Happy 100th birthday, ABC Skootamota!
A 100th birthday is being marked at the Lakeland Motor Museum for an unassuming little vehicle with a largely forgotten role in a transport revolution.
When people think of stylish scooters that lit up the Swinging Sixties – they think of Italian icons like Vespa and Lambretta. But they would have been nothing without an earlier pioneer on permanent display at the museum.
📷 Main photo: The 100-year-old Skootamota is tried out by Lakeland Motor Museum Assistant Elizabeth.
The Skootamota was designed just after the First World War and was one of the first ever motor scooters - the forerunner of those hugely popular scooters from the 50s and 60s - and the electric scooters which are now highly popular.
The example at our museum was made in 1923 by the All British (Engine) Company (ABC). Skootamotas first hit the roads a few years before that - in 1919 - when there was huge demand for cheap motorized transportation for both men and women.
Women’s clothing in that era, heavy dresses and petticoats, made traditional motorcycles almost impossible to ride because of the positioning of the engine and fuel tank.
The Skootamota changed that with its light tubular steel frame, featuring a flat platform with a foot operated rear brake pedal. It had an adjustable sprung saddle and small spoke wheels on the front and back.
With a single-cylinder engine mounted horizontally over the rear wheel and a fuel tank above it there was plenty of space for women to ride regardless of what they were wearing. And some men preferred them too as they were less likely to crumple their suits than traditional motorcycles.
The Skootamota was designed by engineer Granville Bradshaw and showed great foresight as they eventually evolved into the highly popular modern motor scooter.
Its adjustable handlebars had controls for the throttle and the front brake on them. The single-cylinder engine was mounted horizontally over the rear wheel, with a fuel tank above it to gravity feed the carburettor. The motor has a capacity of 123cc, early engines were intake-over-exhaust with later models using overhead valve engines.
Slowing the Skootamota down was accomplished with external contracting band brakes on each wheel. They didn’t need to work too hard as the top speed of the Skootamota was just 15 mph (24 km/h).
It proved to be a popular success and led to a host of similar, copycat designs which soon overtook it and led to its early demise. So, the impact this humble little scooter had on future personal transportation is often overlooked.
But cheap scooters with the same or similar basic architecture proved hugely popular in Europe, Asia, and around the world. Even today, in many developing countries, the majority of the population uses a 125cc single-cylinder motor scooter for personal transportation.
The scooter has recently made a resurgence in urban areas, now with an electric powertrain and a removable battery pack that people take into their offices to charge during the day.
📷 ABOVE: Another example based in Holland. The original uploader was Piero at Dutch Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons