Curtiss V-8 motorcycle

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Curtiss V-8
Glenn Curtiss on his V-8 motorcycle, Ormond Beach, Florida 1907.jpg
ManufacturerGlenn Curtiss
ClassSpeed record challenger
EngineCurtiss B-8: 269 cu in (4,410 cc), dual carburetor, 90° F-head V-8[1][2]
Bore / stroke3.625 in × 3.25 in (92.1 mm × 82.6 mm)[1]
Top speed136 mph (219 km/h)[2]
Power40 hp (30 kW) @ 1,800 RPM[2][3]
Ignition typeBattery ignition, jump-spark
TransmissionDirect drive
Shaft and rear hub bevel
Frame typeSteel tubing
BrakesRear v brake[4]
Tires26 in (660 mm)[5]
Wheelbase64 in (1.6 m)
DimensionsL: 7 ft 10 in (2.4 m)[3]
W: 2 ft 3 in (0.7 m)[3]
H: 3 ft (0.9 m)[3]
Weight275 lb (125 kg)[3] (wet)
Fuel capacity2.5 US gal (9.5 l)[4]

The Curtiss V-8 motorcycle was a 269 cu in (4,410 cc) V8 engine-powered motorcycle designed and built by aviation and motorcycling pioneer Glenn Curtiss that set an unofficial land speed record of 136.36 miles per hour (219.45 km/h) on January 24, 1907.[6][7] The air-cooled F-head engine was developed for use in dirigibles.[8][9][10]


The forty horsepower engine was the two carburetor version of the Curtiss Model B-8 aircraft powerplant, one of thirteen engines listed in the May 1908 "Aerial and Cycle Motors" catalog.[1] The engine weighed 150 lb (68 kg) and was offered for US$1,200 but it did not sell, in spite of the engine's notoriety from the speed record.[1] An eight carburetor version of the Model B-8 was used in the experimental AEA Red Wing and White Wing airplanes that flew in 1908.[1]


Curtiss remained "the fastest man in the world," the title the newspapers gave him for going faster than any vehicle, on land, sea or air, until 1911,[11] when his absolute record was broken by the 141.7 mph (228.0 km/h) Blitzen Benz automobile.[12] No motorcycle surpassed the record until 1930.[13][14] Curtiss's success at racing strengthened his reputation as a leading maker of high-performance motorcycles and engines.[15]

It has been suggested that the literary character Tom Swift was based on Curtiss.[12][16] Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle, the first of over 100 books in the Tom Swift series, was published shortly after the V-8 record setting run.

The record setting V-8 motorcycle is now in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.[17] The Air and Space museum lent it to the Guggenheim for the 1998 The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition in New York.[9][18]

The Curtiss OX-5 aero engine, a successor of the V-8 motorcycle engine, powered several United States civilian and military aircraft. More than 10,000 were manufactured.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e House, Kirk W. (2003), Hell-Rider to King of the Air: Glenn Curtiss' Life of Innovation, Warrendale, Pennsylvania: SAE International, pp. 57–60, ISBN 0-7680-0802-6, retrieved March 22, 2013
  2. ^ a b c Paul Garson (June 25, 2004), 1907 Curtiss V-8 / Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: Glenn H. Curtiss,
  3. ^ a b c d e Motorcycle, Curtiss V-8, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum
  4. ^ a b de Cet, Mirco (2002). The illustrated directory of motorcycles. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-7603-1417-3.
  5. ^ "Racing Outlook Good for Autos at Ormond", The New York Times, January 22, 1907
  6. ^ House 2003, p. 41.
  7. ^ "The Fastest and Most Powerful American Motor Bicycle" (Internet Archive), Scientific American, vol. 96 no. 6, p. 128, February 9, 1907
  8. ^ House 2003, p. 40.
  9. ^ a b Past Exhibitions | The Art of the Motorcycle (1868-1919 models), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2009
  10. ^ Trafford L.-M. Doherty, Glenn H. Curtiss - 100 Years Ago, Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, archived from the original on 2013-04-14
  11. ^ Roseberry 1972, p. 57.
  12. ^ a b Garson, Paul (15 September 2010), "Top 10 Weirdest Custom Motorcycles; Dimensionally challenged motorcycle mavericks",
  13. ^ Setright, L.J.K. (1979), The Guinness book of motorcycling facts and feats, Guinness Superlatives, ISBN 978-0-85112-200-7
  14. ^ Hatfield, Jerry (2006), Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles 1898-1981, Krause Publications, p. 44, ISBN 978-0-87349-949-1
  15. ^ Hatch 2007, p. 36.
  16. ^ Dizer, John T (1982). Tom Swift & Company. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-89950-024-9.
  17. ^ "Curtiss V-8 Motorcycle." Archived 2010-09-06 at the Wayback Machine Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Collections. Retrieved: February 24, 2011.
  18. ^ Statnekov, Daniel K.; Guggenheim Museum Staff (2001) [1998], Krens, Thomas; Drutt, Matthew (eds.), The Art of the Motorcycle, Harry N. Abrams, p. 107, ISBN 0810969122
  19. ^ Curtiss OX-5 V-8 Engine, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]