Where It All Started
The machine first known to the world as a 'motorcycle' heads to auction
The unrestored 1895 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller machine was patented in 1894 and went into production in both Germany and France (where it was known as La Petrolette) the following year.
Some of the specs still read as quite modern, like its water-cooled twin valve, 4-stroke 1,488cc engine (it could reach up to 30 mph, an exciting speed at the time), though other aspects are quite different from modern 2-wheelers. The rear wheel, for example, functioned as a pseudo-flywheel, and rather than a clutch, power was delivered to the rear wheel via locomotive-style pushrods linked directly to the engine's pistons.
The bike is expected to fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of $65,000 to $100,000, and as a completely unrestored ride (Gizmag estimates the bike was likely last operational around the 1930s) much more investment will be needed to get it show-worthy. However, given the limited run of the H&W in both Germany and France -- estimates range that only between 800 and 2,000 of the proto-motorcycles were ever produced -- you can be sure you won't be passing another model once your bike is up and running. Probably a good thing, too, since the H&W lacks not only a clutch, but brakes, as well.
(Photo via Gizmag.)
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