1904 Peugeot Single Motobicyclette
Frame no. 3135
Engine no. 3689
Peugeot, of course, is well known as one of France's leading car makers, but before automobiles came motorcycles. In fact, Peugeot Brothers started like many other companies by building bicycles, their first pedal-powered two-wheeler produced in 1882. Six years later, Peugeot entered motorized production with a tricycle powered by the ubiquitous De Dion Bouton engine. In 1901, the same year as Indian was getting underway in America and a full two years before Harley and the Davidson boys hung out their shingle, Peugeot introduced its first motorcycle, the "Motobicyclette," very much a heavy-duty bicycle with a 198cc Swiss ZL motor. Soon there would be a proprietary engine evidenced by the PF (for Peugeot Frères) cast into the engine cases displacing 239cc, a single-cylinder design good for 25-30 mph.
Advances came quickly for Peugeot, driven by the company's passion for racing. As early as 1903 five of the new machines were entered in the long-distance Paris-Madrid event. The need for more speed led to twin cylinders in 1910. Borrowing from Peugeot's Grand Prix car program, double-overhead camshafts appeared in 1914. During the 1920s and '30s, Peugeot broadened its line of street bikes while still pushing performance; in 1933 the Model 515 set a 24-hour speed record at Montlhéry, averaging 73.78 mph around the clock including refuelings and rider changes. After WWII it was Peugeot that helped France get rolling again with economical 125cc two-stroke runabouts, to be joined in the early '50s with a series of scooters. In fact, the Peugeot nameplate lives on today with an eight-bike range of scooters.
But before that long history came the very first Peugeot motorcycles, a rare find in anyone's collection. This one from 1902 was on display at Rickenbacker's for many years, hanging at a jaunty angle in a side window.