Who Saved The Cushman Scooter?

Chapter Two  
By Bob Jungbluth

The first part of this chapter documents the last declining years of scooter production at the Cushman Motor Works. Each model in the line in 1961 is followed through time to its demise. (See the editor note at the end of this article)

In April 1961 Cushman sent out a price list with 14 models in the Cast Iron line. The Highlander, the Trailster, the Pacemaker and the Roadking were available with either the M9 8 HP cast iron motor or the 4.8 HP model required for the juvenile driver laws in many states. All Eagles on the list were the new Silver Eagle models using the new 9 HP aluminum engine. 1

Cushman encountered a severe vibration problem with the new aluminum engine that we documented in Chapter one of this story. In September 1961 Cushman issued a letter to their dealers announcing that they would essentially suspend production of the new Silver Eagle and put the Cast Iron Eagle back in production until the vibration problem could be fixed. 2

A price list issued the next month shows the formerly out of production Cast Iron Eagle as available again. The Silver Eagle with the aluminum engine was on the list but noted as “price and availability to be announced at a later date”. 3

All through this period Cushman offered their dealers special close out prices on the Pacemaker and Road King. A sales bulletin issued in October offers these two models to their dealers as low as $200.00. 4  The Pacemaker and the Roadking were both discontinued in March 1962. 5  

On January 18, 1962 Cushman announced that the redesign work on the Silver Eagle had been completed and that they would soon offer a free kit to upgrade the earlier model Silver Eagles that had already been sold to customers. They also offered to replace any early Eagles still in dealer stock with the new model. 6

In March Cushman sent a letter to their dealers informing them that the first of the upgrade kits would ship approximately April 1st and the new Silver Eagle would be available for shipment in July. They urged their dealers to continue to sell the Cast Iron Eagle until the Silver Eagle was available again. 7 

A letter to their dealers in June stated that the new improved Silver Eagle was shipping in limited numbers as replacements and they expect to start processing new Silver Eagle orders in two to three weeks. 8

A September letter tells dealers that with the Silver Eagle now back in full production, the 8HP Cast Iron Eagle would be discontinued again. They continued to sell a limited number of 5 HP Cast Iron eagles to meet the demand for the junior driver’s license laws. 9   A price list issued in November confirms that the Cast Iron 8 HP Eagle was no longer in their scooter line. 10

In the spring of 1963 a Cushman Service Bulletin lists only the 5 HP and 8 HP Highlanders, the 8 HP Trailsters, the 5 HP Super Eagle, and 5 HP Standard Eagle remaining in the Cast Iron engine line. They also offered new lower prices on these models in an effort to increase sales. 11

On April 7, 1964 Cushman announced the end of production of the 8 HP Highlander and the 5 HP junior drivers license model Cast Iron Eagle. The 5HP Highlander and the 8 HP Trailster continued in production. 12  Another bulletin issued in August states that all inventory of all Highlanders had been exhausted and that no more would be available. 13

A dealer letter issued in October 1964 shows the 8 HP trailster to be the lone remaining Cast Iron engine equipped scooter in the entire Cushman line. 14  It was subsequently discontinued on March 31, 1965. 15  All Trailsters in inventory were sold by August. 16   This left the Silver Eagle as the only remaining Cushman scooter in production.

A historic sales bulletin issued February 25, 1966 announced the end of Silver Eagle production and stated that several hundred were still available from inventory. As documented in Chapter one of this story, this bulletin promised to supply replacement parts for at least seven years. 17   Cushman was out of the scooter business!  This memo is unique because it is unsigned, very unusual for Cushman.

I remember picking up our local newspaper in Omaha, Nebraska that month. A small article told that Cushman would no longer make the Cushman scooter that had made them famous. This item was of no great importance to me at the time, although I did feel bad that many would not enjoy their own Cushman scooter. Within the next 2 years I got involved in Micro Midget Racing. The engine of choice for myself and many other racers was the 3 inch Cushman Husky Cast Iron engine even though it was out of production. In a later article I will discuss Racing the Cushman engine and tell you about some of the special modifications we made to it.

I found that the parts I needed for my engine were very hard to come by. On several trips to the plant in Lincoln I was able to buy rod bearings and rings but new engine blocks were not available and neither were flywheels. I began to wonder if I had made the right engine selection for racing. Then as I mentioned in Chapter one of this story, Cushman started to clean out their stock of scooter parts. Northwestern Metal Company in Lincoln, Nebraska is a very large metal reclaiming operation. In 1971 they had an aluminum foundry to melt scrap aluminum. Remembering my first surprise of finding the crankshafts, I started making two trips a week to Northwest to see what Cushman had dumped. I had it pretty well figured out that most of the time these parts came to Northwest on Tuesday or Friday, so I would take off work early on Tuesday so I could be in Lincoln about 1:00 o’clock when the truck usually came. For the Friday dump I was at the front gate on Saturday AM when they opened. Many weeks I drove the 100 miles round trip with nothing to show for it. The next big find was crankshafts for the aluminum engine used in the Silver Eagle. I’ll tell you more about the crankshafts and the pistons that I also found in our next story.

Bob Jungbluth wrote this Chapter. Jim Frederick added additional historical content.

Editors Note: The importation of Japanese scooters is considered the primary reason for the demise of the Cushman Scooter. At one point in the early 1960’s Cushman even tried selling Vespa scooters to help meet the Japanese competition, but it was not very successful. I have been told that Cushman considered selling Hondas instead of Vespas but turned them down because they felt they lacked experience in making scooters. It is ironic that today most of the early Hondas and other imports are valued at only a fraction of the price of a Cushman. During the last scooter years Cushman realized what was happening and they increased the production of Trucksters and other specialty vehicles in order to survive. The Sales Bulletin issued by Cushman on February 25, 1966 announcing the demise of the entire scooter line says this in retrospect.

Outboard Marine Corporation, who had purchased Cushman from the Ammons in the late 50's, sold the company to Ransome PLC several years ago. You can still buy a specialty vehicle with the Cushman nameplate on it today. Some of the parts for Trucksters as far back as the 70’s are still available from their dealers today.  

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1    Price list issued April 1, 1961                                      [ Click here to view ]   
2.     Letter to dealers issued September 8, 1961             [ Click here to view ]   
3.     Price List issued October 2, 1961
4.     Letter to dealers dated October 13, 1961
5.     Letter to dealers dated March 30, 1962
6.     Letter to dealers dated January 18, 1962
7.     Letter to dealers dated March 19, 1962          
8.     Letter to dealers dated June 20, 1962
9.     Letter to dealers dated September 19, 1962             [ Click here to view ]
10.   Price List issued November 26, 1962
11.    Letter to dealers dated March 25, 1963
12.    Letter to dealers dated April 7, 1964
 13.   Sales Bulletin CM-SB31-C dated August 4, 1964
 14.   Letter to dealers dated October 1, 1964
15.    Sales Bulletin CM_SB-53 issued March 31,1965
16.    Sales Bulletin (#unreadable) issued August 12,1965
17.    Sales Bulletin SB-71 issued February 25, 1966          [ Click here to view ]

              Copyright © 1999 by Jim Frederick & Bob Jungbluth. May be copied for non-commercial
               use if copyright notice is retained and credit is given.


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