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De Dion-Bouton tricycle made by DE Dion-Bouton
1900 De Dion-Bouton Tricycle.JPG
1900 De Dion-Bouton tricycle at the Louwman Museum, The Netherlands
Manufacturer De Dion-Bouton
Production 1897–1905
Class Motorized tricycle
Engine Single-cylinder 138–955 cc four-stroke, air-cooled with a single carburettor
Power 0.5–8 H
Ignition type Electric
Transmission Direct transmission, chain drive
Frame type Decauville
Brakes Front: Clasp brake
Rear: Band brake
Tires Michelin pneumatic tires
Dimensions W 92 cm track
Weight 80 kg (180 lb) (dry)

The De Dion-Bouton tricycle was the most successful motor vehicle in Europe from 1897 until the start of the 20th century. With about 15,000 copies sold,Template:Efn the de-Dion-Bouton motor tricycle scored the first breakthrough for the distribution of motor vehicles.[1] In particular the fast-running de Dion-Bouton engine set new standards for vehicular motors, and is regarded as the precursor of all motorcycle engines.[2]


Jules-Albert de Dion, the engineer of Georges Bouton and his brother-in-law Charles-Armand Trépardoux, founded a workshop in 1882 near Paris. The first project was the production of steam boilers, then a fairly successful steam-powered tricycle from 1887,[1] which should have already reached a speed of 65 km/h.[3] Trépardoux, who wished to continue the further development of steam engines, resigned from the company in 1893; De Dion and Bouton opted for the development of gasoline engines after they viewed Daimler's engines at the Paris Exposition of 1889.[4]


in 1895, the first four-stroke engine was ready for production. The 138 cc (bore 50 mm, stroke 70 mm) single-cylinder engine with a surface carburettor produced 0.5 HP at an engine speed of 1500 RPM,[5] a remarkably high speed for the time. For comparison, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller reached 240 RPM, and the Daimler Reitwagen motor ran at a maximum pf 750 RPM.[5] Bouton discovered that the glowplug ignition was the obstacle to higher speeds, and developed a high-voltage ignition system for the motor with circuit breaker. The dry battery for the ignition is under the upper frame tube (in the case of a motor tricycle); ignition timing could be adjusted with a small lever. Side valves were driven via a gear-driven camshaft, with automatic snifting valve activation. The advantage of the design should have been very early (0-5 degrees before top dead centre) opening inlet valve.[6] The cylinder head was removable and bolted with four bolts on the crank case. The weight of the existing cast-iron engine including all auxiliary units amounted to less than 20 kg. "The benefits of this engine were simplicity and ease."[5]

Motor tricycle

The De Dion-Bouton motor tricycle went into production in 1897 weighing just under 80 kg, with an output of 1.5 HP at 1,800 RPM from its 211 cc motor, although the engine had already been established in a prototype tricycle in 1895.[5] The tricycle with track width of 92 cm was chosen, because according to Dion and Bouton "a bike appeared too fragile for this purpose."[4] The drive was achieved via a pair of gears from the motor directly to the rear axle. A differential balanced the different curve radii. The relatively high purchase price amounted to 1000 to 1500 gold marks.[7] The motor tricycle remained in continuous production for almost ten years.[1] The last model (1904) increased the engine capacity and performance with a 955 cc displacement engine (bore 100 mm, stroke 120 mm) producing 8 HP at 1,800 RPM.[8] On April 13, 1902, the French racer Georges Osmont set a speed record of 109.1 km/h in Nice with a De Dion-Bouton motor tricycle.[3]

Licensees and copies

After the start of series production of the motor in 1895,Template:Efn and with the production of the motor tricycle in 1897, numerous manufacturers built engines or complete tricycles either under license or copied with slight changes:[5]

  • Belgium: Antoine (Kelecom), Minerva
  • Germany: Adler, Beckmann, Cudell, Express (with Aster engines), Fafnir, Opel, Stoewer
  • England: Excelsior, Humber, M.M.C.
  • France: Aster, Henriod, Peugeot, Werner Motors (model 1901)
  • Switzerland: Motosacoche, Zédel
  • United States: Thomas Auto-Bi, Orient (with Aster engines)

See also

  • List of motorcycles of 1900 to 1909
  • List of motorised trikes




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2
  2. 3.0 3.1
  3. 4.0 4.1 Porázik, Juraj (1983). Motorräder aus den Jahren 1885 bis 1940 (in German). Dausien Werner, 54. ISBN 978-3768402408. 
  4. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 (1978) Motorräder gestern und heute (in German). Heyne, 15. ISBN 3-453-52080-7. 

External links

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