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

1924 Hydrogen Powered Model T Turbo Depot Hack


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)

See This 1929 Phantom Woodie / A Surfer’s Dream

Featured in this article is a 1929 Phantom Woodie. One definition of a Phantom vehicle is one in which a wooden body was placed on a chassis, either a custom chassis or a chassis made for an all steel body. Some of these creative vehicles you see may be hot rods.It was probably in the 1980's that the Woodies started to be popular at hot rod runs.

1929 phantom woodie

1929 Phantom Ford Woodie

The Early Woodie Wagons

Ford Motor Company became the chief builder of wood bodied station wagons although Woodie Wagons were never really produced in huge quantities.

The company even went ahead and owned the forests from where the wood for their wagons originated from. It took all the way to 1929 before Ford added a wood-bodied station wagon to its product lineup. As you can see, the Woodie Wagon featured in this article was a Ford.

Go Surfing in Your Woodie

The wood paneled Ford wagon was actually produced for decades before it became the definitive California surfers' car.

The open air nature of the Woodie Wagon made them especially suited to the mild climate of southern California. Surfing and a Woodie Wagon seem to go together as shown in our photo collection in this article. During the mid 1960's there was a strong connection between rock and roll, automobiles, and surfing. The song "Surf City" by Jan and Dean was a perfect example. Surfers especially liked woodies, thus the line in the song, “I bought a ’34 wagon and we call it a woodie.”

ford woodie wagon 1929

Ready for surfing with your Woodie

It was not until after World War Two that all steel bodies spelled the end of real wood woodies. After that of course woodie wagons, when they were built, appeared with a veneer wood grain substitute. Woodie wagons are surely rare, but their popularity is as strong or stronger than any steel bodied street rod wagons. It's our opinion and most likely the opinion of most that the Woodie Wagon will stay popular and even increase their popularity as years go by.

Placing a Wood Body on a Steel Chassis

Probably one of the most critical elements in construction a Phantom Woodie is fastening the body to the frame. The goal is to  fasten the body to the car frame so that frame twisting wouldn't bend and damage the wood. Where you're more likely to have problems is, for instance, going up an incline and actually hearing the wood body make a sound such as a creak. One way to alleviate this is to put girders on the frame for added strength. Always consider that wood expands and moves with changes in humidity and weather conditions.

Commonly, you might use a metal floor pan.attached with cushions from an existing car and build from that. With a wood body on the rear of the vehicle the body could be bolted to 2X4 oak runners 4 up and 2 across. This is one example. The car's body will then sit upon this oak sub frame. Everyone knows that wood can and will deteriorate over time. A reason more of the early Woodies didn't survive was that they worked themselves apart with regular twisting and this allowed water to get into the joints and speed up deterioration.

Check out the additional AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links shown below...

A 1946 Ford Woodie Wagon

Sample Decodings of Vintage and Classic Car Serial Numbers

A Beautiful 1931 Cadillac 452A V-16

The 1951 Willys Station Wagon

1929 Ford Woodie Wagon Specifications

The 1929 Ford Woodie Wagon, built on a Model A chassis, came with a Ford Flathead four cylinder engine delivering 40 horsepower.


1929 ford wagons

Interior and dash on the 1929 Phantom Woodie

Transmission on the 1929 Ford Wagon was a three speed manual.

The vehicles wheelbase was 103.0 inches and had a curb weight of 2,482 lbs.

Everything on the dashboard of the vehicle is quite simple. You have an “On” and “Off’ switch, a speedometer, plus amp and oil gauges. To read the water temperature you look at a gauge set in the radiator cap that's visible from the cabin.

In general, Ford Station Wagon production was very small in 1929. Ford produced a total of 1,507,000 vehicles in 1929. Out of that number only a total of 4,950 station wagons were built.

ford phantom woodie wagon

Front view of the 29 Phantom Woodie

Collector Woodies

If you locate a Woodie Station Wagon for sale you'll find a variety of asking prices. As of this writing we see a fully restored 1936 Ford Woody Wagon in museum quality condition with an asking price of $89, 900. We also see a 1937 model at $155,000 and a 1931 model at $39,900.

Anyone owning a Woodie or contemplating a Woodie project should check out the National Woodie Club.

On their website...http://www.nationalwoodieclub.com...the club's purpose is " to promote interest in woodies; to educate owners and the public on their history, beauty, usefulness and uniqueness; and to provide an association through which woodie owners and enthusiasts may exchange information on history, building, restoration or modification techniques and share experiences. The woodie is a special kind of car, which deserves special recognition. The National Woodie Club will work toward that goal".

The National Woodie Club is an excellent source for bodies, parts and tools for sale by woodie members.

The National Woodie Club is an excellent source for bodies, parts and tools for sale by woodie members.

surfer woodie wagon

Another view of the Phantom Woodie surfer wagon

 A few good books and reference material regarding the Woodie Wagons include...Famous Ford Woodies: America's Favorite Station Wagons, 1929-1951 by author Laura Sorensen....American Woodies by author Donald F. Wood and "Do-It-Yourself Guide To Woodie Woodworking: A Hands-On Guide To Restoring Wood-Bodied Station Wagons" by author Richard Bloechl.

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline)