By Bud Wilkinson of RIDE-CT.com
Nick Lingenheld’s yard in Harwinton, CT is filled with his motorized acquisitions, all in various states of decay. There are Wheel Horse, Beaver and Speedex lawn tractors, a Harley-Davidson golf cart made more than three decades ago when AMF owned the company, and two 1974 Arctic Cat snowmobiles that sit on a trailer. Getting rolled from the bed of his pickup truck this afternoon and added to the collection of detritus was a rust and red Cushman scooter.
“It’s so ugly, it’s beautiful,” said Lingenheld as he assessed the step-through scooter, which he believes is a 1946 model. He purchased it from a man in Litchfield for $600. “I dug that up out of the back of chicken coop. I’ve always wanted one. I finally found one,” he said.
Lingenheld picked it up on Monday and has been riding around with it in his pickup. When he stopped at a pharmacy in Torrington, CT on this morning, he said it drew a half-dozen gawkers. It likewise attracted attention outside the Daily Mart in Harwinton at noon-hour. “I’m amazed at how many people go gaga over the thing,” Lingenheld said.
With its inverted bathtub rear section, thin handlebar and kick-start lever coming off the front of the motor, the Cushman “Auto-Glide” is a one of a kind ride. Doc’s Motorcycle Parts in Waterbury has a similar 1948 model on display inside the store. “The Cushmans were like light, compact, rugged scooters. They were used by the military during World War II. They were very popular back then. They were pretty affordable,” said Michael “Mike Doc” D’Occhio.
Lingenheld’s affection for Cushmans dates back to childhood when a friend owned one that they would ride. In the late 1960s, he worked as a teenager at Canton Public Golf Course and the course maintenance department had a pair of three-wheeled models for zipping around the layout. That furthered his interest in them. “They’re simple; not much to them; kind of a glorified mini-bike,” he said.
Cushman built scooters from the mid-1930s through the mid-1960s. Models like Lingenheld’s were advertized as “The World’s Best Buy in low-cost transportation.” Nicely refurbished and running, they can now sell for more than $3,000.
Lingenheld’s acquisition needs a lot of work. It’s rusting in many places, its seat is missing fabric and the foam padding has been gnawed. Fortunately, the motor isn’t seized. “Not great, but decent compression. It definitely needs tires,” he said.
Lingenheld’s plans for the Cushman are uncertain. He’s debating whether to fix it up and keep it or to quickly sell it at a profit. “I’d really like to keep it. I’d like to get it running,” he said.