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Home Pick of the Day Pick of the Day: What’s a cyclecar?

Pick of the Day: What’s a cyclecar?

Midway between a motorcycle and a proper motorcar are vehicles such as this 1912 Pioneer Cyclecar

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The Pick of the Day is a 1912 Pioneer Cyclecar, which we’ll get to in just a moment.

In the meantime, we offer a quick refresher about just what in the world was a “cyclecar”?

In the early days of the automobile, from 1910 into the early 1920s, some people put motorcycle engines into 4-wheeled vehicles, both here and in Europe, as a step up from a motorcycle but as a means of transportation less expensive and also smaller than a full-scale motorcar.  Such cars were known as cyclecars, though there also were similar vehicles with car rather than motorcycle engines.

Among the producers of cyclecars in the United States was a company founded in 1907 as W.R.C. Auto Works of El Reno, Oklahoma, but changing its name to the Pioneer Car Company just two years later.

W.R.C. took its name from its founders, Edward Wright and Roy Roberts, who at first produced a high-wheeler propelled by a 20-horsepower 2-cylinder engine. They entered one of their cars in the Oklahoma City-to-Kansas City endurance run and were in second place behind a Mitchell a connecting rod failed and the car was sidelined.

But those who saw the run were impressed and the fledgling company had more orders than it could fill, and with an offer to relocate the company to Wichita, where the car was displayed at an auto show resulting in 50 more orders.

W.R.C. stayed in El Reno, but re-organized as Pioneer. The company was still underfunded and in 1912 Wright and Roberts sold out to the short-lived Tulsa Automobile & Manufacturing Company, which switched vehicle production to delivery vehicles needed in the oil fields.

But back to the Pick of the Day, that 1912 Pioneer Cyclecar being advertised by a dealership in Henderson, Nevada. 

The dealership notes in its advertisement that this is believed to be the only dual-belt-driven V-Twin 2-cylinder 2-seat Pioneer Cyclecar still in existence in the US based on the original design. The dealer reports that the car has new belt drives and is “up and running and ready to go.”

To meet licensing requirements, “all cyclecars were to have clutches and change-speed gears,” the dealer adds. “This requirement could be fulfilled by even the simplest devices such as provision for slipping the belt on the pulley to act as a clutch, and varying of the pulley diameter to change the gear ratio.”

The dealer also points out, “Cyclecars were halfway between motorcycles and cars and were fitted with lightweight bodies, sometimes in a tandem two-seater configuration and could be primitive with minimal comfort and weather protection.”

Photos with the advertisement show the two-seat cockpit with the driver to the left and just ahead of the passenger, and with both somewhat protected from the elements by what appears to be a removable convertible top and windscreen.

The vehicle is being offered for sale for $44,980. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Hagerty
Larry Edsall
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.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s get back to cars that the majority of readers are interested in. What would you do if you bought this? Let it sit in a garage with a cover over it? At this price you could buy a nice muscle car, etc.

  2. You don’t know where yu are going- if you don’t know where you have been.
    –In it’s day this was the Corvette C8 (2021)
    I have a hard time wrapping my head around that immense dichotomy.
    To not embrace it is v. short sighted or actually NOT SIGHTED.
    Taking it for a spin would be an absolute ride thru a time machine.

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