By Guido Ebert
Some examples within the impressive new Scooters! exhibit include a rare Salsbury from the late 1930s, the Doodlebug, Argyle and Egley made in Iowa, the Harley-Davidson Topper, a stunning all polished aluminum Rumi scooter made in Italy, plus a wide variety of models from some of the better known classic scooter brands.
The Salsbury Aero Model Motor Glide is one of the oldest scooters on display, originally designed and produced in 1938. Salsbury was an inventive person and applied his ideas and skills to the driveline. Instead of a multi-speed transmission you manually shift, the engine and final drive each have a pulley with moveable sheaves, moveable flanges. As engine and scooter speed increase, the flanges on the engine move closer together forcing the drive belt out creating a higher “gear ratio.” The scooter accelerates as engine speed stays constant.
Today we know that Victory and Indian motorcycles are manufactured in Iowa, but even decades ago, Iowa had a motorcycle industry. The Doodlebug, Argyle and Egley scooters were all manufactured in Iowa.
Harley-Davidson saw the potential in scooters as well. In response to the post-World War II scooter craze, Harley-Davidson developed the Topper and released it for sale in 1961. Its continuously variable transmission, light weight and maneuverability made it easy to ride. The Topper featured flashy paint schemes, offered step through mounting which was favorable to older riders and women in skirts, and a rear brake pedal familiar to those driving automobiles.
The Italian firm, Rumi, perfected an interesting two-stroke air-cooled parallel twin of 125cc models. While most know of that engine being using in touring and sport Rumis of the 1950s, it also powered a very spectacular scooter – one on which all body parts are polished aluminum.
Scooters! will be on display until April 2014, when this temporary exhibit will be replaced by another. Only 270 miles from the Twin Cities, the National Motorcycle Museum is open daily 9am to 5pm. Visit www.nationalmcmuseum.org to learn more.