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Johnson Motor Wheel (1)


Johnson Motor Wheel, American motorized bike dated 1918-1921. See also: Johnson Motor Wheel (2)

Johnson Motor Wheel was designed in 1914 by Louis Johnson of Indiana, USA. and patented in 1919. In the short time of cyclemotors' market boom (the company was opened in South Bend, Indiana in March 1918 and closed in 1921 due to recession) about 17,000 of Johnson Motor Wheel engine kits and motorized bicycles were sold in USA. Louis Johnson with his brothers manufactured marine and aircraft engines, too (see: The Johnsons Brothers). After being successful in North America Johnson Motor Wheel was patented in 1920 in United Kingdom and built under licence as the 'Economic', by Victor Motors (Eynsford) Ltd, of Eynsford, Kent. It was marketed by Economic Motors Ltd. They were selling engine kits and motorised bikes directly and they were also selling the power unit to other British manufacturers. In Europe the engine was built in 154cc and 165cc versions.


"In the winter of 1914 the Johnson Brothers Motor Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, saw the need for an inexpensive means of transportation and, since the main form of horseless transportation in the early 1900s was the bicycle, the Johnson Brothers designed and built these gasoline engines for the purpose of making 'motorized bikes.' The Johnson Brothers Motor Company completely built these engines, but the magnetos would not operate properly at high speeds. Dick Oglesby, an inventor from South Bend, Indiana, offered his magnetos to the Johnsons to try on their engines and the perfect match was found. The Johnson Brothers moved to South Bend, and there they formed the Johnson Brothers Motor Wheel Company and started full production of these gasoline engines. The engines were 1 HP, opposed cylinder, 2 cycle, 2' bore with 1 stroke, two flywheel magnetos, one magneto for spark to fire both cylinders at once, and the other magneto for a bicycle headlight (3 volt); bronze bearings and float feed carburetor and weighed out at around 25 pounds.

The engine came with a rear wheel unit consisting of the wheel, hub tire, shock-absorbing spring sprocket holder, wheel sprocket and chain, handle bar controls for choke, throttle and engine shutoff, a three quart gas tank and gas line, and all necessary fittings to adapt the engine and rear wheel unit to any 26' bicycle. This complete unit was named the Johnson Motor Wheel. To make a motorized bike, the bicycle rear wheel was removed and the Johnson rear wheel unit put in its place, the engine placed on top of the rear mud guard and secured to the bicycle frame and the gas line connected to the carburetor, the engine controls fastened to the right side handlebars, the pedal and engine chains hooked up and adjustments made, the gas tank filled and, away the 'motorized bike' wentall this in less than thirty minutes!" (from

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