikes with the help of film stars.
Ever the collector of literature, advertising, and ephemera, Floyd began to reprint automobile and motorcycle related artifacts in 1944, collected in his Historical Motor Scrapbooks. From there, his publishing career began, with annual books offering in-depth coverage of the Indianapolis 500 race, as well as other events. In 1951 he took over the stewardship of Cycle Magazine from Petersen Publishing and ran it until 1966. How-to service manuals covering bikes, and eventually cars as well, would follow.
In 1963, ten years after Indian had ceased production (despite the efforts of Clymer and several other big distributors), Floyd tried to revive the brand with help from Royal Enfield and Velocette. In 1966 Clymer also became the US distributor for the German exotic Munch Mammoth. Clymer was still trying to make Indian into a viable company, and had invested a considerable part of his fortune in an updated V-twin powered bike, when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970.
Along with his more historical collections, race coverage, and magazine, Floyd Clymer’s company is known for their how-to manuals targeted at the novice and home mechanic. These books covered motorcycles, his true passion, but also cars, boats, snowmobiles, and other motorized transport. After his death, with the explosion of Japanese motorcycle sales in America, the service manuals became the core of the Clymer business.
Haynes owns the rights to the Clymer name and continues to produce new DIY workshop manuals, and reprint many of the popular older ones. Rights to all of the other Clymer publications pre-1970 are owned by Veloce Press and are occasionally reprinted.