Saturday, April 10, 2010


Found hidden in a bricked-up wall in a Chicago suburb 40 years ago, the 1916 Traub motorcycle is still a mystery today.

Hidden origins

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 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.

Power is provided by a beautifully crafted 78ci V-twin engine with a 4in stroke and a 3-7/16in bore, yielding an engine capacity of 1,278cc, which was large for the time. The majority of big displacement motorcycle engines from the Traub’s era were around 1,000cc (61ci). Using a side-valve arrangement, the top of the cylinders feature a gas primer valve, although Dale notes this is not really an unusual feature. What is unusual, however, is the adjustable crankcase breather and the engine fasteners, which are unique to the Traub and whoever built it.

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