The Mighty Maytag

By Staff
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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.

Gas Engine Magazine
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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines