Behind the Wheel: Restored Flyer ‘stands out from the crowd’

 Ferndale resident Christopher Beltz  purchased his 1919 Briggs & Stratton  Flyer two years ago from his great-uncle’s estate. The small-scale vehicle weighs 135 pounds and its top speed is 25 mph.

Ferndale resident Christopher Beltz purchased his 1919 Briggs & Stratton Flyer two years ago from his great-uncle’s estate. The small-scale vehicle weighs 135 pounds and its top speed is 25 mph.

Photos by Donna Agusti


By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published November 8, 2017

At first glance, it might look like a child’s toy or a go-kart, but Ferndale resident Christopher Beltz’s 1919 Briggs & Stratton Flyer is, in fact, an actual automobile. 

The small-scale vehicle is equipped with a one-cylinder, two-horsepower engine attached to a motor wheel, which makes the car drive, Beltz explained in an email interview. The Flyer’s clutch and brake pedals are the same as a regular car’s, he said, but its controls consist of a thumb lever attached to the steering wheel for the throttle. 

“The motor wheel is held off the ground by the clutch pedal and is crank-started by a handle on the drive wheel,” Beltz added. 

Also unlike traditional cars, the Flyer doesn’t have a windshield, suspension or bodywork, and it weighs in at a mere 135 pounds. Its top speed is 25 mph, and it can go 80 to 90 miles on one gallon of gas. 

“Often used for delivery of groceries and drugstore items, advertising materials described it as an ‘ideal vehicle for transportation of young folks’ and noted a selling price of $175,” he said, adding that Time magazine once dubbed it the most inexpensive car of all time. 

Beltz bought the car two years ago from his great-uncle’s estate, and he said it’s one of only a few existing gas-powered Flyers that are still in running condition. 

“The family connection, its uniqueness, and being part of the legacy and continued story were what really fueled my interest in purchasing the car,” Beltz said. 

Beltz’s great-uncle, who earned several car show trophies for the Flyer in the 1990s, had done a lot of restoration work on the car, including the fabrication of replacement parts that he couldn’t find elsewhere. 

“The fact that my great-uncle restored this car prior to the internet was quite an accomplishment,” said Beltz. “It is nearly impossible to find parts for this car, despite how connected the world currently is.”

Following in his great-uncle’s footsteps, Beltz recently cleaned, restored and painted the Flyer’s gas tank and fender, and got it back out on the car show circuit, including the Greenfield Village Old Car Festival, the Woodward Dream Cruise and the Lake Bluff Concours de Elegance of Southwest Michigan. 

“The Flyer generally stands out from the crowd, and people gravitate to it and are interactive with questions and curiosity,” said Beltz. “Children are especially taken with the vehicle. … If they are gentle, I always offer the parents to take a picture of them on the car. It is a great way to get the younger generation passionate about the hobby.”

Beltz added that he transports the Flyer to various shows in the back of his classic hearse, which he purchased as a “tow” vehicle. He also shares his passion for cars in his role as vice president of the Motor City Region of the Cadillac & LaSalle Club and through his website, www.detroitclassicauto.com.

“My car collecting began with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars — about 1,000 of them that I still possess — and nobody expected it to develop into a passion of full-size cars during adulthood,” he said. 


Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history or a special meaning to you? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at jsigouin@candgnews.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.