One of the Oldest Motorcycles Goes Up For Auction

The ultimate "barn" find

Bonhams auction house in London is featuring the ultimate motorcycle “barn find” at The International Classic MotorCycle Show in Stafford, England, on April 25. Bonhams is privileged to announce the sale of an original circa 1895 Hildebrand amp; Wolfm#252;ller motorcycle at the first of its two annual Stafford auctions. Manufactured in Munich, Germany, the Hildebrand amp; Wolfm#252;ller is of the utmost historical significance as the first powered two-wheeler to enter series production, and is the first such vehicle to which the name motorcycle (motorrad in German) was ever applied.

A 1895 Hildebrand Wolfmuller, one of the oldest motorcycles still in existence.

The Hildebrand brothers, Henry and Wilhelm, developed their motorcycle in partnership with Alois Wolfm#252;ller and his mechanic, Hans Geisenhof. Their design was powered by a twin-cylinder, water-cooled, four-stroke engine displacing 1,488cc, which until relatively recent times was the largest power unit ever fitted to a motorcycle. Despite a maximum power output of only 2.5bhp at 240rpm, the Hamp;W was capable of speeds approaching 30mph, an exciting prospect at a time when powered road transport of any sort was still a novelty. Patented in January 1894, Hamp;Ws motorcycle was greeted with considerable enthusiasm and plans were drawn up to build a factory in Munich to produce it. It was also licensed to a firm in France and marketed there as “La Petrolette.” Despite some impressive demonstration performances by factory riders, the Hamp;Ws shortcomings became all too apparent once deliveries to paying customers commenced, and early in 1897 both the German and French ventures collapsed.

Opinions differ with regard to how many machines were produced, figures range from as low as 800 to as high as 2,000. Survivors are, needless to say, exceedingly rare. The example offered has been in the ownership of the vendors family in the USA since at least the early 1930s, which is when it last ran. Presented in original, unrestored condition, this wonderful machine represents the ultimate acquisition for the serious private collector or any museum devoted to the history of powered transport and is estimated at GBP #163;40,000 #8211; #163;60,000 thats approximately $65,000 to $97,500 in US dollars. For more information about the Stafford, England, motorcycle auction in April, visit

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