In 1899, Messrs E Perks and F Birch (both from Coventry) grabbed the attention of the motoring world with a design concept they called the ‘Motor Wheel’. This took the form of an aluminium-alloy wheel encompassing, and driven by, a single cylinder engine complete with fuel tank. It was designed to replace the front or rear wheel of a pedal cycle or tricycle.

Built at small works near the Foleshill Road, the motor-wheel was tested successfully on both a cycle and tricycle on the surrounding streets. Following this the manufacturing rights were bought by the Singer Cycle Company, who put it into production.

The 200cc Singer engine is fed by a surface evaporation carburettor, which is different in that its internal plates are made from plywood and the float that regulates fuel flow between the carburettor and the tank above it is made from cork.


This dates from 1900, and has a frame design intended for male riders. Alternative models for ladies included a frame without the crossbar, and a governess cart tricycle with a small enclosure at the rear with two inward facing seats. There were also tandem versions, and a number of other tricycle designs.

This exhibit has undergone restoration work by the Shuttleworth Collection’s Vehicle Section volunteers included refitting an original rocking magneto, and replacing the cork float in the carburettor. The Singer occasionally makes appearances at other venues, such as Mallory Park, and has taken part in the London to Brighton Veteran Motorcycle Run.

It is the oldest motorcycle in the Collection, and it represents the moment in history where bicycle and motorcycle development split to take divergent paths.



Manufacturer: Singer Cycle Company, Foleshill, Coventry, England

Model: Motor Wheel

Engine: Single cylinder, 208cc four-stroke, auto-inlet

Top Speed: 20mph (approx)