The road-ready history of Victory motorcycles started on the Fourth of July 1998, the day the first production-quality Victory was built.
Prior to the nation’s birthday that year, a handful of pre-production prototypes had been assembled at the Spirit Lake, Iowa, factory that housed the new Victory assembly line. Full-scale production was scheduled to begin in July 1998, but a group of employees came up with the idea: Let’s build No. 1 on the Fourth of July so the nation’s birthday becomes Victory’s birthday.
Chuck Crone, who was the Spirit Lake Plant Manager in 1998, recalled: “We were scheduled to start Victory production in early July, and maybe about three to four weeks ahead of that, I was in a staff meeting and I said ‘why don’t we build it on the Fourth of July?’ They all looked at me like I was crazy, but by the end of the day, I’ll bet I had 10 guys who had said, ‘yeah, let’s build it on the Fourth.’”
The special birthday for the brand was a point of pride for Victory team members who had worked long and hard to bring the bike to production.
“Leading up to July 4, there were a lot of people throughout the company putting in lots of time to get the Victory motorcycle up and running,” Crone said. “The folks who came in and built it on July 4 had already put in lots of volunteer extra time to get this running… It was our plan and we built it, and I sent out an e-mail on July 4 that said we had built the first bike.
“When we left the plant that day there was no trumpets, no high five by [then-Polaris CEO] Hall [Wendel], nothing like that. We just quietly made the bike and left.
“We finished around 1 or 1:30 p.m. Then it was shake a hand and walk out the door. It was kind of like ‘golly gee, we just built the first motorcycle and there should be a parade or something,’ but there wasn’t. Just a bunch of people building a motorcycle because it was our bike. We had launched the brand.”
The Victory team members who took part in assembling V92C No. 1 on July 4, 1998, were: Marshall Tennermann, Al Regelstad, Marilyn Helmers, Joel Hoenk, Tom Neil, Mike Kusche, Mark Welch, Dave Jones, Steve Miller, Bob Pecks, Tom Luers, Mike Richter, Greg Richards and then-Plant Manager Chuck Crone. (Not all are included in the historic photo from the assembly line.)
Making History on the Road
The bike was Antares Red and Black and its VIN ended with “000001.” Just days after it was built, Polaris upper management visited the Spirit Lake facility for a ceremony celebrating the start of Victory production. Then-CEO Hall Wendel, outgoing President Ken Larson, new President Tom Tiller and Victory General Manager Matt Parks posed for photos with V92C No. 1.
Wendel was preparing to ride the bike between two lines of employees for a photo when he invited an employee to climb on the back of the bike. She obliged and the bike’s first ride was a 2-up experience.
The bike’s first true on-road adventure was a team relay effort. Days after the bike was built, a team of Victory employees rode it in relay fashion to each of the Upper Midwest Polaris facilities: Spirit Lake, Iowa; Medina, Minnesota; Osceola, Wisconsin; Roseau, Minnesota; and Vermillion, South Dakota. At each site, a company representative signed a log sheet verifying the bike’s visit. A group of about five Victory employees rode the bike on the 1,300-mile trip.
The first leg of the relay ran from Spirit Lake to Polaris corporate headquarters in suburban Minneapolis. The bike was accompanied by a box van that served as a support vehicle for the trip – and held some special cargo.
While Victory No. 1 was on its historic first ride, it was accompanied by the brand’s second model. The box van carried an early prototype of the V92SC – the SportCruiser – which was being shipped to another Victory facility for development work. (The V92SC was introduced in 1999 as a 2000 model.)
Place of Honor for No. 1
In 2000, Polaris moved to a new corporate headquarters in Medina, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb. The building includes a restaurant called The Victory Roadhouse, and V92C No. 1 has been on display in the restaurant since the building opened.
Here is most of the crew that built Victory No. 1 on the Fourth of July 1998.
Then-Polaris CEO Hall Wendel rode No. 1 away from the Spirit Lake assembly line. Just before he started riding, he asked an employee if she wanted to go for a ride, and she climbed on the back for a historic ride.
The first 1,500 V92C models were numbered. Each bike’s number appeared on a special plate atop the handlebars. This is the plate on No. 1.
V92C No. 1 is parked in The Victory Roadhouse, the restaurant inside Polaris corporate headquarters. For this photo, the framed log sheet from the bike’s first ride to Polaris facilities was placed on the bike.
Victory No. 1.