In 1967, a perfectly ordinary apartment building in Chicago started undergoing perfectly ordinary renovations. One perfectly ordinary day, a perfectly ordinary plumber started tearing down a perfectly ordinary brick wall. And, behind the wall, he found a completely unusual motorcycle.
The building’s elderly owner sheepishly admitted that his son had stolen the bike before leaving for the Army in World War I. His son died in combat, and it’s not known if the old man hid the bike in the wall out of shame (that his son had stolen it) or out of depression (that his son had died). All that’s known for sure is that the bike had been trapped behind the wall for 50 years and had license plates from the year 1917 on it.
The motorcycle had the name “Traub” on it. There is no company named Traub known to have manufactured motorcycles in the United States (or anywhere else) at that time, And believe me, people have really researched it. But perhaps that’s all well and good, because almost all the parts of the motorcycle were made by hand.
The engine is a handmade 80 cubic-inch flathead engine made by sand casting. The pistons are also handmade. According to the bike’s current owner, the overall machining on the bike parts was “simply years ahead of their time”. The bike, which can easily reach 85 mph (137 km/h), has a three-speed transmission, perhaps the first of its kind. And despite having both German and American parts, the transmission’s design is completely unique. And the rear brakes use a system never seen before (or since) on American-built motorcycles. Some of the screws used on the bike are uncommon to motorcycles, while others that control things like oil level must be turned by hand, indicating that the person (or persons) who built the bike had to be an expert with engines and\or machining parts.
If none of that made any sense to you, then imagine this: the most popular car in the United States in 1916 was the Model T. Model Ts look like this:
Now, Imagine someone, somewhere building a car by hand in 1916 that looks like this:
Now you can see what a truly amazing piece of engineering the Traub motorcycle really is.
No one knows who built the Traub or why, It’s known that the bike was bought by a Chicago area bicycle shop owner named Torillo Tacchi shortly after it was discovered. Tacchi sold it to a Hollywood stuntman named Bud Ekins in the 1970s (Bud was in town working on the original Blues Brothers movie at the time). Ekins sold it to a motorcycle collector named Richard Morris, who in turn sold it on to Dale Walksler, owner and curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC. The Traub has been on display there ever since.