The Big Car Database

Curtiss Motorcycles

The Curtiss V-8 motorcycle was a 269 cu in (4,410 cc) V8 engine-powered motorcycle.

It was designed and built by aviation and motorcycling pioneer Glenn Curtiss that set an unofficial land speed record of 136.36 miles per hour (219.45 km/h) on January 24, 1907.

Curtiss V-8
Glenn Curtiss on his V-8 motorcycle, Ormond Beach, Florida 1907.jpg
Manufacturer Glenn Curtiss
Assembly 1906
Class Speed record challenger
Engine Curtiss B-8: 269 cu in (4,410 cc), dual carburetor, 90° F-head V-8 
Bore / stroke 3.625 in × 3.25 in (92.1 mm × 82.6 mm)
Top speed 136 mph (219 km/h)
Power 40 hp (30 kW) @ 1,800 RPM
Ignition type Battery ignition, jump-spark
Transmission Direct drive
Shaft and rear hub bevel
Frame type Steel tubing
Brakes Rear v brake
Tires 26 in (660 mm)
Wheelbase 64 in (1.6 m)
Dimensions L: 7 ft 10 in (2.4 m) 
W: 2 ft 3 in (0.7 m) 
H: 3 ft (0.9 m)
Weight 275 lb (125 kg)  (wet)
Fuel capacity 2.5 US gal (9.5 l)

The air-cooled F-head engine was developed for use in dirigibles.


The forty horsepower engine was the two carburetor version of the Curtiss Model B-8 aircraft powerplant, one of thirteen engines listed in the May 1908 "Aerial and Cycle Motors" catalog. The engine weighed 150 lb (68 kg) and was offered for US$1,200 but it did not sell, in spite of the engine's notoriety from the speed record. An eight carburetor version of the Model B-8 was used in the experimental AEA Red Wing and White Wing airplanes that flew in 1908.


Curtiss remained "the fastest man in the world," the title the newspapers gave him for going faster than any vehicle, on land, sea or air, until 1911, when his absolute record was broken by the 141.7 mph (228.0 km/h) Blitzen Benz automobile. No motorcycle surpassed the record until 1930. Curtiss's success at racing strengthened his reputation as a leading maker of high-performance motorcycles and engines.

It has been suggested that the literary character Tom Swift was based on Curtiss. Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle, the first of over 100 books in the Tom Swift series, was published shortly after the V-8 record setting run.

The record setting V-8 motorcycle is now in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The Air and Space museum lent it to the Guggenheim for the 1998 The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition in New York.

The Curtiss OX-5 aero engine, a successor of the V-8 motorcycle engine, powered several United States civilian and military aircraft. More than 10,000 were manufactured.