The sole and long believed lost example of the Oakland, California manufacturer
1905 L.A Mitchell Motor Company - "LEO Two-Cycle"
Frame no. 003
At the turn of the century, as vehicle production began to take shape in America, most was concentrated in the industrial regions of the Northeast and Midwest. California proved to be a one of the best consumers, though vehicles produced there are rare. Brands like Crocker and Yale are mythic brands coveted by collectors around the world.
It is because of this that finding a believed extinct California motorcycle brand is met with great enthusiasm. This 1905 Leo motorcycle, made in Oakland, California is the sole surviving product of a brand thought lost to time. This machine is historically significant not just for its California manufacture, but also represents perhaps the earliest surviving example of an American made two-cycle motorcycle.
Produced by the Al Mitchell Motor Company of Oakland California the Leo is thought to have only been produced during 1905, essentially with a Thor/Indian chassis design with Mitchell's innovative two-cycle, light-weight motor.
The compact two-cycle Mitchell engine is of basic DeDion Bouton design but with a crankcase automatic intake valve and cylinder mounted exhaust port assembly. The atmospheric crankcase intake valve is combined with a barrel type throttle and special throttle-less Schebler aluminum carburetor. Lubrication appears to be via drip tank into the crankcase. The torpedo fuel tank is divided into a gasoline and oil compartments and the oil side feeds directly into the crankcase through the throttle assembly. The ignition is by the standard method of the day; high tension coil and total loss dry cell batteries run by a crank shaft mounted timer/distributor.
This 1905 Leo appears to be more than just a prototype as evidence of many miles of use are seen on close inspection of sprockets, etc. An unusual feature of the Leo is its direct drive to the rear sprocket. Most machines of this era relied on a double reduction gear set, while the Leo, perhaps because of its slightly smaller wheels, was able to eliminate this complexity with a direct drive.
Discovered recently in the warehouse of a New England Museum for decades. Surviving today in largely original condition, including original paint and graphics on the fuel tank and nearly all its weathered but original nickel plating. All of the components appear to be the originals, including the spokes in the wheels and the leather Troxel saddle. The machine has likely seen some repainting over the years but everything has mellowed to an even patinated look. The motor turns freely and displays strong compression.
This Leo motorcycle represents an important piece of American, generally, and California specifically, motoring history. Presented today and highly original and complete condition it is a wonderful discovery of what was believed to be a long-lost make.
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