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What I’m offering here is not only an exceedingly early and rare internal combustion engine designed by famous 19th century bicycle racer, inventor, and motor bicycle racer Oscar Hedstrõm, it is also an important piece of American History.
Hedstrõm”s motor or engine powered the first Indian motorcycles which were called motor-bicycles. The design was a so called air cooled four stroke “inlet over exhaust” type; both valves are operated by the same push rod. The displacement of his first design was 213cc, producing 1-3/4HP. The motor had a provision on top of the cylinder head, a threaded hole, so the engine could be mounted as substitute of the seat-post and be an integral part of the bicycle frame to save weight, see picture 10.
Initially Manufactured by the Aurora Automatic Machining Co., the Thor motor was also called “Oscar Hedstrom engine.”
Though of specific Indian design, and related to the 1900 patented engine design of Emil Hafelfinger of New Jersey — a derivative of the French De Dion-Bouton design — engines were produced by Aurora Automatic Machinery Company of Aurora, Illinois. Strong bicycle-style diamond frames were made in a small shop in Springfield, Massachusetts, to be fitted with the Hedstrõm motor.
Hedstrõm completed his first prototype on May 25, 1901, at the old Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company in Middletown, Connecticut, and the first public demonstration was held on Cross Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, at 12:00 noon on Saturday June 1, 1901.
According to history, only 137 Thor motors were produced in 1902. It is fair to assume that production was increased from the 137 produced in the first year in the following years.
The antique motor here bears the serial number A624 which is stamped into the motor (see picture 12) and was made in 1904. The following writing is cast into the cast aluminum motor-housing, “Thor Motor, AURORA AUT MACH”Y CO AURORA ILLINOIS.”
A 1904 Rambler with motor serial number A590 stemming from the EJ Collection was sold by MECUM Auctions in Las Vegas on March 20-21, 2015, as lot F50 for $30,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) with an estimate of $50,000 to $75,000.
The same Rambler motor bicycle model 1904, with the same serial number A590 sold as lot S9 at MECUM”s Auction again two years later in Monterey CA, for $35,000.00, not including buyer”s premium and sales tax.
The serial numbers A590 and A624 are only 34 motors apart and it is fair to assume that they both were manufactured in the same year, the year 1904.
MECUM sold a 1905 Indian Camelback in Las Vegas in 2019. This one had serial number 1,917 and sld for $104,500. This restored motor-bicycle was part of the MC collection of Stockholm.
A 1904 Thor with unknown serial number stemming from the Bill Harrah collection did not meet reserve when it was offered by MECUM Auctions in Las Vegas on April 30, 2021. This 1904 Thor was lot F192 and the reserve was set at $50,000 (excluding buyer’s premium).
The last early Indian Camelback with a Hedstrom motor was sold at auction between September 6 - 9, 2023, as lot S156 in Anamosa, Iowa, at the National Motorcycle Museum, conducted by Mecum Auctions. This Indian Camelback, a 1903 model with the serial number 358, was part of the collection of the John & Jill Parham Estate, and sold for $57,200 plus buyers premium.
By 1908, serial numbers were up to 11,430 (lot F151, MECUM auction 2019 in Las Vegas).
Under the contract between Hedstrom and Aurora, Aurora was allowed to manufacture as many motors as they could sell to other establishments which built motorized bicycles after supplying as many motors first, needed by Hedstrom and Hendee for the Hendee Manufacturing Co. Under the agreement, Aurora would pay royalties to Hendee Mfg. Co., for every motor sold to other motor-bicycle manufacturers.
Rambler was a brand name of Pope Mfg. Co., which organized the American Cycle Mfg. Co., especially for motor bicycle production in 1902; Pope also had manufacturing plants in Hartford and later in Springfield Massachusetts. The Rambler model 1904 which was a clone of the Indian Camelback was priced at $225.00 in 1904, see picture on the right.
Oscar Hedstrom set a speed-record with his Thor motor manufactured by Aurora in 1903 of 56mph; these motorized racing bicycles had no clutch or brakes and many accidents ended up killing the race-drivers.
In 1905, Hendee Manufacturing Co. in Springfield reportedly produced 1,000 motor-bicycles which they sold under the brand name “Indian.”
Hedstrom did not change the design of his motor between 1903 and 1905; In a 1908 parts catalog Aurora shows a picture of the original 1903 design and called it a 1903-05. Models for the years 1906-07 were based on the same design but had numerous changes. The design was updated in 1908 and sold as model “7”. In 1911, Thor engines were offered with a clutch for the first time. Rocker arms changed the design in 1912 in a radical way.
Back in 1904 however, they called them “motorized bicycles” and not “motorcycles,” the term motorcycles was not born yet! The company was called Hendee Mfg.Co., and the motor-cycles were sold under the model or brand name “Indian.”. Only in 1923 the name was changed to Indian Motocycle Mfg. Co., but more under “History” further down.
Picture on the left; Oscar Hedstrom with a “Camelback” Indian motor bicycle.
This super rare motor or engine with serial number A604 is in good condition, everything moves smooth as it should (I sprayed some oil into the cylinder before I cranked the shaft). The little cover over the timing mechanism is missing. Other than that, this motor is complete. There is no carburetor. There are no cracks. Three of the cooling fins are damaged as shown in pictures 4, 5, 6, and 16. I have not dismantled the motor but I expect there are no surprises inside.
Somebody attached a pulley to power something, a washing machine?
If a potential buyer is interested to see the internal parts, I will take it apart and make pictures for $100 down-payment. If there are any surprises I will refund the $100. I have the necessary tools and experience to take it apart and to put it back together. The $100 payment is to protect me from requests from individuals who do not seriously intend to buy it.
The top bicycle racers of the third quarter of the 19th century were the super stars of their time, like the Football and Basketball stars of today.
There were no paved roads back then and races were held on oval circuits made of wooden boards, or along sandy ocean beaches. Madison Square Garden was one of many places were board track racing events were held on weekends, but the first races were held near Daytona Beach, FL, as early as xx.
With the dawn of the 20 century, the internal combustion engine entered first the bicycle race scene as a wind breaker or pacer, and shortly after — not surprising — also as power source of motorized-bicycles which raced against each other. Like the racing bicycles, these motorized bicycles had no brakes; these motorized racing bicycles also had no clutch and achieved speeds of up to 56 mph (Hedstrom record set in 1903 with his own motor-design).
The following write-up focuses on the famous names, events, and places surrounding the Thor-motor offered for sale here, such as Carl Oscar Hedstrom, George Mallory Hendee, the Hendee & Nelson Manufacturing Company, the Hendee Manufacturing Company, the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Co., the Aurora Automatic Machine Co., and “Murderdromes”
The crowd was properly dazzled as Fournier’s “fastest two-wheeled vehicle ever built” took up its warming run around the track. Unfortunately, some of that dazzle dulled appreciably when the machine broke its leather drive belt after only three miles. To add insult to injury, Fournier could not disengage the engine and the machine lay on its side, its motor running until the fuel ran out, dying like some mechanical beast. The race was touted as a win for humans over machines although Fournier’s pit crew alleged someone tampered with the machine. Nevertheless, either event probably offered enough of a demonstration for Hedstrom to become smitten by the motor machine and convinced that his mechanical talents could improve on its performance.Oscar Hedstrom was present that day, and competed in the professional half-mile race (placing 1st) and the one-mile handicap (placing 2nd): it’s hard to imagine that he missed seeing the DeDion powered pacer perform, or the lack thereof.
R. A. Frisbee and Oscar Hedstrom are engaged in building a motor wheel which it is believed will eclipse anything yet placed on the market. It is probable that they will also furnish a motor for the wheel of their own designs. The drawings of the wheel which have been shown to some of the professional riders have elicited much praise and already two vehicles have been ordered after the pattern.
The wheel resembles in many ways the infernal machine exhibited by Fournier, the Frenchman, at Crystal Lake Park last June but is more modern. The wheel is enameled a royal blue and presents a handsome appearance. The nameplate will bear the name Hedstrom.
Inventory Number 09348;