|Everett (left) and Clinton Cushman|
That same year their patent was approved, and the duo filed articles of incorporation as the Cushman Motor Company on September 18, 1902.
Working out of the basement of a building on the northwest corner of 24th and O streets, the pair struggled to make a living from building engines for farm applications. At the same time they were both avid boaters- a difficult prospect in landlocked Lincoln- and were constantly working on modifications for a marine engine. When Everett saw an advertisement for a single-cylinder outboard engine competition the cousins entered a 2hp version of their two stroke and took first place. The Rudder, a popular power boating magazine, ran an article about the race which gave the Cushman engine some much needed PR, and they began to develop a reputation for power and reliability. But the overall demand simply wasn't enough to make Cushman a major name.
|Early Cushman 2hp Outboard|
|Advertisement from 1919 Nebraska Farmer|
World War I opened new military and foreign markets, along with a dramatic increase in demand for electricity; with some modifications to their 4hp binder engine Cushman began producing portable "electric light plants", small enough to be popular with individual farmers but also in demand from small electric companies and the government. By 1918, sales had risen to $1.5 million and the company opened a Canadian branch in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Cushman engines were powering everything from hay presses to washing machines.
|Cushman Motor Works, 1919|
|Cushman R-1, 1936|
The onset of the Great Depression allowed Ammon to acquire the remains of Cushman at a bargain and they quickly adopted the Cushman name for their own line of small multi-purpose engines, capitalizing on the already established reputation.
About 1935 the new company bid on a contract to supply scooter motors to the California-based Motorglide Company. Ammon lost the original bid, but he had learned enough to conclude that there must be a market for scooters and by October 1936 the first Cushman scooter prototype, the R-1, was ready for production. Renamed the "Auto-Glide", the machine featured a 1 hp. (11⁄2 hp. optional) Cushman "Husky" 4 stroke with a wet clutch system, primitive automatic transmission, chain drive and an advertised top speed of about 30mph.
|The Stooges on an early Cushman sidecar machine|
1939 Kar model 29
Second World War
After America officially entered World War II in 1941, Cushman was one of the few manufacturers of motorized vehicles allowed to continue civilian production: the carts and scooters were considered "energy savers" for those needing efficient transportation to jobs. While the factory began production of bomb nose fuses (over 8.5 million produced during the war, and given the Army and Navy "E" awards for outstanding quality and quantity), the military also found an immediate need for lightweight, dependable and economic transport both on base camps and in the field. More than 15,000 Cushman two and three-wheeled vehicles were commissioned for use by all branches of the armed forces.
|1944 Cushman Airborne, Model 53|
In 1944 the Model 53 Cushman Airborne was introduced: a heavy 255lb. rigid framed machine with a stock 4.5 hp "Husky" motor and non-syncromesh 2 speed sliding gear transmission. The Airborne's top speed was 45 mph, but the heavy, solid frame produced a bone jarring ride on anything besides smooth tarmac.
The machine was designed to be airdropped by parachute or carried by glider, and it had a hitch to pull a model M3A4 general-purpose utility cart. The cart could be converted to carry .30 or .50-cal. machine guns or an 81mm mortar, though performance was sketchy under any kind of heavy load.
Reportedly the Army engineers also made a serious weight miscalculation when allocating the parachute size for the Cushman, and as a result the scooter hit the ground with enough force to bend the frame in half.
Utilizing typical "Army intelligence", rather than simply using a bigger parachute they contracted Cushman to modify the Airborne with a large spring-loaded bumper that wrapped around the frame section of the scooter, adding another 50 lbs. in the process. This resulted in an Airborne with bent frames and bumpers, hardly the improvement they were seeking. The whole parachute program was scrapped, but Cushman still made nearly 5,000 airborne scooters for the military. The rugged, simple Model 53 could travel through a foot of water, climb a 25 percent grade and had a range of about 100 miles. After the war the Airborne was modified with swing-arm rear suspension and sprung trailing link forks, and sold on the civilian market until 1954 as the model 53-A. Many of them were re-purposed for use by the postal service and police departments after the war.
Post- War Production
Above: Bo Diddley with a Cushman RoadKing
Above left: Cushman Allstate (manufactured for Sears); Right, Model 61 Highlander
|Mid-1950's model Cushman Eagle|
Unexpectedly, the Eagle soon became an icon of Shriners' groups (an offshoot of the Freemasons), who made the little bikes famous by riding them in formation during civil parades around the USA.
By the mid-1950s a specialized version of the Cushman Silver Eagle, featuring a slightly higher hp output and a few additional cosmetic features, had become the standard for many Shrine Temple "Cushman Motor Corps" throughout the United States and Canada.
But in 1961 Cushman decided to phase out all production of two wheeled scooters, and by 1966 the last Silver Eagles had left the plant.
As defense contracts finally ended after the Korean War (Cushman had also been producing aircraft parts), the company began to focus new product modifications for industrial consumers. In 1952 they re-introduced a line of three-wheeled industrial vehicles dubbed the "Truckster". In 1957 the federal Post Office Department awarded Cushman a contract to produce 1,500 modified Trucksters which would be known as Mailsters.
|Late Model Cushman Mailster|
The Truckster was being used in dozens of industries along with more visible roles in the Postal Service, "Meter Maid" parking enforcement and private security sectors. In 1965 the Welding Journal reported that the New York Central railroad was using the 50-inch wide Trucksters as mobile welding units in Chicago, making repairs to passenger coaches; scores of them were used at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and even the Pentagon reportedly had a Cushman outfitted as a fire truck.
|Dwight D. Eisenhower and LBJ in a Cushman Golfster, 1960s.|
This created a publicity bonanza for Cushman, and combined with the increased leisure time for Americans and a corresponding increase in discretionary income the golf carts developed into something like a personal version of the truckster.
But in 1973 6,087 Polish made electric golf carts were imported into the United States at "less than fair value", accounting for 15 percent of the U.S. electric golf cart market. On June 27, 1975, Outboard Marine announced it would discontinue manufacture of its signature product; ironically, the Polish imports that brought down Cushman's line were carbon copies of Cushman competitor "E-Z Go" golf carts, which is now, like Cushman, a part of the Textron conglomerate of companies.
|Bristol Police Truckster, 1978|
On Jan. 30, 1998, Textron bought the British company for $230 million and agreed to assume $60 million in Ransomes' debt, part of which stemmed from Ransomes' purchase of Cushman from Outboard Marine. The sale brought Cushman into a global industrial company with aircraft, automotive, industrial, and finance divisions.
Today, 100 years after the first engine was shipped out of the Lincoln, Nebraska plant, Cushman is still striving to provide rugged, dependable solutions for a variety of industries. And with the ever-expanding resources of Textron, one of the world's most renowned manufacturers of transportation vehicles, Cushman continues to grow. Cushman vehicles are now manufactured in Augusta, Georgia, in a 650,000-square-foot plant recently honored as one of the top 10 manufacturing facilities in North America by IndustryWeek magazine. The company continues to build on its reputation for delivering quality, heavy-duty industrial material carriers and comfortable personnel transport vehicles.
It’s Time for a Cushman Scooter (Brandland USA)
The Early Cushman Years
Who Saved The Cushman Scooter? by Bob Jungbluth (www.hobbytech.com)
Directory of Cushman photos from scootermaniac.org
Jim's Cushman Scooter Site