BMW Motorrad Spezial

1921 Ner-a-Car

For a hundred years, motorcycle designers have been toying with different ways to connect the front wheel to the frame. And there’s always been someone trying to make hub center steering work. The machine you’re looking at here was probably the first attempt: called the Ner-a-Car, it was designed by American Carl Neracher during the tumultuous years of WWI. After the war finished, production began in factories in England and the USA, with a seven-year run finishing in 1928. It’s an extraordinary piece of engineering innovation, and the steering was just one of many elements that broke the mold. The Ner-a-Car also had an infinitely-variable friction drive transmission, a foot-forward seating position and a perimeter frame chassis similar to that of contemporary cars rather than bicycles. Around 16,000 Ner-a-Cars were built, and there are just over 100 remaining today, in various states of roadworthiness. This particular machine is for sale for €12,500 (US$16,500) at the Dutch vintage motorcycle dealer Yesterdays—which seems like a remarkably small price to pay for such a rare and innovative motorcycle. It’s certainly cheaper than the modern-day counterparts produced by Bimota.


  • Sportster Cafe

    A friend of mine has one of those! Never even wanted to ride it, or drive it. Not even sure if he has. Still, nice an quirky. Once a month it would be nice to see an article on strange motorcycles from the past!

  • KIK

    funny how we can still learn from the past .nice bike…err car? thanxs exif great post

  • James

    Funky logo change when you click on this post! Nice bike/car!

  • Kerry

    It is what it is . . . neato!

  • Nice! I had one! It was bone stock- sold to a private museum here in the states. I may have pics on my website if you click my name link. These ride great- I have pics of my riding no hands and no feet for blocks- even doing figure eights! The weight was really low and they handled great. They tried to market them to gentlemen and women as you wouldn’t get dirty and they were ever so easy to ride. They have a giant flywheel magneto and start super easy as well. This bike should sell for more than $20k unless it has bad rust issues- pretty hard to find and incredible history behind them. I’m surprised there are not a lot more posts on this. The deco sheetmetal is beautiful – the design elements are great and a non motorcycle rider could ride it first try. Go try to build a motorcycle from scratch that combines all of this in one package– it’s not as easy as you think…. it rode like floating on a cloud.

  • Scott Brough

    It’s too bad we live in a day when everything has to look the same and “normal”. If I had the chance, I would ride this thing in a heartbeat. Unusual designs are great in my book. I want to see more stuff like this instead of cookie-cutter looks and designs. The pioneers of the past need to be revered with awe.

  • badams

    possibly the coolest post yet

  • Nice post, Chris. There were plenty of other companies experimenting with hub-center and ‘duplex’ steering systems, then and now. JBB had a stand at the Moto Legende show in Paris two weeks ago; they make racing bikes with hub-center steering.
    To see how the French explored the same idea (with a much more powerful engine than the Ner-A-Car), check out my road test of the Majestic:

  • mingh

    great stuff.
    @sportster: once a month? Make that every other day!

  • Turgut

    Now that”s one jaw dropper!

    Thanks for making me understand how today’s motorcycle companies lack imagination and creativity.

  • David Moreton

    Ref the Neracar, I have recently acquired a British built 1926 model C with the more powerful 4 stroke 350cc Blackburne engine and Sturmey Archer 3 speed gearbox.
    One lady owner from new before I bought it and totally original and rust free.
    Not running just yet (dead mag) but intend to have it going for the summer in its unrestored condition.

  • Hey Dave- if you ever want to let it go- I would love to have another! Get that mag going- make sure that is what it is first….. congratulations!

  • Derek Larsen

    If Batman was around in the 20s, he’d ride this.

  • David Moreton

    Rick, The mag last ran in earnest in 1939 so 70+ years will have taken its toll, other than that everything else is loose and turns over, clutch, engine, gearbox, brakes, chains.
    By the way I live in Scotland, let me have me your e mail and I will send some pictures. I think there are about 5 or 6 of the model C currently in the UK and about 10 of the earlier 2 stroke model A and model B friction drives.

  • Richard Reeve

    Vic Willoughby wrote a review of one of these in the mid 1950s. It’s republished in his book “Classic motorcycles”. The review was generally extremely complementary and was interesting in that it said the downfall was largely related to fashion, The Ner-A-Car simply didn’t look fast enough to attract a market in the swinging 1920’s.

    One interesting thing to note is that the rear suspension pivot was in line with teh counter shaft. The chain tension did not alter during suspension compression or rebound. Take note BMW, nothing is new.

  • Lloyd Gloekler

    CannonBall Baker crossed North America on one, must work just fine.

  • David Moreton

    Yes, that’s right, back in 1922 he rode from New York to LA in 7 days 11 hours and covered 3,368 miles, used 40 galls of gasoline and 39 pints of oil, ave 18.8 mph and 84.4 mpg. All on a 13.5 2 stroke engine with friction drive. oil consumption and pollution were off the radar back then.

  • yes, “strange motorcycles from the past”! That is all that I’m interested in. How can a new plastic wonderbike keep my attention when there are Neracars out there? One neat aspect of them was that they made in the US and also made in the UK. I think it may be unique in that regard. They were marketed to women and also to men of the cloth, as their garments were protected by the sheetmetal. As Paul mentioned, it is not unique in using hub center steering. Remember, almost everything that you can imagine was already attempted on the bikes made 100 years ago. ;) The bike handled well, with excellent stability. There are numerous photos from the era of riders standing on the seat or on the footboards while the bike was going down the road. The price for this one isn’t too high or too low, and they are not as rare as you might expect. One comes up for sale every 6 months to a year, more often in the UK than in the US. If you get a chance, study the friction drive. It is a flywheel that spins with the motor, and a small wheel spins normal to the flywheel. By moving the small wheel radially across the flywheel, the speed ratio changes. Sorry to leave such a long note. Maybe I’ll have to write an article about these neat bikes on my site sometime.

  • Mine was running- but not properly dialed in. However it was a very straight forward machine. The simple nature of the friction drive and mechanics was wonderful to work with. I needed no manual or instructions- you could look at it and understand exactly how it works or how to improve performance. This is the beauty of the time- void of any complicated computer related/controlled items etc, robust architecture that lasts centuries not months… I could go on… I now have another center hub bike- but it’s 12 feet long and 2 1/2 ft tall at it’s high point… maybe Chris wants to post it when I’m finished…..

  • David Moreton

    Rick, if you’re really after another one, a 1924 US model is for sale on e bay – Item number: 120657261344 and finishes on 13th Dec. It’s generated quite a bit of interest so far and is located in Modesto, California and looks to be pretty original.

    A Neracar website has just been formed by Tony Dymott in Scotland and is open to anyone interested in the marque (worldwide) whether they be owners or not. He can be contacted at [email protected]

  • And another one for sale this month at Andy Tiernan’s in the UK at 8000 pounds sterling. [email protected]

  • David Moreton


    Had a look at Andy Tiernan’s site and could not see one for sale.

  • pete

    it was in Andy’s monthly advert in the Classic Motorcycle, Dec 2010. maybe it’s already sold?