Rare 1903 Mitchell ‘Mile-a-Minute’ motor bike on Mecum’s Vegas docket

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Mitchell
Mitchell only produced motorcycles for a couple of years before launching its motorcar production | Mecum Auctions photos

Brough Superior, Vincent HRD, Ducati and Harley-Davidson are well-known and much sought-after motorcycles with those who collect vintage bikes, and examples of both headline Mecum’s 29th annual Las Vegas Vintage and Antique Motorcycle Auction.

But there is another motorcycle that figures to attract considerable attention as well. It’s a rare 1903 Mitchell, “the Mile-a-Minute” Motor Bicycle that bridged the company’s transition from bicycle to automobile producer.

Wisconsin Wheel Works was founded in 1903 in Racine, Wisconsin, but traces its history to 1837, when the Mitchell Wagon Company was established in Chicago. The company moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1845, became Mitchell & Lewis when Mitchell’s daughter married William Lewis, and eventually launched a Lewis-run subsidiary in 1898 to produce bicycles.

Briefly, starting in 1902, Wisconsin Wheel produced Mitchell Motor Bicycles before turning its attention to four-wheeled motorized vehicles and, in 1904, becoming the Mitchell Motor Car Co.

The Mitchell Motor Bicycle was introduced with a 2-horsepower, single-cylinder engine, weighed 110 pounds and reportedly could reach 35 mph. For 1903, the bikes weighed more, 160 pounds, but also had more-powerful, 3½-horsepower engines and could reach a speed of 60 mph, thus earning the “Mile-a-Minute” moniker.

One of those 1903 models will be among the 1,750 motorcycles on the Las Vegas auction docket for the sale January 21-26 at the South Point hotel, casino and sports center.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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