Would you give this pile a second glance if you saw it lined up on your neighbour’s wall?
This little lot sold at Bonhams for £805.00 – not bad for rusty scrap. Here’s what the sales brochure said about it.
c.1916 Autoped 162cc Scooter
One of the very first attempts to build a viable motor scooter, the Autoped was manufactured by Autoped Corporation of Long Island, New York and presumably intended as a means of countering congestion in that overcrowded metropolis. It first appeared at the New York Auto Show in January 1914 but did not enter production until 1916, having undergone a partial redesign. Powered by a 1½hp four-stroke engine driving the front wheel via a multi-plate clutch, the Autoped weighed around 110lbs and cost $110, with a toolbox, lights and horn available as extra cost options. The handlebar stem could be folded down, attaching to the rear mudguard and thus acting as a carrying(!) handle. Production had effectively ended by 1920, although the design was revived – in improved form – by Krupp in Germany in 1921. This ultra-rare early scooter was discovered many years ago in Bethesden, Kent. A present for the vendor from his wife, it was intended as a restoration project but has not been proceeded with. Partly dismantled and not entirely complete, it is offered for restoration and comes with a set of engineering drawings. Sold strictly as viewed.
The snappy little machine was used by the postal service in New York to deliver mail more quickly and efficiently.
It is said that it became quite popular with gangs too as it allowed for quick getaways down narrow alleys where no police cars could follow. But how did the rusted carcass of an Autoped end up in England? Well, it seems they were actually quite popular with smart and with-it ladies – in America and Europe. Even right here in London.
Quite a liberal image for the times – the liberated woman on her high speed scooter throwing caution to the wind and feeling the air under her skirt. Here’s an image of English socialite and activist Florence Priscilla, Lady Norman, who was given this Autoped as a birthday present by her husband, Sir Henry Norman.
She used it to travel to her office in central London. However, some of these early scooter designs were unstable, uncomfortable to ride and difficult to handle. The decades leading up to World War II saw the gradual introduction of a range of refinements, including efficient lights and brakes, gears, suspension, enclosed bodies and leg shields.
So, it’s always giving a discarded object the once over – it may be worth a second look.