c.1910 Yale 3½hp Single Cylinder Engine no. 4382
Lot 303
c.1910 Yale 3½hp Single Cylinder
Engine no. 4382
Sold for US$ 28,750 inc. premium
Lot Details
c.1910 Yale 3½hp Single Cylinder
Engine no. 4382
One of the earliest of American makes, the Yale was directly descended from the California motorcycle that made history on July 3rd 1903 when George Whyman achieved the first transcontinental crossing of North America using a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. It would be another three weeks before an automobile succeeded in making the trip.

Designed by Roy Marks, the California motorcycle was built by the California Motor Company of San Francisco. The latter had been founded in October 1901, but within a few months of Whyman's historic first crossing had sold out to The Consolidated Manufacturing Company, which had resulted from the merger of the Kirk Manufacturing and Snell Cycle Fittings companies. Production shifted to Toledo, Ohio where the original model re-emerged under the Yale-California name. Like its predecessor, this first Yale was powered by a 1½hp single-cylinder engine equipped with 'surface' carburettor and battery/coil ignition. The frame was of the bicycle type with sprung leading-link front fork, and the wheels had steel rims, replacing the California's wooden ones. Yale later claimed that it was 'the first to use the spring front fork on a motorcycle.' Consolidated owned the Yale and Snell bicycle brands, so to give the latter's agencies something to sell, the new motorcycle was also marketed as the Snell-California, though this practice did not last long.

Among the first changes made to Marks' original design was the adoption of a built-up crankshaft and one-piece connecting rod in 1904, and the pioneering use of twist-grip throttle control the following year. The Yale-California of 1906 was a much sturdier affair than any of its predecessors, being recognisably a proper motorcycle rather than a motorised bicycle. An outside flywheel and direct drive transmission by belt were retained, but the surface carburettor had gone, replaced by a more modern spray type. A totally new model arrived for 1909, the California part of the name was dropped, ushering in the first true Yale motorcycle.

Eventually, Consolidated's other manufacturing interests, principally munitions, took precedence and motorcycle production ceased in 1915.

Although previously described as '1909', this Yale has the sloping top tube characteristic of early 1910 models, although it may well have been produced towards the end of the preceding year. An older restoration, the machine features a Persons leather saddle, Hawthorne 'Old Sol' acetylene headlight and generator, Breeze carburettor and 'AMC' badge to the front headlamp mount.

The current vendor purchased the yale at Bonhams' sale of the Richard C Paine Jr Collection at Owls Head, Maine in September 2008 (Lot 808). Since acquisition the machine has formed part of the Fabergé Museum collection in Germany and will require re-commissioning and safety checks prior to returning to the road following a period of static display.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that this motorcycle is titled under its engine number and its title is in transit. Please note, that this motorcycle is subject to California Highway Patrol VIN inspection--a simple procedural matter on which the condition or history of the motorcycle has no bearing. Following the auction, this lot will be transported to San Francisco, at no cost to the buyer, and will be available for collection from San Francisco on January 23rd.
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20% from $100,001 to $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price
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  1. Nick Smith
    Specialist - Motorcycles
    Bonhams
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