One of the treasures found at the Packard Motor Museum is our collection of 65 classic (mostly British) motorcycles, ranging from 1904 to 1972, demonstrating to visitors the chronological development of the motorbike.
Our oldest motorcycle is the 1904 Peugeot V-Twin built as a racing machine. Because of this, the 726cc V-Twin has no kick start, no brakes and no clutch, yet is reportedly capable of 70mph (113kmh). The rider sat well back on the frame meaning he or she needed to lean right forward to hold the handle bars, therefore lowering wind resistance. Initially neither googles nor helmet were worn as no-one saw the need for them and at that point they hadn't been invented.
Prior to making motorcycles, Peugeot built bicycles. This bike demonstrates how the first motorcycles were really a bicycle with a strengthened frame to carry a motor.
At the end of the nineteenth century, many individuals built motorized bicycles but Peugeot became the first manufacturer to put a dedicated power-cycle into production. Peugeot designed its first proto-type motorcycle which it presented at the 7th Cycle and Automobile exhibition in 1898. Production of motorbikes commenced in 1901 with the 'Zl Motobicyclette' which used a new form of technology – the internal combustion engine. This made Peugeot the first manufacturer of motorcycles.
Peugeot motorcycles quickly became part of the motorbike racing scene and, in 1904, Vincenzo Lanfranchi set the one kilometre speed record at 123k/h with his Peugeot V2 prototype, fitted with a similar engine to our bike.
Some early motorcycle race tracks were on a 'board-walk'. Board-walk racing was a type of motorbike racing popular in the US and Europe in the early 1910s–1920s. The race was run on a circular or oval track made of planks. Later these early bikes were used in another form of racing – the Wall of Death. This track was a nearly vertical, circle-shaped track that most riders considered a crazy challenge.
Racing motorcycles became popular with most manufacturers entering a machine, thereby pushing technological advances forward.