Motorcycle info about licenses, trikes, sidecars, scooters and more!
Harley-Davidson scooters, along with other motorcycle companies in the 1960’s, joined in the motor scooters and mopeds craze in the US market. The time was right for a new civilized form of transportation in the quickly growing suburbs.
Harley-Davidson scooters, named the Topper, were made for only 5 years, beginning in 1960. Today, these Harley Davidson scooters are very collectible and often restored. Topper scooters featured a 165cc 2-stroke engine and a variable rate automatic transmission they cleverly named as “Scootaway Drive”. Automatic transmissions were, and still are, popular on scooters since most scooter riders are not used to riding typical motorcycles. Gas mileage was advertised as “up to 100 miles per gallon”.
Kick-starting these Harley-Davidson scooters would probably have been too crude for the suburbs, so the Topper engine had a simple pull-start recoil system. It was started the same basic way that their target market was used to starting their lawn mowers, so it was a fairly acceptable method.
Cushman scooters had been gaining in popularity since almost 20 years before Harley Davidson came out with their Topper scooter.
As funny as it may seem today, you could actually get the Topper scooters from Harley-Davidson dealers with a sidecar added on. Among Harley Davidson accessories for the Topper was the sidecar option. This was advertised by Harley in their Topper scooter ads as “swell for commuting, errands and outings”. Also, they explained “This handy combination will hold golf clubs, fishing or hunting gear, or any fun equipment.”
If you happen to find any Harley-Davidson scooters with an original sidecar, and in very good condition, then you could have yourself a valuable little investment there. These are selling in the neighborhood of $12,000 in restored condition. But the sidecar was not the only type of side option for the Harley Topper.
You could also get a side-mounted utility box that mounted in place of the actual sidecar shell. Harley-Davidson information advertised back then described the side utility box option for the Topper scooter as something a small business could use for transporting “200 pounds of payload”. Storage space for the Topper utility box was advertised as more than 5 cubic feet cargo space and was suggested “for all types of industry, delivery, courier, messenger and service work”. Harley-Davidson scooters fitted with a utility box sidecar probably would have been a great way to deliver newspapers too!
Fast-forwarding to today, the new Yamaha C3 scooters seem to resemble the Harley-Davidson Topper scooters with it’s box-like styling. It may even remind some folks of a cooler on wheels, or “cooler scooter” as shown here. Topper scooters were not the only little Harley-Davidson motor scooters to buzz around on through the neighborhoods with back then, there also was the Harley-Davidson M50. Around 1960, Harley-Davidson had gone into a 50/50 partnership with Aermacchi. They are an Italian company located in Varese, Italy that made motorcycles at that time, but began as an aircraft company. Ameracchi is still very active today making jet aircraft in Italy, but left the motorcycle business back in 1978 after AMF Harley-Davidson could not make money with it and it ended up in the hands of Cagiva.
By the way, if you are keeping up to date with Harley Davidson scooters information, or just general motorcycle info, an interesting fact is that 30 years later in 2008, Harley-Davidson is back again in Varese, Italy in that same motorcycle factory, after buying MV Agusta from Cagiva.
The Harley-Davidson M50 was more in the style of mopeds with it’s taller wheels and smaller 50cc engine. They sold for around $225 new back in 1965, and were advertised to young folks as “a way to come and go as you please without asking for the family wheels”.
There were a few different Harley M50 variations available. The regular M50 had a fuel tank mounted moped-style, at an angle sloping downward. The M50-S had a more traditional motorcycle style gas tank. A weird feature of this Harley-Davidson scooter, some may call it a moped, was that the 3-speed transmission was shifted via the left handlebar grip. The rider had to actually rotate the entire left grip and lever assembly to switch gears.
It seems today the M50 does not hold the value that the Topper Harley-Davidson scooters have held. Craig’s List recently had a Harley Davidson M50-S for sale in good un-restored condition for $1200. For more Harley Davidson information, general motorcycle information, or to learn about scooters and mopeds, please visit other articles and pages of Motorcycle Information today.