Amelia Island

8 March 2014

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Lot 101

1978 Transitron Mk II Electric Prototype

  • Frame no. SF051978

Sold for $11,000


Variable-speed electric motor, four-speed automatic transmission, Harley-Davidson Sportster chassis, 33 mm XLH fork, Sportster “Boattail” seat, and Harley-Davidson drum brakes. Wheelbase: 59 in.

  • Formerly part of the Brooks Stevens Collection
  • A unique Hawaiian-built electric motorcycle
  • Fascinating design


The electric vehicle can be traced back to before the mid-1800s, when Robert Anderson, of Scotland, invented the first electric carriage, which was powered by an electric motor and non-rechargeable primary cells. Many of the first automobiles were electric, and at one point throughout history, they out-sold gasoline-powered vehicles. But with the expansion of lightweight, powerful internal-combustion engines, the introduction of the electric starter, and the cheaper availability of gasoline, the early 1900s saw the decline of personal electric vehicles.

References to the first electric motorcycle can be found in patents as early as the late 1860s, and over the next 100 years, numerous attempts to mass-produce two-wheel electric vehicles hit the market, including efforts by Popular Mechanics, the Indian Motorcycle Company, and Corbin-Gentry. In 1973, Mike Corbin set the first electric motorcycle land speed record at just over 101 mph.

The 1978 Transitron Mk II Electric Prototype presented here is a one-of-a-kind machine that was built in Honolulu, Hawaii, by the Transitron Electric Corporation. Designers utilized the chassis from a 1971 Harley-Davidson XLH Sportster and reengineered the entire drivetrain by replacing the 900-cubic centimeter OHV internal combustion engine with a variable-speed electric motor and a series of deep-cycle batteries. Power is put to the rear wheel through an automatic four-speed transmission with chain-drive. Use of a proprietary control system with an integrated circuit mini-controller allows the machine to accelerate from 0–30 mph in 5–6 seconds. The machine’s instrument panel is mounted to the handlebars, which features an electric speedometer, a tachometer, and dual ammeters.

The motorcycle was formerly part of the renowned collection of industrial designer Brooks Stevens. Stevens was often credited with the concept of “planned obsolescence,” and his impact on the transportation industry was legendary, as he designed such iconic vehicles as the Jeep Wagoneer, the Excalibur, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, and the Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide. He also had a fine museum of automobiles and motorcycles in Mequon, Wisconsin, where the Transitron was displayed until its acquisition by the previous owner in 1995. The current owner acquired the prototype soon thereafter and has continued to display the unique Electric amongst other historic motorcycles.

This is a wonderful survivor from the dawn of the modern electric vehicle.

Addendum

Please note this will be sold on a Bill of Sale only.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

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+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more