Thursday, August 14, 2008

Whizzer Motor Bike -- 1948-1949

Transportation Item Number 2

I lived with my grandparents in a small town in Ohio named Celina. Probably had no more than 5,000 people in it then and you could easily get around the entire town. Before I got my bicycle, I used to walk everywhere.

Something about a little town in the 1940s -- no one ever thought of putting locks on their bicycles. You could leave them anywhere and they would be there when you were ready to go again. I never had a key to the house. We may have locked it at night when we went to sleep but I don't recall that. People respected your property.

I bought a magazine called Popular Mechanix probably for 15 cents or so and used to look at the ads in the back. I saw that someone in Pennsylvania had a Whizzer Motor Bike kit for sale - used. Total cost $60. You had to supply the bike and install it yourself. Since I had the money, Grandpa sent the $60 to the address and in a couple of weeks the motor and accessories arrived. I traded my Schwinn bicycle for one that the kit would fit and Grandpa and I put it together.

The Whizzer didn't have a key for security. Anyone who knew how to start it and ride the motor bike could do so. We never gave it a thought that anyone would do that without permission. I kept it in an unlocked garage seen behind my cousins in this picture.
My Whizzer with cousins Norm Reynolds and Dave Ummel. Their mothers were my father's sisters. We used to get a lot of company stopping by for a day to visit my grandparents (their parents) so I got to meet a lot of my cousins. There were 12 children and 36 grandchildren which meant I had 31 cousins. There were 5 kids in my family.

The Whizzer could go 35 miles an hour and get 125 miles per gallon of gas. It had a one gallon tank. Gas was probably 15 cents a gallon so that was not an expense to worry about. I remember one day my best friend, Tom Keifer, and I rode to a town 5 miles away and went to a motion picture show to see "Pride Of The Yankees" about baseball player Lou Gehrig starring Gary Cooper. This is my favorite movie. I have it on tape. The Whizzer was parked outside the theater unlocked and was there when we came out. Imagine that today!

I directed the Moore Family Reunion of 1993 held in the Oklahoma City area. The planning took me 18 months and about $2,000 of my own money but I felt it was worth the effort to get the family together one last time. I will write about this event in another post but there really is a connection to this story. After the long weekend reunion, I needed some down time. Ann and I drove over to Branson Missouri to see some of their shows and relax. One afternoon we were walking through a very interesting store of "things of yesteryear" and I remarked to Ann that the only thing this store lacks is a Whizzer Motor Bike. I turned a corner and there it was -- a beautifully restored Whizzer with the original price tag on it -- $100. The current price was $4,995. I remember selling mine for $100! The Whizzer company had been out of business since the early 1950s and the only way you could get one of these then was to find a restored one.

The company has been back in business for a few years now and you can check it out on . A new one with up to date technology runs about $2,000 today. They would be great for a small town with little traffic but not practical for a city of any size over 25,000 people. Too dangerous. Not enough power. But great to ride!

This is a picture of a new Whizzer from their website.


Scott said...

fantastic slice of history in this post. just stumbled in here out looking for Whizzer stuff. love vintage, but holy cow, five grand?!? yoiks. even the $2k they're asking for the modern kit seems pricey. have you seen or ridden any of the new ones?

can't see buying a scooter for $2k, but being a bike enthusiast, getting a bike that I could pedal and cruise around on, maybe. kinda looking for something I can comfortably ride to work and still treat like a bike.

Dick said...

Scott -
I haven't ridden a Whizzer since I sold mine in 1949. Haven't seen any of the new ones - only the website with pictures of the new models. I think it would be difficult to ride one in a metro area like I live in - LA/OC area.

Scott said...

yeah, you're probably right about the urban riding. wondering if I'd still try to ride it like a bike, you know, on the sidewalks and bike paths. seems a lot more versatile than a regular scooter.

brochure says 138cc; holy cow, that seems like a lot. my understanding is that you have to have a license for anything over 50cc here.

have you seen any of the other bike motor packages? any desire to throw one of these together for a little nostalgia?!?

always kinda wished I grew up in the 50's. haha, guess it was all the Leave It To Beaver and Dick Van Dyke reruns I watched as a kid. just seemed simpler and more laid back.