You’ve probably seen one. You just probably never knew what they were called — small electric vehicles silently zipping through airports or warehouses. Or how about that vintage motor scooter from the classic Bugs Bunny telegram gag? Yup. That’s a Cushman.
Growing up in Des Moines, Larry Bellis always wanted a Cushman scooter, but he couldn’t afford one. It wasn’t until years later when he was looking for a reliable vehicle for his friend Martha Winger to drive to work that he spotted a Cushman sitting on the dealer’s lot between the mini vans.
“I hadn’t heard that name in a long time,” Bellis says. “So I grabbed a buddy to run down to look at it, and I bought it on the spot.”
His spontaneous purchase turned into a new hobby. Together, Bellis and Winger now own 19 Cushmans of different styles all in various states of restoration, including Winger’s favorite, a battery operated three-wheel Minutemizer Cushman. The Minutemizer was produced to run on flat surfaces and used primarily as a warehouse auxiliary vehicle.
Bellis uses some of his Cushmans for parts, while others he’s restored to pristine condition, such as his 1959 Cushman Eagle scooter with a suicide shifter. The scooter still has its original eight horsepower, one-cylinder gas engine. Bellis added a second seat and changed out the tank, but he is most proud of the gorgeous eagle head he had custom painted on the scooter’s side. The scooter won first place in the Bad Bike category at the 2013 Dallas Country Sheriff’s Office Special Olympics All-Wheel Show.
Bellis admits his hobby is an unusual one but says other Cushman enthusiasts are not that hard to find.
“If (people) find out you like Cushmans, they come out of the woodwork,” Bellis says.
Bellis is a member of the Cushman Club of America, a national organization with approximately 4,000 members. Bellis and Winger now spend their free time traveling to national Cushman meets.
Cushman Motor Works manufactured scooters in Lincoln, Neb., beginning in the 1930s through 1965. Cushman is now based in Augusta, Ga.
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