Floyd Emde was the son of a California motorcycle police officer who also raced. Emde went on to become one of the foremost racers of the 1940s. He won many motorcycle races during his decade-long racing career, but none was bigger than his victory in the 1948 Daytona 200. Two decades later his three sons followed in his footsteps to become third-generation motorcyclists and racers. When his son, Don, won the Daytona 200 in 1972, the two became the only father and son to have won America's most prestigious race. Without a doubt, the Emde name is one of the most popular in the history of the sport.
Emde was born in Seeley, California, on March 7, 1919. By the late '30s Emde was tearing up race tracks near his home in San Diego. Paying his dues in Southern California club field meets, Emde excelled at all forms of motorcycle racing, from flat track to TT Steeplechase to road racing.
Emde turned pro in the early 1940s, but World War II put a stop to nearly all racing by 1942. After the war, Emde was back on the track and winning. He rode to victory in the 1946 Pacific Coast TT Championships at Riverside, California. In 1947, Emde traveled east and earned a surprise victory at the AMA 10-Mile National Championship on the Milwaukee Mile.
In March of 1948, Emde was but one of the 153 starters for the seventh running of the Daytona 200. Besides being the biggest in the history of the 200, the field was also one of the strongest ever, featuring five former winners. Emde grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag and never relinquished it, setting a new speed record in the process. Even though Emde led the entire way, the race was by no means boring. Emde had to hold off a late-race surge by Canadian Billy Mathews (who won the race in 1941 and again in 1950) and won by a scant 12 seconds after holding more than a one-minute advantage earlier in the race. It was the first time that a rider led the 200 from flag to flag and it also marked Indian Motorcycle's final win at the historic race.
Emde retired from professional racing in the early 1950s, turning his attention to his growing motorcycle dealership in San Diego, which he ran with his wife, Florence. Emde remained active in the sport as both a race mechanic and tuner for his three sons, as well as serving as the San Diego area district representative to the AMA Congress.
Emde died on Dec. 31, 1994 leaving a rich legacy as one of the most prominent figures in motorcycling during the middle of the 20th century.