The Mystery of the 1916 Traub Motorcycle

 1916 Traub Motorcycle

Why a handmade motorcycle built in 1916 was found bricked up in a home in a Chicago suburb will forever remain a mystery. There are tales that intrigue, but no one will ever fully understand why the Traub Motorcycle was found hidden away 50 years after it was last seen. The unique motorcycle remains an enigma itself. It is a mostly handmade motorcycle with incredible engines that was crafted with technology way ahead of its time. The 1916 Traub Motorcycle is the rarest model in the world and considered to be made with outstanding engineering. And the most incredible thing about this mystery motorcycle is that when found all it needed was air in its tires and a fresh coat of Armor All. It still runs great today! Here are some important things to know about the mystery of the 1916 Traub motorcycle.

Who built it?

The mystery about who built the Traub Motorcycle is always a subject up for debate. However, its most likely the motor bike was created by Gottlieb Richard Traub in 1916. Traub was an American of German descent living in Chicago in the early twentieth century. Traub was born in 1883 and was an avid motorcyclist and machinist until his death in 1952. He worked as a tool maker in a factory until he served in the United States Army. After the Army, Richard Traub decided to pursue his hobby and passion full time. He considered himself an experimental machinist. Traub ran a motorcycle shop out of his garage located at 1520 North Pauline Street in Chicago where he created some of the most unique motorcycles in the early twentieth century.

In 1907 Gottlieb Richard Traub sent a letter with photographs of his latest motorcycle to the magazine “Motorcycle Illustrated”. His latest motorcycle was handmade and had a 4 horsepower engine. It’s no wonder that Traub would continue to tweak his motorcycle’s engines and would create the rarest motorcycle in the world in 1916. This motorcycle’s origins are discussed by motorcycle enthusiasts to this day, but the most mysterious thing about it is the mystery of where it was for 50 years before it was found bricked up in a home not far from Traub’s shop.

Why was it found bricked up?

There are several versions about how the 1916 Traub Motorcycle was discovered after having gone missing for half a century. How did it end up bricked up and hidden in a home not far from Traub’s motorcycle shop in 1967? A popular story is that a plumber working at the home found the motorcycle hidden. He contacted the previous owner of the home. He was told that the man’s son had stolen the motorcycle back in 1917 and hid it before going off to fight in World War I but never returned. Another version is that the father was so angry that his son stole the motorcycle that he hid it and forced his son to enlist in the Army. In fact there was never a police report filed by Traub that the motorcycle had been stolen. Maybe Gottlieb Richard Traub hid the mythical motorbike on the property? This is the greatest mystery surrounding the 1916 Traub Motorcycle and it may never be resolved. No matter how the bike ended up hidden for 50 years, it is still amazing that the motorcycle was in such great shape. All it needed was air in its tires and a coat of Armor All. The engine still worked perfectly and the motorcycle was ride ready.

Who owns it now?

Following the amazing find in 1967, the 1916 Traub Motorcycle went through a handful of owners. It first fell into the hands of a local motorcycle dealer, Torello Tacchi who traded a $700 Suzuki for it. In the early 1970’s, the motorcycle was purchased by Bud Ekins, a stuntman for actor Steve McQueen, when Ekins was filming in Chicago. It was later sold to a California collector, Richard Morris. In the mid 1990’s, the mysterious Traub motorcycle was purchased by collector and motorcycle rider Dale Walkster. Walkster still owns the motorcycle today and keeps it in his collection of 240 motorcycles at his “Wheels Through Time” museum in Maggie Valley, South Carolina. Walkster doesn’t just keep the Traub motorcycle on display. He never hesitates to take it out for a ride and is amazed at the power of the motorbike. When he took the motorcycle apart he was thoroughly amazed at the unique engine and other parts that were mostly handmade and created with precision and technology that did not really exist back in 1916.

A motorcycle built before its time

When Dale Walkster took apart the 1916 Traub Motorcycle he was amazed at what he saw. The twin brake single cam system was unique for an American motorcycle from the early 20th century. The 80 cubic inch V twin engine had a 1,278 cc capacity. This was unheard of for a motorcycle built during that time period. The cc capacity of motorcycles built during that time period were between 500 and 745 cc. Also, this unique motorcycle can reach speeds of up to 80 mph. All components of the Traub motorcycle were handmade save for a few. The few parts that were off the shelf were clearly products of 1916 confirming that this motorcycle was in fact the 1916 Traub. At one look at the engine and components of the motorcycle and it is clear that this motorcycle was not mass produced but made with precision and care. The pistons were clearly handmade and featured gap-less cast iron rings. The motorcycle features a Schebler carburetor and Bosch magneto. The 1916 Traub motorcycle features period wheel rims and a Troxel Jumbo Seat.

The origins of the 1916 Traub motorcycle are not too big of a mystery. However, it is difficult to believe that this handmade motorcycle was so unique and ahead of its time for an American motorcycle made during that time period. It amazes motorcycle enthusiasts that Gottlieb Richard Traub had the talents and skills to experiment creating this exquisite machinery. The real mystery beyond its creation is why the 1916 Traub motorcycle was found bricked up and forgotten about for a half century before it was discovered in suburban Chicago back in 1967. We may never know the answer to that mystery, but it’s fun to think about how this unique motorcycle was forgotten about for so long.


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