The one-of-a-kind 1913 Bi-Autogo motorcycle car has found a home at the Detroit Historical Museum, following an extensive cosmetic restoration from Detroit-based custom car shop Mobsteel. The restoration was documented on the Feb. 4 episode of the History Channel series “Detroit Steel.”
Over 100 years ago, designer and artist James Scripps Booth created the Bi-Autogo as a cross between an automobile and a motorcycle, branding it as the world’s first motorcycle-car. The combined 3,200-pound weight of the engine and frame required the use of attached retractable side wheels for balance.
It also features the first V-8 engine built in Detroit, and boasted 45 horsepower. The Bi-Autogo cost $25,000 to build in 1913, and Booth abandoned the project during a re-design, despite having orders for the vehicle worldwide. Booth spent the remainder of his career designing more conventional vehicles, as well as specializing in pastel drawings.
Booth’s parents, George Gough and Ellen Booth, founded the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills — the land was acquired in 1904. George served as publisher of the Evening News Association (later renamed the Detroit News), and was co-founder of the Booth Newspapers.
“We are so pleased with the work that Adam (Genei) and the crew at Mobsteel did on this important piece of Detroit’s history,” says Tracy Irwin, director of collections and exhibitions at the Detroit Historical Society. “The public will be able to enjoy this beautiful vehicle for years to come.”
The Automotive Showplace is a rotating exhibit space at the Detroit Historical Museum that features rare and unique vehicles from the Detroit Historical Society’s collection. It is presented by Warner Norcross and Judd, a law firm in Detroit, and supported by the Motor Cities National Heritage Area.
The museum is located at 5401 Woodward Ave. in Detroit’s Midtown district, and is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information about the museum and organization can be found here.