1897 De Dion Bouton Motorcycle
Lot 15
c.1900 De Dion Bouton-engined Motorcycle (see text) Engine no. 1.268/268.97
£25,000 - 30,000
US$ 42,000 - 50,000
Lot Details
c.1900 De Dion Bouton-engined Motorcycle (see text)
Engine no. 1.268/268.97
The names of De Dion and Bouton are inextricably linked with the pioneer years of the motor car, initially in company with Trépardoux in the building of light steam carriages, the first of which appeared in 1883. In the early 1890s De Dion and Bouton turned their attention to the internal combustion engine, much to the annoyance of Trépardoux who quit in 1894, leaving his erstwhile partners to develop what was, in effect, the first high-speed internal combustion engine.

Engineer Bouton's power units developed significantly greater output than their contemporaries from Daimler and Benz, yet matched them for reliability. Small wonder then that De Dion Bouton engines were adopted by many other manufacturers of tricycles, quadricycles and light cars, both in Europe and the United States, influenced no doubt by the success of the flying tricycles in such events as the Paris-Bordeaux and other endurance races. Early 137cc engines ran at speeds of up to 1,500rpm, and the first internal combustion-engined tricycles were built in 1895. The 250cc engine of 1896 developed approximately 1.75hp and made the contemporary Benz engines seem positively antiquated.

De Dion Bouton was never a motorcycle manufacturer, although it seems that a few experimental models were made. The company's main contribution to the development of two-wheeled transportation was as an engine supplier. Harry Lawson's Motor Manufacturing Company held the license for the production and sale of De Dion Bouton engines in the UK, one of its first customers being the Birmingham firm of Bayliss, Thomas & Slaughter, owner of the 'Excelsior' brand.

The 1901 Werner is generally acknowledged as the first powered two-wheeler to carry its engine in the frame where the bicycle's bottom bracket and pedalling gear had been located, and thus is credited as the progenitor of the modern motorcycle. In actual fact, Gottlieb Daimler's Einspur prototype of 1884 had mounted its engine in the same position, as had various other manufacturers prior to Werner. The latter though, was the only firm with the foresight to patent the idea.

Prior to the Werner's arrival a wide variety of engine locations had been tried, one of the more practical being exemplified by the motorcycle offered here, which was acquired in 2007 from a jointly owned private collection in Spain. The engine itself is believed to displace 380cc. It should be noted that although this machine's general appearance suggests that it dates from around the turn of the 19th Century, it is not known when it was manufactured or by whom.
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