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Curtiss V-8 Motorcycle

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This object is on display in the Early Flight exhibition at the National Mall building.


Before achieving fame in aeronautics, Glenn Curtiss started his career with motorcycles. The early aviation community began to seek out Curtiss because of his growing reputation for designing powerful, lightweight motorcycle engines. In 1906 he designed his first V-8 engine in response to several requests from early aeronautical experimenters.

As a manufacturer and racer of motorcycles, it was only natural for Curtiss to wonder how fast he could move on a motorcycle with his V-8. He instructed his workers to construct a frame that could support the weight of the engine. The Curtiss V-8 was air-cooled, producing approximately 30 to 40 horsepower at 1,800 rpm. The motorcycle used direct drive because a conventional chain-and-belt transmission could not withstand the power of the massive engine. Curtiss took the motorcycle to the Florida Speed Carnival at Ormond Beach in January 1907. He recorded a record-setting speed of 218 kph (136 mph) during his run. He was dubbed "the fastest man on Earth."

Gift of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.


Date: 1907

Country of Origin: United States of America

Dimensions: Length: 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)
Height: 0.9 m (3 ft)
Width: 0.7 m (2 ft 3 in)
Weight: 125 kg (275 lb)

Materials: Frame: Steel Tubing Tires: Rubber

Physical Description:Motorcyle with Curtiss V-8 aircooled engine, 30-40 horsepower. Black overall with white tires.

Inventory number: A19520060000

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