Motorcycle Classics

1895 Hildebrand and Wolfmüller to be auctioned by Bonhams

This original 1895 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller “motorrad” will be auctioned by Bonhams April 25

Bonhams will auction one of the few surviving Hildebrand & Wolfmüller motorcycles, a circa-1895 model that’s been in the same ownership since the early 1930s, at its annual International Classic Motorcycle Show in Stafford, England, April 25.

In the early 1890s, brothers Henry and Wilhelm Hildebrand decided to build a Motorrad (German for motorcycle), the first machine to use the term. Partnering with Alois Wolfmüller and his mechanic, Hans Geisenhof, they developed a 2-cylinder, water-cooled 4-stroke engine. Displacing 1,488cc, it produced 2.5hp at 240rpm.

Instead of a chain or driveshaft, the machine used direct drive, with connecting rods from the cylinders acting directly on the rear wheel via eccentrics, much in the way an old locomotive engine connects its driven wheels. Top speed was estimated at 30mph.

Patented in 1894, fewer than 2,000 Hildebrand & Wolfmüllers were built in Germany and France (where it was licensed to an outside firm) before production stopped in 1897. Although it was ultimately a failure, it was the first-ever series production of a motorcycle, marking its place in history.

Pre-sale estimates for the apparently original and unrestored machine range from $65,000 to $100,000 for what must be one of the world’s most exclusive motorcycles. Look for a follow-up report in our next issue or go to Backus

  • Published on Jan 20, 2010
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