Today in Motorcycle History

Auto Wheel

Auto Wheel (AutoWheel) was a motorcycle produced from 1910 to 1922.

This machine followed on from one that was first designed by A. W. Wall in 1903, and then became the Roc in 1904.

  • 1910 The Wall Auto Wheel appeared as an attachment that fitted to the right side of a bicycle rear wheel. It incorporated a 1.75 two-stroke engine with a Bosch magneto. The mudguard was formed to act as the petrol and oil tanks, and two flexible clamps secured the wheel to the bicycle and acted as crude shock-absorbers.

    1911 The Auto Wheel now had a 110cc flat-twin two-stroke engine, with a vertical crankshaft and magneto above, and flywheel below the crankcase. A spiral gear appeared and this was followed by a bevel gear.

    1912 The final form of the design was produced, with a vertically mounted 1hp four-stroke engine.

    1914 As the unit was reputedly made for A. W. Wall by BSA, some were sold as the BSA auto wheel de luxe, and one was fitted between the rear wheels of a tricyle.

    1920 At least three firms were using the unit as the motive power in the manner of the early Singer.

    1921 Late that year the Auto-Wheel Motorette appeared with the rear wheel powered. It was sold by Gamages of London as the Dyson Motorette.

    1922 The Auto Wheel was no longer listed after that year.


THE new Wall Auto-Wheel does not possess any startling improvements, but has been altered for the better in detail in one or two instances. The lugs holding the crankcase on to the frame are now made of drop forgings instead of malleable iron, and greater strength is thereby obtained. A small but important improvement is shown in the accompanying illustration of the carburetter needle valve. In former models the float was kept in position by means of a split pin, which, however, did not allow of any adjustment in case of wear.

Naturally, as the needle valve wears its length of movement is increased, and so the level of the petrol is altered. To overcome this difficulty a portion of the spindle of the needle is threaded, and over it there is a spring clip, consisting of a strip the ends of which are bent over and holes are drilled through. The holes in the bent-over portion are not concentric, and the spring tends to pull one piece against the other, thus forming a tight clamp, the threads, of course, serving to act as an anchorage.

We are enabled to illustrate the American Smith's motor wheel, which is manufactured in the United States under licence from the English Auto-Wheel Co.

The device is fixed to the near side of the bicycle, is gear driven, and has a live axle, while it will be noticed that a disc wheel is fitted. There is no frame proper, the mudguards having supports attached to each end of the extremities of the base chamber, while the tank is fitted to the mudguard itself. The, engine, like its English prototype, has an automatically operated inlet valve, but is provided with the well-known American Schebler carburetter.

It is interesting to note that a further improvement of the already ingenious system of lubrication in force in the Auto-Wheel will shortly be introduced, though the details are not ready to be made public at present.

The Motor Cycle, Nov 1914

Auto-Wheel 1921

Auto-wheel details : crankshaft and integral small pinion, and the large pinion with four-point cam and oil pump eccentric. The two halves of the magneto flywheel are also shown.

Auto-Wheel 1921 Engine

The hub of the Auto-Wheel is bolted to the exposed flange on the enclosed driving pinion. Observe the inlet valve dome and the stirrup fixing used.

1921 Paris Salon Report

Motor Assistance for Bicycles.

The 1922 Auto-wheel. Now Imported from America Increased Engine Size.

The Auto-wheel was one of the earliest motor attachments for fitting to pedal cycles. It first saw the light in 1909, with a tiny two-stroke engine as its motive power. It then assumed a practical form as a 1 h.p. four-stroke on which the Auto-wheel itself was mounted, and enjoyed many years of prosperity until the war. Up to that time it was manufactured in Great Britain, but since has been found impossible to arrange for Auto-wheels to be turned out in this country, and it is at present being manufactured under licence in the United States, but in a different and improved form.

This attachment, which is handled here by Auto-Wheels, Ltd., Russell Road, West Kensington, London, W.14, now has a 2 h.p. engine, and, as before, is a four-stroke. The bore and stroke are 64x64 mm. (206 cc), and the automatic inlet valve is still retained. A flywheel magneto is now fitted, and the lubrication, instead of being effected by the bird fountain system employed on the pre-war Auto-wheel, is by means of a simple form of plunger type pump, driven by an eccentric off the camshaft. This pump delivers oil through the bearings, and sprays it on to the connecting rod big end. The level of the oil is shown through a window at the base of the crank case, which forms a sump. Transmission is now by gear wheels instead of chain, and the small pinion on the crankshaft meshes with a pinion coupled directly to the Auto-wheel itself. This gives a reduction of 8 to 1, and as the large wheel is mounted on the camshaft, a four-point cam is fitted.

The Auto-wheel attachment is fitted with a prop stand, and is pivoted to an arm attached between the rear spindle and bottom bracket of the bicycle, while there is an additional stay to the saddle tube. A single lever carburetter is fitted, the carburetter and exhaust lifter controls being by Bowden wire. The tyre size is 20x2 in., and the weight of the complete attachment is 65 lb.

The Motor Cycle, December 8th, 1921

Sources: Graces Guide, The Motor Cycle