Not the most coveted motorcycle nor the one that is worth the most, but what is the rarest motorcycle in the world? The answer is a motorcycle where there was only one built from the ground up; after all, you can’t get much rarer than that.
Throughout the history of motorcycles there have been innumerable one-off motorcycles, so there are a lot to choose from. I throw out the circa 1916 two-cylinder Traub as one possibility not only because it meets the one-off criterion, but also because it is a top quality design for that era with a lot of mystery surrounding it.
The quality of machining is superior: it has handmade pistons with gap-less cast iron rings and the 80 cubic inch engine only requires base gaskets because it fits together so well. The details of each of the hundreds of unique parts are intricate and precise. The thoroughness is exhaustive, even having tools with the Traub name on them. There are a number of advanced designs including one of the limited era three speeds and a unique to this day dual-functioning brake system that uses one cam to simultaneously push brake shoes internally and pull them externally.
Although there isn’t any information from the time the bike was created until it was found in 1967 in Chicago (either behind a wall or under a porch), there is the history of the last 50 years. Note that the exact location where the Traub was found can’t be nailed down because although both sources are credible, both are second hand.
The owner of the house where the Traub was found traded it to a motorcycle dealer, Torillo Tacchi, for a new Asian motorcycle (Yamaha or Suzuki, it depends on who you ask). After about a decade, Tacchi sold the Traub to Hollywood stunt double Bud Ekins while he was on set filming the “Blues Brothers” movie. Years later, the bike was then sold to a California motorcycle collector, Richard Morris, who then sold it in 1990 to the Wheels Through Time Museum owner, Dale Walksler.
So we know the last fifty years of the history of the Traub, but what about the first fifty years? More specifically who made this precision machine? Although the owners, Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, NC, where it is on permanent display state that it is a complete mystery, I have a highly probable answer to the question of who built the Traub motorcycle in my next article.