Illustration for article titled Harley-Davidson May Soon Sell A Scooter, But It Won’t Be Their First

Harley-Davidson showed off a scooter prototype at CES last year, and we recently got to see more detailed pictures of it thanks to designs submitted to the European Union Intellectual Property Office. While a scooter may not seem on-brand for the company, this wouldn’t be their first.

EUIPO Design Filing
EUIPO Design Filing
Illustration: Harley-Davidson
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In the early 1960s, the company sold a 164cc 2-stroke powered scooter called the Topper. It has an air-cooled engine, though it’s mostly enclosed so it doesn’t cool very well and some people had overheating problems. It has a rope-recoil pull-start like a lawnmower.

Illustration for article titled Harley-Davidson May Soon Sell A Scooter, But It Won’t Be Their First
Screenshot: J. Gordon Leishman (YouTube)

The engine is connected to a continuously variable transmission the company called a “Scootaway Drive,” which had some problems in the early years. The belt was exposed and would get fouled by debris, causing the belt to slip. This was fixed after 1961 by covering up the belt. Front suspension is interesting, it’s a leading link type with a single damper and two pull springs. This video shows all the interesting under-the-skin details:

The scooter makes just under ten horsepower, though they did sell a detuned five horsepower model called the “Topper U” that would allow younger riders in some states to operate it without a motorcycle license. Harley made about 8,500 of them from 1959 to 1965.

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Illustration for article titled Harley-Davidson May Soon Sell A Scooter, But It Won’t Be Their First
Image: SenseiAlan (Flickr)

Top speed was 46 mph. They originally sold for $445 (about $4000 in 2020 money), and these days you can find them for sale from time to time for around $5000 in good condition. I imagine an upcoming Harley electric scooter powertrain swapped into one of these would make for a pretty great ride, and really stir up the cognitive dissonance at certain biker hangouts.

Matt Brown is an automotive engineer, writer, and builder of unconventional things. Mostly vehicles.

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