The 1938 Schwinn Autocycle



2015-06-26 10:51:39

The 1938 Schwinn Autocycle was a groundbreaking bicycle produced by the Schwinn Bicycle Company. The innovation of certain elements of its design led the way for the future of bicycles.

History and Description

The Schwinn Bicycle Company has a long history of innovation, being the principal 20th Century manufacturer of American bicycles. Schwinn began to court the market of America’s youth, as adults became more interested in cars, and the potential for bicycle sales to children and teenagers became apparent.

From 1933, Schwinn introduced balloon tires to bicycle design, tires which for the first time in America uses a tube-within-tire, rather than a single tube.

The Autocycle emerged after several years of producing the Aerocycle in the 1930s, a trend-setting bike which took both its style and promotional imagery from the growing industry of aviation. It was one of the first bikes to use the classic Schwinn balloon tires, and, with the introduction of the Autocycle, new design elements emerged. During the 1930s, mechanical innovations were tried and tested on Schwinn’s bikes, such as the Forewheel Expander Brake and the Knee-Action Spring Fork.

The Autocycle had been around for since 1936, and had revolutionized the balloon tire field in styling and sophistication, representing the pinnacle of art deco design. A vessel for Schwinn’s impressive pioneering ideas, it was the only bike of the 1930s to have so many accessories, functions and deluxe features. But it was the 1938 model which introduced the revolutionary cantilever frame, the most significant style feature which was to revolutionise the design of most classic Schwinn bicycles. On a cantilever frame the seat stays continue past the seat post and curve to meet with the down tube.

Guide for collectors

These vintage bicycles are very popular amongst collectors in a certain niche market, and particularly rare. The model can be identified as a 1938 because of the upward angle of the lower rear fender braces, which are nearly level on 1939 and later models.

The bikes are available at conventional, mainstream auctioneers, though their appearance there is rare. They are also available from specialist auctioneers, and at several online sources, such as eBay, where collectors may find rarer models at bargain prices.

As ever when purchasing online, if choosing this route collectors should endeavour to familiarize themselves with the design features of the 1938 Autocycle, so as to ensure their purchases are genuine.

If intending to use the bikes for their practical purpose, collectors should also be sure to find out if they are in working order so as to prevent further expense after their initial purchase. features several images of vintage Schwinn bicycles, and could thusly prove an invaluable resource for identifying these bikes.

Value and Notable Sales

  • A 1936 Autocycle sold on eBay for $8,000 on December 11th, 2010.
  • 1938 Autocycle headlights and bracket only sold for $400 on eBay on the 19th of March 2012.


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