Mystery Traub Motorcycle Hidden In A Wall

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Mystery Traub

Imagine doing some home improvements to an old apartment building, knocking down a wall and finding a complete one of a kind motorcycle completely untouched for more than 50 years.

Back in 1967 a plumber was doing some renovation work to a building in Chicago and discovered a complete 1917 motorcycle with the unusual name of Traub on its tank. The building’s elderly owner admitted that his son had stolen the motorcycle before going off to the First World War, only to never return. But where the motorcycle came from, who built it and why it was walled up in an apartment building is still a mystery today.

Mystery Traub Engine

The mystery Traub motorcycle is currently on display at Wheels Through Time Museum, in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, which is considered to have one of the best collections of vintage American motorcycles anywhere in the world. But experts still, even to this day, do not know who built the Traub or where in the U.S. it was produced.

After its discovery the Traub was sold to Bud Ekins (who worked as Steve McQueen’s stuntman) in the 1970s. Later it passed through the hands of several collectors before Dale Walsker, curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum, purchased it in 1990 and where it’s now on permanent display.

Mystery Traub

The Traub is no ordinary motorcycle. Almost every item on it has been engineered and manufactured specifically for this bike. There are no shared components from any other motorcycle of that era. The pistons are hand made and have gap-less cast iron rings and much of the engineering and machining is years ahead of its time.

The v-twin engine is unique to the Traub and is a sand-cast, hand-built, 80 cubic-inch, side valve, motor, while the three-speed transmission is thought to be one of the first of its kind. The rear brake set up is also unique and consists of a dual-acting system that employs a single cam that pushes an internal set of shoes, while pulling an external set.

Mystery Traub

The question of who designed the Traub, where the parts were made and by whom and why it ended up for years inside the walls of a Chicago apartment block may never be known.

But if you are in North Carolina it’s well worth a visit to the Wheels Through Times Museum to see what maybe the world’s rarest motorcycle and more than 300 other vintage and classic American motorcycles that are also on display.

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  • Tall Jones

    Starts up and idles easier than my bike! ;)

  • Pingu2.0

    Wheels Through Time is an amazing museum, a major bucket list item for any rider or gear-head. Dale and his son Matt will talk to you all day long about every bike in the museum, and start almost any bike so you can hear living history. If you catch Dale in a good mood, he will even lay down some rubber on his Crocker…. inside the museum.

  • Mattin11225

    I could follow and listen to this guy talk ALL DAY. Just a fantastically knowledgable and friendly sounding gentleman.

  • Clint Keener

    Wasn’t this on TV six months ago? It should be on a blog long before TV.

    • Drive The Wheels Off

      Do you think the tv episode was the first to break this amazing bike story? The Traub was in print years before the internet existed.

      Some stories should be re-told over and over. This is one of those pieces of history.

  • Thatmanstu

    Wheels Through Time is a blast. The bike is a marvelous wonder…and merely saying Bud Ekins was Steve McQueen’s stuntman is a gross understatement,similar to saying Steve McQueen was just some actor who rode bikes. Both were World Class riders and racers and Ekins was a master constructor as well….and some people like McQueen’s movies a bit too….

  • chris ordanez

    Chicago has a rich history of things being hidden behind walls. Tommy guns, motorcycles, corpses…

  • mms

    This is so cool!!! Great find!!! Especially for those of us who don’t watch TV ;) I will definitely head out there this summer. Looks like it’s just a hop and a skip from Deal’s Gap also and apparently that’s a “must do” before I move back west. Anybody who wants to come along (I’m starting from RVA so it’s close, only 400 miles) is welcome.

  • anthony

    Here’s the Traub Motorcycle shop

    • Rob M

      So, mystery solved?

      • eddi

        Mystery just beginning. The one on the right looks a little like the subject at hand. But it’s a single cylinder and differences in the bodywork. Would a place like that make totally custom machines? Building their own frames and even engines? If so the Traub we know may be a one of a kind. Tune in next week for the next exciting episode.

      • eddi
    • Ken Lindsay

      Nice, now the story can take off! What are the details on this photo and how did you come across it?

    • Ol’ Shel’

      The angle of the words don’t match the perspective of the building. Photoshop fake, I’m guessing.

  • Automotive Smoke Diagnostics

    Fascinating story…Too bad the father never knew who his son stole the bike from?