The Peterson Musuem holds some great vehicles. The Curtiss all-electric motorcycle is about to become a legend in its own time with Gareth Roberts and Bill Roberson at Forbes. Bring back the classics clean & Green!
As is the case in high-end, one-off collector vehicles, this is not for evey one yet did catch the eye of Forbes by Bill Robertson. "The electric motorcycle continues to see rapid development from companies like Zero, Harley-Davidson, Energica and a slew of startups, but one marque that I’ve been tracking for a while is Curtiss Motorcycles, based in Louisiana.
Named by founder and CEO Matt Chambers for pioneering motorcycle, engine and aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss, the company has taken the wraps off of its stunning electric bike, which has now entered production. Starting at $83,000, the Curtis “The 1” is a hand-built bespoke piece of arguable rolling artwork, and Chambers insists buyers factory customize it to their liking so no two will likely be the same.
I normally don’t go in for this type of bike (gas or electric), but Curtiss also published a 45-minute documentary, The Opposite of Death, about the bike that certainly highlights its beauty, but more so its strong function-follows-form design ethos that frankly surprised me. It’s not that The 1 is unusual in terms of technology, but the way the bike is designed mechanically truly sets it apart from pretty much any other production motorcycle, and those choices have also resulted in the One’s unique aesthetic.
The Curtiss Motorcycle company has roots in Chamber’s previous company, Confederate Motors, now operated as Combat Motors by others with no input form Chambers. But early Confederate designs were extremely innovative when it came to frame, fork and overall structural design, and remain sought-after collectables today. Chambers said he was inspired to move to designing electric motorcycle when he started up Curtiss Motors, but the radical ideas remain, and many of those ideas landed in The 1.
I made comparison to the legendary Brough Superior in the headline mostly for aesthetic reasons, as the Brough was built to be the speed king of the pre-war times, which it was, with a prominently placed speedometer that topped out at 150mph. Could the Brough touch 150 at a time when most motorcycles would struggle to hit 90mph, let alone 100? It could certainly blow past the century mark with ease - but it is also a beautiful machine. Clean examples go for a quarter million dollars these days.
But Chambers says the work of speed merchant Glenn Curtiss is the real inspiration for The 1 and other models. Curtiss built a V8 powered motorcycle and took it to the limit - 136 miles an hour - way back in 1907, making him the “fastest man alive” for years. He then moved on to making airplanes and aviation powerplants. One of the early Curtiss Motors electric motorcycle renders pays tribute to the V8 bike, which is now in the Smithsonian. The motorcycle speed record stood for an incredible 27 years. Curtiss was a sort of Elon Musk-type character, founding numerous businesses and conducting feats of derring-do on his motorcycles and airplanes. He was wealthy and even appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
At almost six figures for a base Curtiss 1, buyers will be receiving a hand-made transportation device that skillfully blends art, science and riding fun, and CEO Chambers says they are building the bikes to be more like heirlooms befitting the price and rarity. Nesbitt says the first 50 bikes will be assembled in New Orleans at Curtiss’s primary site. Interested riders can get more information here."
Thanks Bill, Forbes and Curtiss Motors!
Jonathan David Lake
Electric vehicles since age 12
Father, grand and great grandfather
President: Auto Archives