History of Whizzer - by Jack Backstreet
Some younger scooter/moped'ers out ther might not know anything about the
history of the Whizzer, the most significant motorized bicycle ever built.
The idea of motorizing a bicycle ain't nothing new. Fact is, nearly every
motorcycle company prior to 1915 began by either building or modifying a
bicycle to accept an engine (and one could argue that planes began that way
too). Larger displacement engines available around WW1 meant motorcycle
manufacturers could build truly dedicated machines, but some bicycle engine
applications continued to exist into the early 1920's, namely Smith's
Moto-Wheel, a bolt on 3rd wheel contraption that's often seen on Indian
bicycles (anybody have one for sale, call me!).
There's been 2 distinct scooter crazes here in the U.S., the first happend
around 1915 and died off in the early 20's due to their generally lousy
construction and being generally marketed toward women. The second and
greatest boom occurred in 1936 when companies such as Crocker, Powell,
Salsbury and Cushman made some truly superior machines. It was during this
second great scooter boom that the idea of motorized bicycles was
resurrected by companies like Marman, Pow-wow, & Wasp, to compete with the
somewhat costlier motorscooters.
Whizzer rode in about 3 years into the scooter craze. Breene-Taylor was a
small company in Los Angeles manufacturing carburators and aircraft parts
and launched their bicycle engine in late 1939, the Whizzer Model D.
Model D Late 1939-July 1940 Sales: less than 300 (all kits)
* 1-3/8 hp
* Roller drive
Kit price: $54.95 (complete)
Model D suffered from numerous design defects, the most glaring was the use
of a pot metal crank (continued through to Model F) and a split crankcase
design. Many were later recalled by the factory and replaced with improved
Opinion: If you come across an F, chances are it's unridable as they tended
to self destruct after a 1,000 miles or so without any help from their
owners. Novelty items at best and look neat on a prewar bike hung on a
wall... just don't try to ride it!
Whizzer interest sold to Martin Goldman and Dietrich Kohlsaat during final D
Model E July 1940-42 Sales: 1,500 (all kits)
* Aluminum head substituted
* Oil dip Stick
* Improved Breene-Taylor carburator
* Hotter camshaft
* Improved magneto
Note: The Model E, while certainly an improvement over the D, usually lasted
just a few miles more before self-destruction. It still had roller drive,
the split case and the awful crank. Another novelty item to be seen and not
Model F 1942-43 Sales Approx 4,000 (all kits)
* Horsepower increases to 2-1/2
* Larger 1.2 gal gas tank
* Switch to belt drive
COMPANY MOVES TO PONTIAC, MICHIGAN
Note: Quick! Name the only vehicle you could buy new during WW2... WHIZZER!
And then you had to have a qualifying certificate as a defense worker in
order to buy one. The Model F was no great machine yet, but had the
significant improvement of being belt driven.
Model H Summer 1946- May 1948 Sales: 139,000 (approximate)
* One piece crankcase casting w/side cover access
* Improved bearings
* Improved seals & tappetts
* Elimination of oil pump (splash/spray lubrication)
* Changed exhaut design
* Twist off gas cap
* Tillotson carb replaces B/T unit
THE FIRST MODERN WHIZZER! Look at the improvement in the sales! The big news
was that with WW2 over, an enormous pent up demand existed for ANYTHING that
moved (new cars were hard to come by and you had to wait for up to 18 months
to get one)... but the Whizzer finally evolved into a quality machine
capable of both performance and long life. Most Whizzers encountered are
The Model H (introduced in the summer of 1946) changed everything. The most
significant development for the company was that bicycle manufacturers began
to take notice of these little engines and set out to design bicycles around
In late 1947 Cleveland Welding produced a type of Roadmaster specifically
for the Whizzer engine (maybe 1,000 were produced; note that all sales
figures mentioned are for kits only, perhaps an additional 5% of the H's and
later models were installed in preassembled bikes at best).
Schwinn would become involved with Whizzer in late 1947 through a patent
conflict with Cleveland Welding.
Model H kit price: $97.55
Even with the prassembled bikes (discussed later), the most commonly
encountered Whizzers are of the kit variety. Most will be found on various
26" men's (there are no girl's Whizzers) bikes such as Cleveland Welding, JC
Higgins, Shelby, BF Goodrich (a Schwinn licensee) and Schwinn itself. THERE
IS NO TYPICAL WHIZZER. What you see when encountering a kit bike is some
kid's idea of what a motorized bicycle should be 50 years ago... if it's
'restored' you get the restorer's idea of nostalgia.
Ideally, a kit bike should include a front expander brake. Most often
however, this is not the case. When encountering an authentic 'barn bike'
with the font expander brake, it'll be a small miracle if it's complete. The
internal mechanisms were often ditched due to their cost at the first sign
of wear or trouble back in the old days... THEY ARE VERY EXPENSIVE AND HARD
TO COME BY TODAY! You can expect to pay over $300 for a working NOS unit in
Model J May 1948- Sept. 1949 Sales (Unknown, but alot!)
* Throttle controls replace thumb unit
* Most have Carter carbs
* Some have 'tall' oil stack towers (a rarity)
With the model J, Whizzer began producing, in addition to the kits, their
own line of proprietary bikes: the PACEMAKER (24") [later produced as a 300
series] 1948-51 (about $200.00), the SPORTSMAN (a bit later, as a 300S)--- a
20" (!) miniature motorcycle (no pedals to crank!) with a kick starter and a
2 speed automatic transmission, the bimatic. 1950-52 ($239.50), and the
SPECIAL (Schwinn DX frame by Whizzer, built until about 1963).
Schwinn would produce the WZ series and the Ambassador (their most deluxe
model) until about 1952 and sold through their extensive dealership network.
European affiliates are established and begin selling preassembled bikes
utilizing frames quite different than anything seen in the U.S.
Alpha-numeric sequences (which skipped several letters in the alphabet) are
300 Series Sales 15,600
Sales begin to fall off dramatically in late 1952.
* Bimatic transmission proves a costly failure and is discontinued.
* Kick starter introduced
* 3 hp
Company begins production of aluminum windows and kitchen utensils.
500 Series Sales 2,300
600 Series Sales 1,500
700 Series Sales 5,300
*Kick starter deleted
All figures are for kits. 700 sales figures are deceptive due to the length
of production. Whizzer would continue building preassembled SPECIALS in
limited quantities until company closes using virtually any available NOS
parts from across series which blurrs model lines.
Factory closes in 1964.
Remaining inventory sold to late Leonard Davis in 1970 for a rumored $5,000
(he buys approx 175 kits, some completed bikes and bins of misc. parts worth
an estimated $1,000,000 today).
(Sorry folks! He's taking a dirt nap, having sold off the stuff at Hershey
back in the early 70's).
Various prototypes and one-off models are extant in many series.
A decent COMPLETE kit barn bike (not running) on a non-expander brake frame
brings $1,100-1,400 in today's market.
Good operating original Whizzer kit bikes can be had for about $2,000-2,500
'RESTORED' kit bikes (usually H/J series) are found for $2,400-3,500
Anybody who pays more than $3,500 for a Whizzer kit bike has more money than
Whizzer rebuilds aren't cheap (is anything?): expect to pay $650.00 for a
This gets squirrely...
BF Goodrich made a rebadged Schwinn model in 1948 (relatively rare, yet
eyeballs as a Schwinn), The Schwinn WZ, the Columbia, all are desirable and
could bring $4,500 restored in todays's market, 50-70% of that in decent
shape and $1,500-2,000 as a barner.
The Ambassador is the deluxe model and restored goes for $4,500-5,500
Maybe $2,800-3,000 in running order and $2,000 next to a tractor.
Pacemaker: $5,000-$5,500 restored, $2,800-3,200 running and maybe $1,800-2,000
The Pacemaker is a neat machine! A 24" with dual springs mounted on an
entirely new telescopic fork. Ensure all the parts are intact! The
gernerator is spendy and should have the headlamp and a complete drum brake.
The absolute best bet for both rideability and appreciation!
Sportsmans are the cream of the crop, but not from a rideability standpoint
due to their (often installed) troublesome bimatic transmissions. They just
look so cool you can't believe what you're looking at... $6,000 restored,
$3,500-4,000 running and $2,500 in the shed.
And yes you can always find stuff cheaper (the "I found one for $50 in a
farmer's field," like, duh, story). Problem is, people now know what this
stuff is worth. The good news is that even with today's outrageous parts
prices ($80 for a rear pulley!!!!!?) you can still 'restore' one, ride it
and enjoy it, and still turn more than a buck on it when selling. You just
may never want to!
A repro Whizzer was manufactured by Nostalgia Cycles from 1993-97 and sold
for about $1,900 in kit form. These are easily identified by a whacky
cyclinder/head unit and Mikuni carb. From a distance (like, a mile) they
look very similar. These should be avoided like the plague.
A MORE MODERN WHIZZER???
Rumor has it that the licensee is negotiating with a better company... we'll
all have to wait n' see!
Thoughts, gripes, comments? email me!
P.S. I was in error in PART ONE regarding one point: CUSHMAN also received
a manufacturing waiver during WWII for civilian sales under the same defense
clause. It's kind of interesting to think that the only motorized thing
Americans could buy new after around the Spring of 1942 was a handful of
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