Remembering the Whizzer Bike Motor

A fond childhood account of the Whizzer, a bike motor that started a new transportation trend in the late 1940s.

| December 2014

By the time I was 13 or 14, after owning a battered used bike or two, I’d managed to buy a fancy new bicycle, a red Monarch with a headlight, horn and sprung front fork, which I rode everywhere and of which I was quite proud.

At about the same time, in 1946 or ’47, ads began to appear in Popular Mechanics and other magazines that turned me into one great quivering lump of WANT! Even though I loved my Monarch, I was crazy for speed and anything motorized and was sure that the one and only thing necessary to make my bike perfect was a Whizzer engine to lessen the wear and tear on my legs while pedaling around the hills of western Pennsylvania.

One ad from 1946 told me: “Here’s new, personal transportation for everyone. The new Whizzer bike motor, a compact, dependable unit that’s packed with power and pep, makes any balloon-tired bike a motor bike!”

The ad featured an illustration of a pretty young lady in shorts enjoying a ride on a Schwinn bike equipped with a Whizzer, over the caption: “Ride one and you’ll buy one.” The ad went on to list the advantages of the Whizzer: “(It) will take you where the fish are waiting. A woods trail is as good as a highway for this sturdy 2-1/2 hp motor. The economical, comfortable way to ride to work. 125 or more miles per gallon of gas. And no parking problems to worry about.” And finally, the argument I was sure would sway my father: “Grand transportation for the farm family (of course that meant me). Downright practical for trips to town, to farm fields, and from farm home to school.”

A later ad assured me, “… get a Whizzer Bike Motor and travel for pennies! America’s finest bike motor takes you 125 miles on a gallon of gas, at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Whizzer users say it’s the most fun on wheels … and the best way to keep the budget in line!”

Wide open at 40 mph

Unfortunately, Dad wasn’t at all impressed by my frequent pleas of, “Dad, buy me a Whizzer.” The price of a Whizzer engine, F.O.B. from the factory in Pontiac, Michigan, “complete with gas tank, oversize rear stand, and all the attachments necessary to motorize your bike,” was $89.50 ($97.55 in 1947; $1,020 today) and there was no way he was going to blow a hundred bucks just so I could speed around and probably kill myself. As far as he was concerned, I was doing fine with leg power, and it was free.