Editor’s note: Welcome to National Treasures, where we’ll be featuring many of the amazing vintage motorcycles on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. Of course, nothing beats viewing the museum’s amazing vintage motorcycle collection with your own eyes, so be sure to visit the National Motorcycle Museum website and plan your trip today.
1911 Detroit motorcycle
Claimed power: 4hp
Engine: 30.5 cubic inches (500cc)
Suspension: Leading link front fork, rigid rear
MPG: 2gal gas tank; 80-100mpg quoted
This 1911 Detroit motorcycle is one of just a few remaining examples from
a short-lived manufacturer.
The 1911 Detroit motorcycle was designed by a Mr. Breed of Bay City, Mich., (his first name isn’t known) for the Detroit Motorcycle Manufacturing Co. As reported in the Dec. 17, 1910 issue of The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review, the company was bought by James J. Brady, who had made a fortune with both the Chalmers and Hudson Motor Companies. He offered plans to manufacture Breed’s design starting in January 1911, and hoped to produce 250 machines per month during that year.
The Detroit was a clever, 4hp, 500cc, belt-driven motorcycle with oversized frame tubes that hid fuel, oil, tools and batteries (if coil ignition was used instead of a magneto). The handlebar shape, the unique fork and narrow frame might remind one of a flying horse.
A sales slogan for the Detroit claimed the motorcycle was “simply remarkable and remarkably simple,” but it was expensive for its day. Despite its innovation and handsome styling, it never took off. It is not known how many machines were actually made past the three test bikes reportedly running in late 1910. Here’s a short video of the Detroit: