The Motor Wheel & Fiyer

| October/November 1998

1091 Benjamin Franklin Highway East, Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518

I have some information on small engines I'd like to share with GEM readers. I'm also sending along some photos related to my story.

When A. O. Smith of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, acquired the North American manufacturing rights to the Motor Wheel from the Wall Company of England in 1914, its primary use was to propel bicycles. This small power unit (1 HP) was mounted on a twenty inch dished wheel. A. O. Smith spent almost two years making numerous changes and improvements, before putting their own version of the Motor Wheel on the market. All their work must have paid off, as the Motor Wheel became quite popular.

In 1917 they had a company from New Jersey design and manufacture a buckboard type vehicle for them as an additional use for their Motor Wheel. They named the new vehicle the A. O. Smith Flyer.

Each one of these flyers had its serial number on a brass plate mounted on one of its wooden slats. All the metal work on the Flyer was painted bright red. The body consisted of six varnished hardwood slats, two and one-half inches wide. The flyer wheel base was 62' with a tread width of 30'. All the wheels had 20' x 15/8' clincher tires. Both axles were bolted directly to the wooden slats (no suspension). Each of the two upholstered seats (sitting on four posts), were also bolted to these slats.

The steering column had a hardwood automotive type steering wheel with the throttle lever mounted on one of its three spokes. Its steering linkage was similar to that used on a riding lawn mower. A hand lever mounted on two of the slats was attached to a steel rod that in turn was attached to a small saddle on the fender of the Motor Wheel. This acted as a clutch, lifting the Motor Wheel off the ground for starting the little engine. The engine had a compression release, also 8 to 1 gear reduction directly on the crankshaft. A hinged arrangement was used to attach the Motor Wheel to the flyer. The hand lever was secured in a notched gate, while starting the engine. The simple brake system can be compared to those used on farm wagons. The Flyer brake pedal activated a rod that pushed the rear fenders (which had leather pads at an appropriate place) against the rear tire for braking.