Offered From The Larry Bowman Collection
1914 Feilbach Limited 10HP
Engine no. A660
A unique survivor
Owned by the Feilbach family until the 1980s
Built by Mr. Feilbach for his personal use
The Golden Age of American motorcycling, in the period prior to World War I, may not have been so golden for many of the manufacturers. Indian had become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world by 1913 and Harley-Davidson was quickly becoming a major competitor to the bikes from the Wigwam, while Ignaz Schwinn's Excelsior also had a major claim to global sales of motorcycles. Meanwhile scores of the smaller manufacturers were struggling to survive. The "little guys" weren't short on innovation but perhaps became lost in the finances to continue operation, or merely the draw of the cards.
Arthur Otto Feilbach began producing mere handfuls of highly-made motorcycles in his workshop garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1904. These were high quality motorcycles of 350cc displacement and belt drive, and mostly sold to locals. Encouraged by the acceptance of his bikes, Arthur developed a better machine and formally entered the burgeoning motorcycle market as Feilbach Motor Company, Ltd. in 1907, but only produced three motorcycles in that year. It was rumored that Bill Harley worked in this shop for a time following his college education. Each following year he incrementally improved in his production numbers. Finally in 1912, Feilbach moved to a factory on Holton Street and production increased some tenfold. Securing new capital for 1913, another move to the northern section of the city and Feilbach introduced a new V-twin motorcycle that was quite successful in the local markets. For the 1914 model year, three models were marketed; a single cylinder chain drive, a V-twin chain drive and very unique and innovative to the American market, a V-twin with a 2-speed sliding gear transmission and worm gear shaft drive. The name "Limited" was also adopted because production was limited due to the precision involved in their motorcycle manufacturing. The Feilbach Limited never saw 1915. The costs of manufacturing a very high quality motorcycle and accessing much needed capital to continue growth stymied the fledgling company and the doors were closed forever. It was offered as a contributing factor of the demise, that neighboring Harley-Davidson used its powers to hinder any capital investments to the Feilbach Motor Company.
The 1914 Feilbach Limited offered for sale is a unique survivor of this story. In the 1980 's, Antique Motorcycle Club of America member, Joe Koller from Wisconsin, purchased this motorcycle from Charles Feilbach, son of the company founder. Following the closure of the Feilbach factory, it was assembled from surplus parts. At that time it received a maroon painted front rim and had wooden foot boards attached as those stock items were no longer available. Koller stated that the Feilbach suffered from abuse and was missing some parts. To his rescue came a complete set of original blueprints on linen, found by another AMCA member in an antique shop in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Koller used the blueprints to have replacement foot boards cast in aluminum to replace the wooden boards installed in 1915. While Koller got the Feilbach operational again, he wisely maintained it as found, in its original condition from the factory.
This 1130cc Feilbach Limited V-twin engine independently designed by Arthur Feilbach illustrated his knowledge of the internal combustion engine, and was new for the 1914 model year. His engineering ideas, such as the worm-drive shaft propelled twin highlighted his technical genius. His V-twin motor featured unique offset cylinders intended to improve the torque of the engine. Each cylinder had its own camshaft with both exhaust and intake lobes.
The chassis showed as much ingenuity as the engine. The frame was described as a popular camel-back loop type, but was designed with ruggedness in mind considering the conditions of roads the motorcycle would be exposed to in the Milwaukee area. Up front, a trussed main fork and spring fork provided the suspension needed to provide a safe and comfortable ride. This provided 5 inches of road clearance with a 32 inch saddle height. The gas tank held 2 gallons of fuel and 1 gallon of oil. The finish was a gorgeous Royal Coach Blue with white pin striping.
The Feilbach used twist grip controls with the throttle on the right. It used control wire inside the handlebars instead of leaving this important part of the motorcycle outside in the elements. The left grip was for spark control and had a special "Y" fitting so the single wire from the grip controlled both the compression release and the magneto. In use, the twist of the spark advance could kill both the spark and the compression simultaneously. Some standard industry features included a Schebler carburetor, and Eclipse dish clutch, a Corbin rear brake, a Troxel saddle and a Berling magneto. The bike's wheelbase was 60 inches and weighed in at 285 lbs.
Had this motorcycle been a production piece intended for sale, it would have cost the prospective buyer $275. However this is a completely different circumstance as this Feilbach Limited has a very special history to enjoy and admire, and now is the time for its next caretaker.
- Offered on a Bill of Sale.