It was 1962, I was 15 years old, and I was going mobile. Fourteen and fifteen year old Ohioans can still ride two and three wheelers with “helper motors” but both vehicle and and rider require a license. Plus the motor must be under 50 CC and 1 HP and incapable of moving the rig faster than 20 MPH. Shish!
Back in those comparatively lawless ’60s, anything that had pedals could be ridden by anyone fourteen or older without a license of any sort. I believe there was a displacement limit of 125 CC and there may have been a horsepower limit as well. My freedom machine was just under the size limit, produced 2 1/2 horsepower, and could reach 40 miles per hour. It cost me $35.
My Dad took me to pick it up. He followed me for a mile or so than got tired of poking along and pulled on by and headed home. I was on my own on the familiar State Route 49 moving along effortlessly at a pace that my most frantic pedaling could match for only a brief moment. Could life get any better?
Why yes. Yes it could. Even in those far distant times, motorcyclists (I don’t recall hearing the word “biker” until years later.) waved at one another when they passed. I passed one motorcycle on that first six mile ride. From a distance, a Whizzer looks much like a “real” ‘cycle. The approaching rider’s arm moved out and toward the road in a low salute. I mimicked him as best I could. He might have been a little embarrassed when we actually passed and he realized he had just waved at a kid on a moped. As for me, I tried to look manly and roadwise while almost certainly sporting a grin as wide as my handlebars.
The Whizzer lasted one summer but what a summer it was. My best friend, who lived about two miles away, had a moped. I think his acquisition came before mine and probably helped me convince Dad that I needed that Whizzer. We had often gotten together via bicycle but now we didn’t have to hang out at one place or the other; We could head off on far ranging adventures. Dale, with a tank of his Dad’s tractor fuel, and I, with some gas from my Dad’s lawnmower supply, would visit friends or go off for a root beer without a second thought. We traveled huge distances (like 10 miles) in (compared to pedaling) an instant.
Dale’s moped had a capital ‘M’ — and a hyphen. It was a real Mo-Ped sold by Sears under the Allstate brand. They were made, apparently, by Puch in Austria. Our two mopeds did the same job but they sure had their differences. The Mo-Ped had a two-cycle 50cc motor with a two speed transmission and chain drive. Power from the Whizzer’s larger four-cycle reached the rear wheel through a belt. Belts and pullies slip; Chains and gears don’t. Compared to the Whizzer, the Mo-Ped was a jackrabbit off the line. The Whizzer would slowly lumber into motion usually helped by my feet on the ground or on the pedals. The Whizzer’s top end was well above the Mo-Ped’s so I’d usually whiz by, to show I could, before settling down for a side by side cruise. When first setting out, the Mo-Ped could be started on its stand with a little pedal pushing. The Whizzer could, in theory, be started by pedaling but it was a real chore. The method of choice was to start pushing it, release the clutch, (‘pop’ is not a word often associated with the Whizzer belt idler.), and jump on after the bike started but before it ran away.
My sister and I were still spending some of the summer with our grandparents but I could now get there and back by myself. It was on a long solo ride during a stay near summer’s end that I did in the Whizzer’s engine. The combined filler cap/dip stick had vibrated loose and all six ounces of oil had slowly blown off behind me. The engine suddenly locked up and a demonstration of the “safety” aspects of belt drive followed. Rather than the entire drive train locking and sending the bike into a skid or me over the handlebars, the belts started slipping and things came to a very rapid but controled stop.
When I got it home and looked inside, I discovered that the cap had actually been torn loose from the connecting rod and the crank had made at least part of a revolution before slamming back into the free floating rod and bending it into a shallow ‘S’. It was incredibly ugly.
I acquired some used parts including another whole motor but I never got around to repairing the bike. I’ve no doubt that one of the reasons was that I would turn sixteen in the spring and my mind was already on vehicles with more wheels. I sold it to a slightly younger friend who tinkered around with the spare motor, put it in the bike, and was himself mobile by the next summer. He used it for at least a couple of years because I remember loaning him my car while I rode the Whizzer on a summer of 1965 afternoon. It was still pretty cool.
My Wheels – Chapter 1 — 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
Although we’ve long lived much more than a mile apart, I’m still good friends with Dale of the Mo-Ped. It was Dale who traveled with me along Indiana’s Lincoln Highway in 2009.