The Mighty Maytag

Maytag motor scooter

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931 Maine Street Lawrence, Kansas 66044

A couple of years ago while searching through old magazines for advertisements and articles concerning early motor scooters, I discovered a plan for building a motor scooter using a Maytag washing machine engine. The one page illustrated article in the August 1934 Popular Mechanics was titled 'It's Easy to Build this Motor Scooter.' Intrigued by this unexpected find I looked through many earlier issues hoping to find more plans for building motor scooters, but was unsuccessful. Since then I have located quite a few plans for building motor scooters and motorized bicycles in magazines published after 1934, but nothing earlier than that date.

Memories of my grandparents gasoline powered Maytag washing machine gathering rust and dust in their barn in Michigan during the early 1950s, and remembering my mother's stories de-scribing the joy (and noise) it brought to my grandmother when they bought it in the 1930s, helped convince me to build the Maytag motor scooter. For almost two months, the time I would normally have spent working on my collection of Vespa and Lambretta motor scooters, was instead devoted to building the 'Mighty Maytag.'

The first step was to restore a model 92 Maytag single cylinder, one-half horsepower, two-stroke engine, which I purchased from an antique engine collector in Abilene, Kansas. I was told that the model 92 was produced until 1937, when it was replaced by a smoother running, but slightly less powerful two cylinder engine. The engine was completely rebuilt and painted with the original color green enamel; the application of accurately reproduced decals was the finishing touch. Fabricating the chassis mostly entailed cutting, bending, and welding parts salvaged from thrift shop bicycles. The white pine platform and the ash axle mounts and brake pedal were given two coats of spar varnish. The hand grips are reproduction 1930s bicycle grips, which I purchased at the 1995 Vintage Motor Bike Club Meet in Portland, Indiana. Because I wanted to keep the engine in-tact, I put the drive pulley and belt on the flywheel side of the engine, instead of removing the kick-starter and putting it on that side, as shown in the plans. The scooter is push started, but the kick-starter can be used when it is on the display stand I built for it.

Everything works! It will be given its test run this spring after I locate a brave and agile test driver who weighs less than 100 pounds. My best guess is that it will reach a top speed of 15-20 mph on level pavement, although I am hoping, of course, that it will go faster! The 'Mighty Maytag' project had been fun, but I am left wondering how many of these motor scooters were built when the plans were first published. Finding an early example of one, or even finding an old photograph of one, would be a fitting conclusion for the project.