Well real-life responsibilities and some difficulties with my flux capacitor prevented my week of exploring the obscure glories of prehistoric scootering with as much depth as I would have liked.
Still, I feel I must share a few of the more interesting examples I've found, in an attempt to put to rest the myth that Vespa invented scooters. Don't get me wrong, I love Vespas, but I cringe a little every time I read one of those news stories about how high gas prices are driving increased scooter sales, and the Vespa invented scooters after WWII is tosssed out there.
Take for instance this lovely Dieselpunky military grade Cushman. 4734 of these Auto Glide Model 53 Cushmans were sold to the US Government, and some were used by Airborne troops after D-Day. Cushmans are probably the most common of the Pre-Vespa scooters, especially in the U.S., and there is a cult following of collectors and restorers to this day.
The above two Cushmans are on display at the Motorcycle History Museum in Sturgis South Dakota. Jes and I stopped there on a lark during our recent cross-county trip, and were very impressed by the place. While we expected merely a shrine to Harleys, they had a lot of cool pieces of two-wheeler history from manufacturers all over the world.
A really scoot which was on display there was the 1922 Ner-a-car.
Now that is one sick old scoot! And as a Scot, I love that the placard brings up one of my favorite arguments for scooters. Real men ride scooters, " 'Cause ya cannae wear a kilt on a motorcycle!"
Like the great-grand-daddy of the Ruckus, it's a cool naked scoot. But of course, customization of two-wheelers didn't start with chopped Harleys...
Built on a Neracar chassis, Mr Lawson built this in 1948 using a 288cc straight 4 from Mr Haythorn. It had outriggers that dropped under gravity and locked in position. They can just be seen hiding in the rear bodywork.
Mr. Lawson's custom ride reminds me stylistically of one my favorite old scooters, also from the twenties, the Unibus.
I haven't been able to scare up much info on these cute little machines, which have such classic and timeless styling. While there are plenty of cool step-through bikes prior to World War II, which definitely should be classified as scooters, the Unibus gets my vote as the real precursor to Vespas as a stylish machine for personal transportation. They also show how early savy advertisement entered into scooter culture. Indeed these antique adverts are about all the info I could scare up on them.
Well, before I sign off, I want to include a couple more cool Steampunk/Dieselpunk scooters I've come across, though again I forget where I found these...
Above is a Lutz Hummel.
And this is a Monet Goyon Velauto. Check out the wicker vent in front of the engine, and the wicker seat, definitely an idea to emulate if you are considering a Steampunk customization on your scoot.
Well, hopefully I'll be able to scare up some time to post some more of these cool old scoots in the next few days.