Category Archives: Out Of The Box
Although winter might still be a few weeks away on the calendar, we just got our first measurable snow of the season here at The Old Motor. Motorcycle enthusiasts in the northern latitudes have long sought ways to enjoy their machines during the winter months and while J. Armand Bombardier may lay claim to the first commercially successful small snowmobile, the company’s 1959 Ski-doo was preceded by a long line of ingenious tinkerers who often used contemporary motorcycles as the basis for their designs. The beautifully crafted Indian-based motorsled above is just one such example.
The very different machine seen above was built by Norwegian-born Sigurd Olsen “Sig” Haugdahl. Haugdahl migrated to the United States in 1910 settling in Albert Lea, Minnesota and started his racing career on a 70 mile per hour Indian powered ice-cycle in 1912. Soon after, he switched to racing motorcycles but is perhaps best remembered today for his Wisconsin Special in which he hit 180 miles per hour on the sands of Daytona Beach in 1922. You can also find more early motorsleds here on The Old Motor. Our top photo courtesy of the Indian Museum of Australia. Photo below from the Sigurd William Haugdahl Collection courtesy of Bob Lawrence.
The endless creativity of the pioneers of motor transportation and the variety of their creations are what keep things interesting for us here at The Old Motor. It has been our “mission”, so to speak, to bring you interesting images and provide some historical information about them. But every now and then we come across photos of things that are great fun but so far out of the box that we can’t find out much about them. Such is the case today, so we invite you to join in with any information you might have about these unconventional machines.
To our eyes, the most practical of this group is the motorcycle/canoe combination in the our top photo. The starboard placement of the bike makes us think that it’s probably from the U.K., but as to the make, please tell us. The SIMO trike in our first thumbnail is a complete mystery to us. The caption on the second photo said that it’s The Grand Duke Alexis of Russia’s landau being drawn by a Heilmann electric tractor, c.1898.
If that’s correct, it makes us wonder if it’s the same Heilmann responsible for these unusual machines. And it seems that the curious 1926 Peugeot boat-car in our last image was not amphibious but was designed to promote the company’s newly formed marine engine division, Peugeot Maritime. You’ll find more uncommon subjects covered on The Old Motor. Today’s photos courtesy of the Yacht club des Avions de la Route.
- This Micheline prototype ran from Paris to Deauville averaging 107 k.p.h. (66.8 m.p.h.) on September 10, 1931 using Hispano-Suiza power
In the U.S., they were called railcars, railbuses or doodlebugs. Often created in a railroad’s own shops by ingenious crews who combined a car or truck driveline with an existing passenger or freight car, they provided economical service to less populated areas. But the purpose built units seen in our photos today raised the bar to a whole new level. While they are quite similar in appearance to some of their American counterparts, their use of rubber tires rather than conventional steel railroad wheels and superior speed mark significant differences.
The pneumatic railroad tire developed by Michelin offered a number of advantages over the traditional wheel type in this relatively lightweight application. Passengers experienced a smoother, quieter ride. Better traction resulted in faster acceleration, shorter braking distances and improved climbing ability on grades. Greatly reduced rail wear likewise resulted in reduced track maintenance costs. Downside factors included higher fuel consumption caused by increased drag and the possibility of flats.
Their increasing size and passenger capacity over the years attest to the merit of the initial concept. The Type 11, produced between 1932 and 1939, could propel 24 passengers at speeds up to 90 k.p.h. (56 m.p.h). Two Type 20′s were built in 1934. Orders for thirteen Type 21′s and thirty-seven Type 22′s followed. In service between 1936 and 1952, the big Type 23′s seated 96 and used a 400 horsepower Panhard flat opposed 12.
The long term success of the Michelines can be said to have led directly to the use of rubber tires on many modern metro systems around the world including Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Tokyo, Kobe and Yokohama in Japan, Paris, Lyon and Marseilles in France and Mexico City. You’ll find more than fifty pages of other unusual subjects along with several ”train cars” you can view here including a Pierce-Arrow, a 1933 Chrysler and a 1955 Buick on The Old Motor.