Amelia Island

8 March 2014

Lot 101

1978 Transitron Mk II Electric Prototype

To be auctioned on Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sold for $11,000

  • Frame no. SF051978


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.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

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United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

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California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

Annette Abaci

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Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, USA

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

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

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New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

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United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

rmyers@rmauctions.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, USA

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

Vinnie Mandzak

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California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more