Early American – 1911 Yale Single

In America, Cruiser, Vintage by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

Share Button

Post Listing Update: This Yale did not meet reserve despite 48 bids up to $25,368.13 (BIN was $36,500).

10-12-17 Update: This bike did not sell on Craigslist so now it’s up on eBay and we can see what the market thinks of it. Bidding is currently up to $24,100 with the reserve not yet met

10-12-17 Bonus Action: If you really love old Americans, the seller also has a 1912 Marsh-Metz but the difference between the bidding ($26,600) and the BIN request ($195,000) is staggering. IF you’re curious, you can find that bike

Roy C. Marks designed what is widely considered to be the very first motorcycle ever produced in the United States. The Toledo, Ohio-native’s 1896 Marks Motorcycle would be the catalyst to a handful of companies. The engine and mechanics were heavily “inspired” by the French DeDion-Bouton. Marks set up shop in San Francisco, California and in 1901 he created the California Motor Company which would sell Marks Motorcycles under the name: “The California”.

In 1902, Marks registered two engine patents, with the first issued on the 30th of September, 1902 (patent 710,329) for an Explosive Engine for Motor-Vehicles. The second patent (710,330) was for a Carburetor for Explosive-Engines and was issued on January 2nd, 1902. The bike was a (I think 90cc) 1.5hp moto-bicycle that reportedly weighed 90 pounds dry and had 28” wheels. Another major event in the company’s history took place in 1902 when a rider named George Wyman rode a California scoot from San Francisco to New York City in 50-days, though supposedly he had to pedal the final 150 miles. Nonetheless, this impressive feat garnered the manufacturer a lot of media attention.

Around this same time Consolidated Manufacturing – a company based in Mark’s native Toledo, Ohio – bought out the San Francisco-based moco, breaking down the factory and shipping all its equipment, tooling, and assets to Ohio. Consolidated itself formed out of a merger between Kirk Manufacturing and Snell Cycle Fittings. In Ohio the original models would be rebranded under the moniker: “Yale-California”. Like the model it was copying, the Yale-California was powered by a 1.5hp single equipped with a ‘surface’ carb, battery/coil ignition, a proper oil-tank, steel rims (which replaced its predecessor’s wooden wheels), and a bicycle-type frame with sprung leading-link front fork.

Some of the differences found on the machine Marks had originally designed included the adoption of a built-up crankshaft and one-piece connecting rod, both of which were implemented in 1904. The following year the company would debut one of the first ever twist-grip throttle control systems. The 1906 Yale – which is widely considered to be the first “true Yale”, being the first model to drop the California-part of the moniker – was substantially beefier than the models that came before it, resembling what we would today identify as more of a “proper motorcycle”, as opposed to a motorized-bicycle. While the direct drive transmission by belt and outside flywheel were retained, the design lost the surface carb, in leu of a more modern spray-type unit. The following models over the next three years saw minor tweaks – such as in 1908 when a loop-type frame was first used, (interestingly a year before Indian would utilize one) – but it wouldn’t be until 1909 that a completely new model would be introduced.

The 1909 model would lose the bottom-part of the loop-style frame, using the engine as a stressed-element in its place. The stressed member engine was a 3.5hp “F-Head” power-plant, which had its inlets over the exhausts. This was a brand new engine design and this time it didn’t utilize an outside flywheel. In the coming years it would adopt features such as chain-drive, and a two-speed planetary transmission. In 1910 a twin was added to the Yale line-up. Early versions had faulty frames that would often break, but a 1910.5 variant was quickly introduced to remedy the situation and surprisingly it didn’t hurt the brand’s image very badly. The company would also produce a 4hp single in 1911.

The 4hp 1911 Yale single sold for $200 when it was new. It also came with the option of a Bosch Magneto for an extra $25. In today’s money that $200 comes out to just a little under $5K, and that measly $25 for the upgraded Bosch unit equated to more than $600 in 1911. Yale scoots were marketed as classy machines, branded as upscale products. Motorcycle production would continue until 1915 when the company would pull the plug on two-wheeled production in favor of lucrative military manufacturing, churning out munitions and armament.

Yale Motorcycles introduced the States to motorcycle production, but they also imported scoots to other nations including Japan, who were supposedly influenced by Yale who reportedly inspired some of the big companies on the island to follow suite in mass two-wheeled production. These machines are obviously of historical significance, and I probably don’t have to tell you that examples are rare. A 1910 3.5hp Yale single sold in 2008 for $23,400 at a Bonhams auction, and a 1913 Yale 7hp twin sold at a 2014 Las Vegas Bonhams Auction for $36,800. These bikes sit on the fence between early versions of motorized bicycles and full-fledged motorcycles, a moto missing-link of sorts, and a damn cool one.

You can find this 1911 Yale single example for sale here on Craigslist in Fort Wayne, Indiana with a price of $39,000.

Share Button