Motorcycle info about licenses, trikes, sidecars, scooters and more!
Salsbury scooters were manufactured in California starting in 1936. Their story is an interesting one because they are known as the first motor scooter to have an automatic transmission.
Mr. Salsbury had high hopes for his motor scooters to be popular world wide, including in post-war Europe where it seemed everyone was starting to ride motor scooters. Unfortunately, production of Salsbury scooters only lasted 12 years, ending in 1948 with the impressive, and very collectible Super Scooter model 85 (perhaps the worlds first maxi scooter!). Cushman scooters went on to be the more well known American scooter brand of that era.
The 1938 Salsbury Motor Glide scooter was equipped with a 1.5 hp Johnson engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). This type of automatic transmission was adopted by most other motor scooter companies soon after Salsbury introduced it. It has been commonly used ever since on small vehicles ranging from mini bikes, go-karts and snowmobiles. The CVT transmission concept has even been implemented on some modern cars.
Salsbury Motor Glide scooters were a small, relatively simple and economical form of transportation. These caught on relatively fast in the US during the late 30′s, but production got interrupted due to the war.
Engines on early Salsbury scooters were manufactured by Evinrude, Johnson and Lauson. Of course, Evinrude and Johnson both went on to make all sorts of engines for different types of things, including outboards for boats. In the 1930′s and 1940′s Lauson was making small and large gasoline engines, most of which were used for farming equipment.
Salsbury scooters, unlike most other motorcycles and scooters of that time period, eventually had foot-operated controls. The idea was to make it easier to operate, like a car with a brake pedal and a gas pedal. Mr. E. Foster Salsbury, the company founder, apparently figured he would have a better chance at selling scooters to car drivers if his scooters had foot pedals like they already knew how to use. Learning how to use hand operated controls is still an obstacle for some new cyclists today.
Another unique innovation of Salisbury was their Super-Scooter model 85, introduced in 1946. This was a rather large and aerodynamic looking motor scooter that seems to have been influenced by the Salsbury company’s role with wind tunnel tests in support of WWII efforts. As most US manufacturers did back then, Salsbury also switched away from their normal production to use their technical skills and abilities to assist the war.
The old photo shown here of a farmer in 1947 using his Super Scooter like an ATV or dirt bike is a little hard to imagine in today’s world of John Deere Gators and other specialized off-road utility vehicles, but it certainly demonstrated the durability and usefulness of the Salsbury motor scooter.
The Salsbury Super Scooter model 85 was sold from 1947-1950. Production numbers are said to have been around 700 to 1000 units. With a rated speed of 50 miles per hour, an automatic transmission, and a sleek, clean design reminiscent of that era, it is no wonder that this Salsbury is a sought after collectible today. We at Motorcycle Information believe it to be the worlds first maxi scooter.