At the cost to by of only a few pounds, the Hildebrand & Wolfmuller was the worlds first production motorcycle which was launched in 1894 and manufactured until 1897. But now it comes with a slightly higher price of over £2.7 million
The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller was the world’s first production motorcycle. Heinrich and Wilhelm Hildebrand were steam engineers before they teamed up with Alois Wolfmüller to build their internal combustion Motorrad in Munich in 1894
The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller patent of 20 January 1894, No. 78553 describes a 1,489 cc (90.9 cu in) two-cylinder, four-stroke engine, with a bore and stroke of 90 mm × 117 mm (3.5 in × 4.6 in). It produced 1.9 kW (2.5 bhp) @ 240 rpm propelling a weight of 50 kg (110 lb) up to a maximum speed of 45 km/h (28 mph). The fuel-air mixture from the surface carburettor was regulated by a valve operated by controls on the handlebar. The engine, which was located flat in the frame, used hot tube ignition with the tube heater in front of the cylinder heads. The lower downtubes ventilated the tube heater while the upper downtubes held lubricating oil.
Some design details came from a steam-powered prototype made by the Hildebrand brothers in 1889, including the water tank moulded to form the rear mudguard and the connecting rods of the engine driving the rear wheel directly. The water tank was repurposed to supply water to the cooling jackets surrounding the cylinders. The steam-powered prototype had a double-acting cylinder, applying power to the piston in both directions. With no double-action available in the petrol engine, and no flywheel effect apart from the movement of the rear wheel, the return impulse for the piston came from heavy rubber bands.
The intake valves were operated by the suction caused by the intake stroke, while the exhaust valves operated by an eccentric brass ring on the rear wheel and a device at the cylinder head that opened each cylinder’s valve alternately.
Approximately two thousand examples were built, but with a high initial purchase price and fierce competition from advancing designs (this model was entirely “run & jump” with neither clutch or pedals), and not thought to have been a great financial success. The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller factory closed in 1919 after the First World War. The motorcycle was also built under licence in Paris by Duncan and Superbie.
Examples of the Hildebrand & Wolfmüller exist today in the Deutsches Zweirad- und NSU-Museum in Neckarsulm, Germany, the Science Museum in London, The Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan, the Museum Lalu Lintas in Surabaya, Indonesia, National Technical Museum in Prague, and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.