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Last Thursday

The July Last Thursday event brought Kevin Wentzel and his son, Nathan, downtown on a couple of vintage Cushmans. Kevin has been a Cushman fan for over Forty years and remembers the Shriners riding them when he was growing up.

The Cushman company was started in 1903 in Lincoln, Nebraska, by Everett and Clinton Cushman. The company incorporated as Cushman Motor Works in 1913. Cushman began production of their four-stroke Husky engine in 1922. Cushman produced engines for farm equipment, pumps, lawn mowers and boats. Cushman began making Auto-Glide scooters in 1936 as a means to increase the sale of Husky engines during the Great Depression. Cushman scooters were widely used by the United States Armed Forces in World War II and as an alternative to automobiles before and after the war. One famous Cushman was the model 53, a military model from the World War II era. Designed to be dropped by parachute with Army Airborne troops, it became known as the Cushman Airborne. Other models were used on military bases for messenger service. The most successful model of Cushman scooter, the Eagle, was in production approximately 16 years. It resembled a motorcycle with its exposed engine and top tank. Other Cushman models used a step-through design common for scooters. The step-through design and ease of operation made it popular with men and women alike. Some late-1950s Cushmans, designated Road King and Pacemaker, had jet-age body styling. Sears sold a version of these models under the Allstate brand. Cushman scooters featured an automatic centrifugal clutch, which allowed the rider to twist the right grip to accelerate. Oddly, the throttle twisted forward during acceleration, opposite the usual pattern in most other motorcycles and scooters. Cushman claimed 75 miles per gallon, and advertised penny-a-mile operating cost. Cushman scooters usually weighed about 250 to 335 pounds and had as much as 9 horsepower (6.7 kW). Scooter production ended in 1965, but some remaining Eagles were sold as 1966 models.

Kevin currently owns an orange ’56 Eagle and a white ’63 Super Silver Eagle. The ’56 is a custom build with 18hp and a Vanguard motor with 20hp cams. He acquired the ’56 in April from St. Louis, MO. The ’63 has the original 9hp and was found on Ebay and came from Minneapolis, MN. Kevin said, “This is the start of a collection, I watch Ebay every day.”

Kevin and Nathan were attending Last Thursday for the first time this year. You would normally see Nathan on an ’03 Fatboy or an ‘ll Road Glide but this night he was riding one of the Cushmans with his Dad. Kevin says he really enjoys the uniqueness of the older bikes that show up at Last Thursday and everyone is so friendly. When they are not riding bikes together they both work at Dakota Kitchen and Bath, with Kevin being the Plant Manager. So you could say, they are not all work and no play.

 

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