The Mystery of the 1916 Traub Motorcycle
A classic American motorcycle like no other
The 1916 Traub motorcycle - a one-of-a-kind classic American motorcycle.
Photo by Neale Bayly
Found hidden in a bricked-up wall in a Chicago suburb 40 years ago, the 1916 Traub motorcycle is still a mystery today.
Pulled from its dark, secretive hiding place of 50 years, this Traub is the only example ever found. Since its discovery, the Traub has provoked more questions than it has provided answers. But one thing is for sure; this is a unique, one-of-a-kind classic American motorcycle. And with all attempts to reveal its true identity leading only to frustrating dead ends, at this time we have to be content with the hard facts that have been collected by its current owner, Dale Walksler.
As the man who owns the world famous Wheels Through Time classic motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, N.C., Walksler has been riding, working on and collecting rare and classic American motorcycles for nearly 40 years. And in all his years around American classics, he has never seen anything quite like the Traub.
Found in 1968, the Traub was bought in 1972 by Bud Ekins, famous as Steve McQueen’s stuntman. Ekins later sold the Traub to collector Richard Morris, who then sold it to Walksler in the mid-1990s. The Traub is now one of the “crown jewels” in Walksler’s collection of 240 classic American motorcycles. And believe it or not, it actually gets ridden on a fairly regular basis: Dale has even had the engine apart to cure a knocking noise that turned out to be a worn out connecting rod bushing.
Ask him about the components inside the engine, and he’ll tell you with great enthusiasm that “everything inside the engine is just magnificent. The pistons are handmade, and they have gap-less cast iron rings. The engineering and machining are simply years ahead of their time.” During the reassembly process, the only parts Dale had to fabricate were the base gaskets. The bike doesn’t use any other gasket anywhere in the engine, as it is so perfectly machined. This is one significant indicator that this was not a mass-production machine.
While the majority of the components on the bike are handmade, it is the “off-the-shelf” parts that have enabled Walksler to determine an approximate date of 1916 for the Traub. Equipped as it is with a Schebler carburetor, a Bosch magneto, a Troxel Jumbo seat and period wheel rims, the bike’s creator left some concrete clues behind as to the age of the machine.