1917-1923 Smith / Briggs and Stratton Flyer Cycle Car

The Smith / Briggs and Stratton Flyer Cycle Car originated with the Smith Motor Wheel. The car featured here is the 1920 model.

flyer cycle car

Flyer Cycle Car

Smith Motor Wheel and the American Cycle Car

The founder of Smith Precision Products Company located in Milwaukee, WI, Reuben Stanley Smith, filed seven patents between the years 1914 and 1917.

His patents were for a  device he called a Motor Wheel. The Smith Motor Wheel was a device attached to the side of a bicycle. The Motor Wheel consisted of an engine and a wheel. Reuben Stanley Smith is remembered as a fascinating inventor known as the inventor of record for various machines and equipment.

You could say this device made the bicycle powered, similar to what we call a moped, with the exception that a had the engine mounted on the bike frame. In many respects the cycle car is a cousin to to both the bicycle and the motorcycle. The Smith Motor Wheel used as power for a bicycle was manufactured from 1914 to 1917.

smith motor wheel

Smith Motor Wheel

During this period, automobiles were still a novelty, and prices were of such that only the wealthy could purchase one. The Cycle Car, while different and more primitive, still was a mode of transportation and much more affordable. Smith Precision Products built their Cycle Car based on the Smith Motor Wheel from 1917 to 1920.

It’s estimated that the about 25,000 Smith Motor Wheels were produced from 1914 through 1919.

Briggs and Stratton Cycle Car

There were many cycle cars manufactured. Some put the total at around 125. One manufacturer that stands out in addition to the Smith / Briggs and Stratton is the Morgan Motor Company. Morgan produced the three wheel Morgan Aero and still produces cycle cars today.

Smith Precision Products built the Smith Flyer Cycle Car from 1917 to 1920 after purchasing the rights for the Wall Motor Wheel from Surrey, England. Wall had developed an attachment to bicycles in 1902. The Wall Motor Wheel was attached to the back of the bicycle which allowed for banking during turns. The Smith Motor Wheel was a device with several modifications to the Wall Motor Wheel. The Smith Cycle car was well accepted and eventually have it’s rights purchased.

The Briggs and Stratton Company, who purchased the manufacturing rights for the Motor Wheel and the Smith Cycle Car, produced Flyer cycle cars from 1920 to 1923.  Just about all aspects of the Smith Cycle Car were seen on the Briggs and Stratton models. The Smith / Briggs and Stratton Flyer Cycle Car as featured in this article had a buckboard and two buckets seats. An interesting side note is that the Smith Motor Wheel was the basis for Briggs and Stratton developing their power lawn mowers.

smith motor wheel cycle car

As part of the car was a fifth wheel, shown above, placed at the rear. The fifth wheel was hooked up with a single cylinder air-cooled engine and delivered two horsepower. The Briggs and Stratton fuel tank carried one-half gallon of gasoline. The mileage was advertised as 40 to 50 miles. Speed was estimated at 15 MPH. The vehicle sold for $175. Briggs and Stratton marketed their Flyer Cycle Car to a young audience, similar to a motorcycle audience. Typical advertisements for this vehicle suggested…”Just imagine traveling 100 miles an hour at up to 25 MPH on just one gallon of gasoline“.

You may enjoy the Auto Museum Online articles on the links below…

The Morgan Aero Eight

2013 Morgan 3 Wheeler Limited Edition Superdry

Today, the Smith and Briggs and Stratton Motor Wheels are collector items. The Flyer Cycle Cars were popular and some exist today, such as the one featured in this article.

An excellent website that offers a list of American cycle car manufacturers along with their various locations and production dates is …http://www.american-automobiles.com/Cyclecar-Manufacturers.html

(Article aand photos copyright Auto Museum Online)

1931 Cadillac 452A V-16

There was time that automobiles were often judged by the number of cylinders their engines had. It could be argued that this is sometimes the case today, but in 1931 the Cadillac 452A and it’s 16 cylinders said a lot. The car was an all-time great for Cadillac. Cadillac produced two of only three production, gasoline-fueled V16 engine models in automotive history.

cadillac v-16

1931 Cadillac V-16

Cadillac Unveils Their Expensive V-16

The Cadillac 452A V-16 was introduced at the New York Auto Show on January 4, 1930. This was a bit over two months after the great stock market crash. Timing could have been better but nobody could predict the future. The style of the car was a collaboration between Cadillac GM Lawrence Fisher and GM stylist Harley Earl. The body for all 1931 Cadillacs were longer and lower than previous models. Theses cars also had a longer hood. The 1931′s also had a chrome plated screen that covered the radiator and gave the car an expensive look. Cadillac used it’s longest wheelbase and very elaborate bodies for the V-16′s.

Cadillac led the way in developing the V-16 although both Peerless and Marmon were attempting to do the same. All three automakers were working on this project during the last years of the Roaring Twenties. The goal was to design a smooth running engine that would provide more than adequate power. Cadillac used the term “continuous flow” to describe their V-16. Continuous flow implied that the engine multiplies power and subdivides it into a continuous flow, always at full volume efficiency.

cadillac 452a

Cadillac’s top of the line vehicle

The engine debuted in 1930. The V-16 Cadillac was highest priced Cadillac to date however this did not turn buyers away, even a year after the stock market crash of 1929. Interestingly enough, while Cadillac had orders for over 2,000 of these vehicles during the first six months the car was out, sales dropped in 1931. In fact, it would take another ten years for Cadillac to get decent sales numbers for it’s V-16. During that period of time Cadillac was producing only about 50 of the V-16′s per year.

The Cadillac V-16 was a success if you look at it’s first year. After that the Great Depression was in the wings and sales were not good. Regardless, Cadillac’s 452A V-16 did outperform the Packard’s Twelve.

The V-16 was designed by an ex-Marmon engineer, Owen Nackler. Cadillac’s first V-16 engine was a combination of two new Buick eight cylinder engines. The two engine blocks were put on a common frame with each block at a 45 degree angle to the other. Crankshaft and crankcase were of course common. The V-16 could put out 165 HP and achieve a speed of 90 MPH. It’s said that the V-16 could get 8 miles per gallon.

A Status Automobile

A status automobile might be one with a custom coach build and with a high price tag. It was an automobile for the very wealthy and in some cases celebrities. Customers could have their V-16 Cadillac as they wished. Cadillac provided some 70 different styles for the customer to choose from. If the customer chose, he or she could take a finished chassis to an independent coach builder.

cadillac v-16

View of the dashboard

To help secure status, a buyer of the Cadillac 452A might pay $6,500 for the automobile. With this being said, the Cadillac V-16 remained the top of the line Cadillac from it’s inception straight through to 1940.

1930-31 Cadillac 452A V-16 Specifications

As mentioned above, the engine was a combination of two Buick V-8′s with a common crankshaft and crankcase. The engine was 452 cubic inches. Horsepower was rated at 165.

Transmission was a three speed manual.

The wheelbase for the 30-31 model was 148.0 inches. Vehicle length varied due to model. Vehicle eight averages about 6,000 lbs.

Please see these additional Auto Museum Online articles on the links below…

1951 Cadillac Series 75 Limousine

Red and White 1955 Cadillac Coupe

v-16 engine

V-16 engine

Collector Values for Cadillac’s V-16

The restored Cadillac V-16 can be quite costly but has also returned good appreciation. All body styles designed for this automobile are rare for each model and thus are valuable.

Production numbers, as mentioned above, were low. Aside from 1930, on;y about four dozen Cadillac V-16′s were built per year. As a result, the automobile is rare and fully restored models have sold for several hundred thousand dollars. 1930 and 1931 models have sold anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000 often times above the asking prices. The two highest selling models were the Sports Phaeton and the Fleetwood Roadster.

Reference material includes FLeetwood:  Individual Body Styles…Cadillac V-16 (sales brochure) and The Cadillac That Followed Me Home: Memoir of a V-16 Dream Realized by author Christopher W. Cummings.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)


Louie Mattar’s 1947 Cadillac / The Car That Had Virtually Everything

The automobile featured in this article is like one you may have never seen. It’s a 1947 Cadillac along with a converted trailer. The automobile is, as of this writing, exhibited at the San Diego Automobile Museum. There’s a few things special about this car and trailer.. Life Magazine called the car…” A Car that has Everything“.

louie mattar cadillac

Louie Mattar’s 1947 Cadillac

Many people who have owned cars and trucks have always thought of modifying their vehicles. What you’ll see in this article is about the most modified and converted automobiles of all time.

Soon after purchasing his 1947 Cadillac, a man named Louie Mattar, a San Diego California garage owner, began the process that resulted in the creation of this dream car. The result took five years to build.

Just for starters, this 1947 Cadillac which has been modified and converted (modified might not be as strong a term) allowed it’s owner to cook meals, iron clothes, have a cocktail, take a shower and much more. Storage for many appliances were under car seats. Mattar even put a microphone next to the driver with a speaker under the hood. This allowed the driver to speak with pedestrians and other vehicles. None of these by a long shot were of course dealer accessories. The several aforementioned accessories were on the car portion itself.

1947 cadillac louie mattar san diego

You can see the ironing board and stove in the back seat

Louie Mattar saved money in this conversion by doing most of the work himself. For instance he curved the water pipes for the shower around the exhaust manifold for hot water. Mattar put the pumping system under the hood and next to the tail light was a drinking fountain. This is about as creative a man could get with an automobile.

If you think the car is really something, here’s more…

The car was designed to hold 50 gallons of water, with a reserve tank of 30 gallons in the trailer.

The trailer, which has a dining area in it’s rear end, also holds 230 gallons of gas and 15 gallons of oil.

The car automatically refills the radiator and changes the oil, and the axles are drilled, which allow the tires to be inflated while turning. Hydraulic jacks allow the wheels to be raised for changing while moving. Interestingly enough, after all of these modifications, Louie Mattar’s Cadillac has a stock 1947 Cadillac Engine.

Louie Mattar’s Endurance Record

In 1952, Mattar and two other men achieved a cross-country. endurance record by driving the 47 Cadillac from San Diego to New York and back without stopping. Their trip totaled 6,320 miles and required refueling from a moving gas truck, much like an aircraft refueling from a flying tanker plane. This would have been quite a challenge alone and it was all accomplished in 1952. The round trip for the three drivers took only one week.

mattar 47 cadillacThe car also made a non-stop trip from Anchorage Alaska to Mexico City later in 1952. This was again accomplished  with Louis Mattar’s unique refueling while moving system. This automobile was obviously a one-off.

Here are additional Auto Museum Online articles on the links below…

See This 1941 Chevrolet Fleetline Convertible

The 1948 Buick Custom Super Sedanette

The 1940 LaSalle

1931 Cadillac 452A V-16


A very good book about Louie Mattar and his 1947 Cadillac is…Louie and the Fabulous Car by George M. Barrack.

Visit the San Diego Automobile Museum

Louie Mattar’s automobile has been displayed at the San Diego Automobile Museum. This is an excellent auto museum located in beautiful and historic Balboa Park, home to the 1915-16 Panama-American Exposition visited by many well known individuals such as Theodore Roosevelt. Attractions in San Diego California are plenty and this museum is certainly one of the better.

louie mattar car trailer

A view of the dining area on Louie Mattar’s trailer

The San Diego Automobile Museum is not large but it is totally cool. Each vehicle on display there, including the motorcycles, have an interesting history. The car’s there are really wonderful vehicles and your visit to the museum can easily take one hour. Some displays change about every three months. As mentioned above, check out the museum website for the latest news on displays and upcoming special events.

The Louie Mattar Cadillac exhibit has a video to watch explaining the history of the car and it’s creator. You’ll also find plenty of information on all the vehicles displayed there.

(Article and photos copyright AutomuseumOnline)


The NSU Prinz IV, Prinz 1200 TT and Typ 110

The NSU Motorenworke AG in then West Germany produced the NSU Prinz (Prince) car from 1958 to 1973. During this time there were several models built. The company founder was Christian Schmidt.

prinz 1200 tt

1967 Prinz 1200 TT

NSU Motorenworke AG

NSU actually began by two young mechanics as a knitting machine manufacturer. Next the company took on building bicycles which at the time was a hot selling item. Next, not surprisingly, were motorcycles. The first being introduced in 1901. By 1903 the company was building motors with some six models available.

Without stooping building motorcycles which were selling well, NSU began building automobiles with the first being introduced in 1905. This car had a 3 horsepower engine. In 1909 the cars sported V-twin motors.

During World War One NSU produced vehicles both cars and motorcycles, for the Wehrmacht. After the war and into the 1920′s,NSU was very active with race cars. When World War Two opened up on the Continent, NSU was told to produce motorcycles and half-tracks for the Nazis. It was during the war that the NSU factory in Nackarsulm, thus the name “NSU”,  was badly damaged in an Allied air raid. Ironically, this occurred just a few weeks before the end of war.

prinz air cooled engines

Four cylinder air-cooled engine

NSU Prinz IV

The  NSU Prinz IV  was introduced in 1961 at the Franfurt Motor Show. The 2-door sedan model replaced the previous Prinz I-III models.

If you think the automobile has a resemblance to the Chevrolet Corvair you’re right. The Prinz was smaller than a Corvair. This Prinz model however was powered by a two cylinder air cooled engine. Top speed for this model was rated at 75 MPH with an advertised 36 horsepower.

NSU Prinz 1000, Type 110 and the 

A larger bodied Prinz 1000 came out in 1963. This automobile had the Prinz IV design with a more lively engine. Coming out in 1965 was the Typ-110 having a larger body as well as a more powerful engine. The Prinz 1000 and the Typ 110 both had air cooled four cylinder rear mounted engines. The Typ 110 and the Type 110 SC, due to the more powerful 66.2 cubic inch engines plus their light weight, could out perform many sports cars. In 1967 the cars were given a 71.8 cubic inch engine.

The Prinz models all had a four speed manual all-synchromesh gear box.

After 1967 the Prinz Typ 110 took on a new name as the Prinz 1200.

The Design for Rear Engined Vehicles

You will find that the rear mounted engine has it’s center of gravity past the rear axle. The fact that the weight of the engine is at the rear, the rear tires have more weight exerted on them thus better traction. Another advantage for automakers is that a rear engine drive trail can be installed as a unit. This can’t be done with front mounted engines and building a rear engine car has manufacturing advantages. With this being said, most automakers no longer build rear engine automobiles with the exception of Porsche.

An iconic automobile with a rear engine you’ve most likely see was the DeLorean DMC-12.

The Wankel Engine and NSU

During the late 1950′s, NSU Motorenworke AG began working with the Wankel engine in which they built a prototype in 1957 and began using it on production models after 1960. The Wankel engine was invented by a German and was an internal combustion engine. In 1961, NSU collaborated with Mazda to do more experiments. The first out with this rotary engine was NSU when they introduced their 1964 Spider model. Mazda displayed their engine at the Tokyo Motor Show that same year.

nsu prinz automobiles

NSU Prinz 1200 TT

The primary operating difference between the Wankel and the piston engine is that instead having pistons moving up and down with a particular firing order, the Wankel has all parts moving in a single direction. The engine by design is lighter than a common piston engine which is a performance advantage.

1961 Prinz 4 Specifications

The Prinz 4 was powered by a four cylinder air cooled engine putting out 36 horsepower. The 1967 Prinz 1200 TT featured in this article is powered by an inline four cylinder engine delivering 65 horsepower. There was also a  1000 cc TTS engine available that could provide 70 horsepower and will a special tune could reach 83 horsepower.

The car’s dimensions included an overall length of 135.4 inches, width of 58.7 inches, height of 53.5 inches and a wheelbase of 80.3 inches.

You may also enjoy the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below…..

1967 VW Beetle / Photos, Specs, History

Restored 1957 Karmann Ghia

prinz 1200 tt dashboard

67 Prinz 1200 TT dashboard

Prinz Automobiles as Collector Cars

The NSU Prinz cars are rare in the U.S. but if you can find one they appear to be reasonably priced.

The cars found are primarily in the U.K. and the Continent. NSU was the first licensee company to build a car using the rotary Wankel engine. As mentioned above, the design of the NSU Prinz IV is smaller but has a remarkable body design similar to the Chevy Corvair.

We have seen a low mileage 1969 Prinz 1200 C with an asking price of $3,900. A 1961 NSU Prinz III (last year for the III’s) with a price of $7,600. We found another adorable 1960 Prinz III for sale in the U.S. for $10,000. You may also see NSU Prinz project cars for sale at significantly lower prices than these.

References used for this article incudes….NSU Prinz 4 by NSU Motorenwerke. For more information regarding the NSU company, there are several good articles on website…..http://www.motorcyclecollector.com

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline,


The 1967 VW Beetle / Photos, Specs, History

The car featured in this article is a beautiful 1967 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible. I think most people would agree that the VW Beetle is a true legendary automobile and is a increasingly popular collector car.

1967 volkswagen beetle type 1

1967 Volkswagen Beetle

Germany had built new highways (autobahns) during the 1930′s and the VW Beetle was inspired by it’s then leader Adolph Hitler.

Hitler wanted an affordable car for the masses who could then take advantage of the country’s new autobahn systems. The first VW’s are referred to as a VW Bug and a Volkswagen Type 1. They are also called the “People’s Car

The VW Type 1′s

The Volkswagen Beetle’s design is an interesting story. In the 1920s Joseph Ganz, a motor sport magazine editor, had already made a similar design for a car that was smaller and more affordable than automobiles of that day. Automobile manufacturers showed little interest, but two motorcycle manufacturers were interested. A prototype of the Ganz designed car was built in 1929. The car was called a “Standard Superior“. Three other prototypes were built in 1931, 1933 and 1934. Take a look at the 1934 prototype and you’re just about looking at the VW Type 1.

vw type 1

The VW TYpe 1 Beetle

As it turned out, Adolph Hitler arrested Ganz in 1933 for trumped up charges and after the arrest Ganz’s designs and design specifications were confiscated by the Nazis. Joseph Ganz ended up fleeing Germany in 1934 at about the same time that Hitler contracted with Porsche.

The design for the Volkswagen Type 1 was begun in 1934 by Ferdinand Porsche and his team who were contracted for the project by Hitler. The design wasn’t completed until about three years later. The cars were tested considerably. In 150,000 kilometers of test drives, the Type 1 demonstrated that it could easily maintain a speed of 100 kilometers per hour on the Autobahn. In mountain testing the VW drove pass larger automobiles. In essence, the VW Type 1 has astounding test results.

It was said that Hitler made the following comments after Ferdinand Porsche completed his design…..“Over the past four years, and with continual improvements, we have developed the Volkswagen, which we are convinced not only can be sold at the price we want, but also can be manufactured in ways that use a minimum of workers to produce the maximum amount. The model that has resulted from years of work by Dr. Porsche will undergo testing this year. It will enable millions of new customers with limited incomes to afford a car. We owe the best cars in the world to our directors, engineers, craftsmen, workers, and salesmen. Today, I am convinced that in a short time we will also build the least expensive cars.”

Because the Type 1 VW went into production near the beginning of World War Two in Europe, only a very small number of these pre war Type 1 VW’s were produced. Production resumed for the European market in late 1945. 1967 VW Beetle production was reported to be 7,567 vehicles.

From 1938 to 2003 VW produced various models of the Type 1 automobile including the VW Beetle, the VW Thing and the Karmann Ghia. The Karmann Ghia, produced from 1955 to 1974 was known to some in North America as simply a “Ghia“. During these years just under a half-million sporty VW Karmann Ghias were built and thousands are still on the road today.

Our Featured 1967 VW

The 1967 VW Beetle featured in this article was built in Wolfsburg Germany. Only 7,000 of these automobiles were produced. The year 1967 was significant for Volkswagen in as much as it was the first year of a 12 volt electrical system. It was the last year of all chrome bumpers with overriders and all steel dashboards. The year 1967 was the last year for bumper mounted backup lights.

67 vw beetle convertible

Front view of the 67 Beetle

Transmissions available for the 67 VW Beetle were a four speed manual, a four speed semi automatic and a three speed semi automatic.

The VW Type 1 Engine

The Volkswagen Type 1 engine was an air cooled box shaped four cylinder design. The largest Type 1 engine VW made was 1600 cc. The Type 1 engine has the cooling fan mounted on the end of the alternator shaft and is belt driven.


See additional AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below…

The 1914 Air Cooled Franklin Series 6 Tourer

The Popular and Small Nash Metropolitan

Reference material for this article and books of interest include…..Hitlers Chariots : Volkswagen-from Nazi’s Peoples Car to New Beetle by author Blaine Taylor….Birth of the Beetle : The Development of the Volkswagen by Porsche by author Chris Barber.

vw beetle dashboard

67 VW Beetle dashboard

From 1936 to 2006 many types of air cooled VW engines were manufactured. The smallest engine was 1100 cc that delivered 34 horsepower. That engine was used in VW’s from 1945 (at the end of World War Two) to 1953. The engines were updated over the years to eventually a size of 1600 cc in 1966.

In 1971 this engine was updated for a final time that had it delivering 50 horsepower. A muscle car engine it certainly was not but the VW Type 1 was considered very reliable and truly was a fuel efficient power plant.

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline)