A recent internet search for "World’s Rarest Motorcycle" yielded some fascinating results leading to the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC. WikiAnsweres, a site where knowledge is shared freely in the form of questions and answers, has labeled the museum’s 1917 Traub as the "World’s Rarest Motorbike".
Wheels Through Time is home to what many consider to be the premier collection of Vintage American motorcycles on the planet, containing over 300 of the rarest and most significant two- and three-wheeled American vehicles ever produced. Located in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the museum was founded by curator, Dale Walksler, as a way to preserve the history of motorized Americana. A true shrine to our countries motorcycle heritage, the Museum contains a plethora of machines dating back over 100 years to 1903. From prototypes and production models to boardtrack racers and hillclimbers, Wheels Through Time is a living, breathing museum, as each and every machine in the collection is kept in running condition, and are regularly started for visitors.
Of the hundreds of machines housed at Wheels Through Time, perhaps none are more rare than the 1917 Traub motorcycle on display in the museum’s "One-Of-A-Kind Motorcycles" exhibit.
The Traub has a unique story — one that has baffled previous owners and vintage motorcycle enthusiasts alike for over 40 years. Dated to 1917, the Traub is built entirely of its own design and to this date, no documentation on its origin has surfaced. Found in 1967 behind a brick wall during the renovation of a Chicago apartment building, the Traub fell into the hands of Chicago bicycle shop owner, Torillo Tacchi. After Tacchi had owned the machine for several years, actor and Hollywood stunt double, Bud Ekins, purchased the machine while on set for the Blues Brothers Movie in the late 1970s. The Traub was later sold to collector and restorer, Richard Morris, who then sold it to Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1990. It has been on permanent display in the museum collection ever since.
When comparing other top motorcycle makes and models of the era, the Traub has no equal. Comprised of a sand-cast, hand-built, 80 cubic-inch "sidevalve" engine, the machine has the ability to reach speeds in excess of 85 mph with ease. This is largely due to the builders development of a unique three-speed transmission — a feat that was only achieved by only a few of the most notable motorcycle companies during that time. Each and every part and component on the machine is hand-made and unique. During the early part of the 20th century, there were as many as 200 different motorcycle manufacturers, many of which used common parts found on other makes and models. What sets the Traub apart from other early "one-of-a-kind" machines is that of all the hundreds of parts that make up the this wonderful motorcycle, none can be found anywhere else in the world.
But perhaps the most interesting part of this cycle’s history is the story, or lack there-of, of its creation. Numerous public records searches by current owner, Dale Walksler, have yielded no results of a Traub Motorcycle Company ever existing. In fact, Walksler has been combing through Wheels Through Time’s historical archives for years, and has yet to find even a mention of a Traub motorcycle or company.
"For a machine to have such advanced features, unparalleled by other motorcycles of the same era, is truly outstanding," said Walksler. "It’s my opinion that The Traub was an attempt at a new breed of motorcycle. But how on earth could a machine have been produced in such great form, with capabilities that far exceed that of any comparable machine, without the knowledge of the rest of the motorcycle industry during that time."
While the Traub’s story remains a mystery, the search for its origin continues. "While we may never know why the machine was placed behind that wall, we do hope to one day find out more about its history and the genius that created it," said Walksler. Until then, the machine’s past will remain unknown, and it will hold its place as perhaps the rarest motorcycle on earth.
The Traub can be seen at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC and on the museum’s website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com.
For more information on the museum, and to plan a visit, check out their website or call (828) 926-6266.