One of the earliest American motorcycles, progenitor of the Pope motorcycle, ex-Indian Motorcycle Museum, Manthos Collection
1902 American Cycle Company "Rambler" 2¼hp Model 'B' Motorcycle
Frame no. 280
Engine no. 280
Col. Albert Pope had established himself as one of the great post Civil War American industrialists. He built a huge bicycle manufacturing empire by anticipating and riding the huge wave of popularity this activity maintained. Like any astute business man Pope looked ahead and realized his empire would need to adapt and was well suited to excelling in the motorized world. Like Henry Ford would do later Pope surrounded himself with the best people he could. By employing creative thinkers who were encouraged to think big he produced some amazingly sophisticated machines. Instead of just responding to the market place Pope clearly wanted to lead.
Pope who had already become a leader in electric vehicles and was becoming a strong presence in the internal combustion market. He knew that motorcycle were and natural for his company. They had been producing some of the finest bicycles in America for decades. Pope's designers were not satisfied with just bolting an engine to a bicycle they could do better. Pope established the American Cycle Company as his motorcycle manufacturing company. The new company offered two designs for the 1902 model year. A somewhat conventional model A and the radically sophisticated Model B. The A was built much to the pattern of the Thor and Indian design being of conventional bicycle dimensions with the motor mounted high in the seat tube of the frame. The Model B used a stable long wheel base design that mounted the engine in a low slung "hoop" frame behind the crankset and seat tube. This moved the machines center of gravity down considerably this combined with the longer wheel base made for a much more stable and easily handled machine.
The engine was beautifully engineered and said to be good for 2,400 rpms, quite a speed for 1902. The engine also boasted automatic ignition timing and a decompressor that was linked with the timer to the front spoon brake. The two controls on the top tube operate the throttle and mixture controls. The engine is driven through double reduction drive to the rear wheel and the pedal cranks are equipped with a clutch mechanism. The frame itself is typical of the quality you would expect of a premier manufacturer, beautifully made and nothing looks to much like off the shelf bicycle parts. The one clue to both it's early age (besides having it's year on the head badge) is the use of wooden rims with single tube tires. Only the earliest examples used these tires, they switched to metal clincher rims quite early on. One other visual difference between this and later Model Bs is the lack of top tube mounted oil tank, the earliest machines relied on a crank mounted drip oiler.
Pope had two good motorcycle designs and a company established to manufacture but his choice of distribution was unconventional. The design was sold under several different manufacturers names. The brands Pope, Monarch, Crescent, Imperial, Cleveland, and Rambler were all used. This could have been both an attempt to license the product to bicycle manufacturers looking to get in on motorcycles. It also could have been to use established names in regions were they where most familiar. What ever the reason the concept did not work. Despite having a startlingly advanced product for 1902 the machines did not get updated and were outmoded by 1905. The multi brand system was confusing and the whole thing dissolved around 1905 later to be relaunched as the Pope motorcycle Company.
To fully appreciate the Pope Model B one needs to see it in context with the other machines of its day. Indian, its main competitor had produced machine a bit earlier but had not really geared up production in till 1902. The Indian was quite similar to the Model A but was quite primitive compared to the Model B. The other manufacturers were primarily bicycles adapted with motors such as the Mitchell or Auto-bi. This machine's production is one full year before Harley Davidson's arrival.
This 1902 Rambler Model B is likely the finest early example in existence. Surviving today in amazingly original condition with nearly all its original paint and plating. The machine is very complete and still has the original white rubber inserts in the Columbia pedals and the original Columbia saddle is in remarkable shape. The incredible preservation is likely do this machine spending many decades in the Indian Motorcycle Museum collection.
This is truly a special opportunity to acquire one of the most sophisticated early American motorcycles, presented in stunningly original and unmolested condition. Offered publicly for the first time from a prominent, long term Museum collection.
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