June 4, 2009

AMERICAN ICON: Whizzer Motorbike

Started in 1939 out of Los Angeles, Whizzer made engines that could be mounted to bicycles, and was the answer to an age old question, "how do I ride a bike without peddling?" Well, I'm sure some asked that. In 1946 Southern California production was moved to Pontiac, Michigan, and in 1948 the first "only complete motorbike", was released to the public. Finally selling the engine with a frame and ready to run, "The Pacemaker" sold for $199.50. The last great innovation came in '49 when they made, "The Sportsman", which abandoned pedals all together, thus making it a motorcycle... the beginning of the end. By 1955, sales were down, and along with bikes, engines, toys, and wagons, the company tried to stay afloat by also manufacturing sliding doors. Doors closed.

Having a small resurrection in '98, WHIZZER still tries to make a product that will "catch on" like its predecessors, but with no such luck yet.

On a side but related note... There is a "high end" car showroom on Robertson down by my house. I walk by every now and then just to take a look at what rides they're slangin'. Aston Martin's, Porsche race cars... the likes. Couple days ago, I decided to pop in, have a look around. After drooling on a red '63 356 for a good five minutes, I noticed a small bike in the corner. A rusted broken down bicycle looking more like a swapmeet find than a supercar showroom's jewlery. The rusted hunk of junk was a '52 Whizzer. A specimen that had never been restored, a survivor. A piece in the extensive collection, that at that moment, out-shined the twin '09 Ferraris.

I asked the man, the owner of the showroom, about it, he responded ever so politely while looking me up and down, "not for sale". Right. I then asked about the price of the red 356, you know, show off my little knowledge of 356s, to which he responded, "expensive". Seriously? I felt like Julia Roberts shopping Rodeo in Pretty Woman. The nerve! So, what do I do? I tell him he doesn't know who he's talking to (but I'm pretty sure he thinks he does), tell him where he can shove his Whizzer (not specifically, but I think he got it) tell him I have enough money to buy three of them, one to drive dangerously fast down Mulholland, the other two to have a demo derby with (untrue but a lesson had to be taught) and put the icing on the cake by doing a Dukes Of Hazzard slide across the hood of a McLaren on the way out as I shouted promises of arson over my cold shoulder. I taught him a lesson he'd never forget. That Whizzer was nice though.

The new whips from Whizzer...