When you think of the fastest machines in the early 1900s, you probably think of some stripped down 4 wheel racer.
But at the time the land speed record was actually held by a train, in 1902 the German company AEG took the record with an experimental three phase electric rail car with a top speed of 130.7mph, which held the land speed record until 1907.
As his aircraft engines grew more powerful and reliable, Curtiss wanted to prove to the world that his lightweight power units were capable and fast.
Power came from one of his 40hp at 1800RPM, 4000cc V8 aircraft engines, that was more or less built from four of his v-twins on a common crank, the whole bike weighted in at 275lbs.
On January 24th 1907, Glen Curtiss built and rode his V8 power motorcycle to a land speed record of 136.27mph, and his V8 cycle would hold the record until 1930.
Making his bike the only motorcycle to ever hold the outright land speed record and, because the train records were held by steam and electricity, he also held the title of the first internal combustion engine to hold the speed record.
His speed was beaten in 1911 by a beast of an automobile, the 21.5L 200hp Blitzen Benz which ran an average speed of 141.7 mph at Daytona Beach.
In 1910 he founded the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, America’s first aircraft manufacturer. After 1914 he quit producing motorcycles and devoted himself to aircraft and military projects. Curtiss passed away in 1930 at the age of 52, of complications following an appendectomy.
To show you how far ahead, brave and crazy Curtiss was, this 1930 the BMW streamlined bike piloted by Ernest Henne final took the motorcycle record with a speed of 137.74mph.
The Curtiss V8 which held the unofficial world record until 1930 is resident in the Smithsonian, and an exact replica has been created for the Curtiss Museum.
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