1947 Saginaw Powerbike




The ease and simplicity of control, of starting-stopping makes the Powerbike a favorite of all ages.

Designed by automotive engineers, with positive type brakes, automatic clutch, easy starting 4-cycle air-cooled motor, it provides dependable, safe transportation.

Economical to buy, to operate – 80 to over 100 miles per gallon . Positive lock prevents tampering.

Order your Powerbike today!

– Advert from Saginaw Agent C Klarsfeld, 67 Hudson Ave, Albany, NY

At the Earls Court Show in London, in November 1938, Francis Barnett announced their latest autocycle, the Powerbike. It was a direct competitor for the 2-Speed Excelsior, top dog in this new market for 98cc autocycles, which also had the Cyc-Auto, Raynal, Dunelt, Levis and H.E.C Power Cycle to contend with.

Although 98cc two-stroke motorcycles were all the rage in Europe, where they benefitted from tax and license exemptions, there was no comparative market in the USA. However various small American companies used the resources they had gained during the war to enter the domestic market in the late 1940s with small motorcycles, scooters and cyclemotors. Perhaps to lend it some credibility, the Saginaw Products Co borrowed Francis Barnett’s Powerbike name when they introduced their Saginaw Powerbike.

A choice of two engines were offered with the Saginaw Powerbike, the Briggs & Stratton Model NP or the Continental AA7. For the Continental ‘Red Seal’ Motor they claimed a top speed of 30mph.

Saginaw Stamping & Tool Co started in 1919 and expanded on the back of the automobile industry, subsequently becoming Saginaw Products Co. A prototype car was developed – the Pribil Safety Car – though not put into production. Further expansion took place during Word War 2, and the company hoped their new Powerbike would give them a foothold in the postwar vehicle market. It was a unique invention that was truly innovative, and could be bought either as an engine unit to fit to a customer’s own bicycle, or as a complete machine ready to ride.

However, despite aggressive marketing, the Powerbike did not capture the public imagination like its main competitor, the Whizzer and, after seven years, production ceased. Bear in mind that during this time, Lambretta and Vespa scooters were also invented in Italy, and were so stylish and efficient that America’s fledgling postwar motorcycle industry could not compete. Compared to a Vespa, the Saginaw Powerbike is like a dinosaur from a forgotten era.

Although few people in the 21st century have heard of a Saginaw Powerbike, its dynamic appearance astounds everyone who sees it riding down the road.



saginaw copy

1947 Saginaw Powerbike

On 1947 Dayton Bicycle

Continental 4 Stroke ‘Red Seal’ Engine, 1.5 hp, with kickstart

(Now sold)

1947 Saginaw Powerbike 01

The Saginaw Powerbike is one of the rarest motorised cycle attachments, introduced soon after WW2 in America before the cyclemotor craze took hold in England. Like British Cyclemasters, Powerpaks, Minimotors, etc, it could be purchased already mounted on a bicycle or as a kit to attach to a customer’s own bicycle. It was fitted either with a Briggs & Stratton engine – the most popular option – or a Continental Red Seal, which is the unit fitted here.

The Continental Red Seal engine on this fabulous Saginaw Powerbike needs restoration to get it running; an easier alternative might be to replace it with a Briggs & Stratton engine. Obviously this would be a very worthwhile project, this being the only Saginaw Powerbike known outside America.

Apart from engine issues, the machine is complete and in good condition and can be ridden without power.

Powerbike engine unit can be joined to any bicycle after its rear wheel and mudguard are removed. This postwar Dayton bicycle would have been a common original fitting for a Powerbike.







saginaw 4

saginaw copy


Saginaw, Michigan





saginaw powerbike 20



saginaw 3



saginaw copy














saginaw copy


continental red seal engine 1.5hp

Continental Motors Co manufactured engines from 1905 until the 1960s. They also made complete cars in the 1930s, and a sister company made aircraft engines rom 1929 to the present day. Saginaw produced a separate sales leaflet illustrating the Continental engine (below)


saginaw 10


saginaw copy










saginaw copy




Dayton had a long history of bicycle and motorcycle production. 30 years before this Saginaw Powerbike was introduced, the company sold another ‘motor bicycle,’ this time using the G.H Norman patent system – ‘Propelling Device for Vehicles’ – of an engine in the front wheel.

It was advertised as ‘the world’s lowest priced complete motor vehicle’ although contemporary British and French machines were actually cheaper.



motor bicycle patent



dayton motor bicycle 1916


As a strange footnote, Dayton’s association with strange methods of propulsion did not end with either the Dayton Motor Bicycle or the Saginaw Powerbike. A similar Dayton was also used to test the idea of a rocket propelled bicycle…


1947 dayton rocket bicycle


saginaw copy