When we think of post-war motorcycles, we generally think of Army surplus Harley-Davidsons and Indians, which became extremely popular because that's what soldiers rode overseas. These weren't the only motorcycles people wanted after the war, though. As in war-torn Europe, pint-size scooters became popular as well. This Doodle Bug is a prime example of one of them.
At the end of World War II, industry had to pivot from producing for the war machine back to civilian needs. The former Axis powers, whose factories were bombed out of existence, are known for how well they got their people mobile again. Italy had the Vespa, and Germany made microcars out of Messerschmidt fighter cockpits. In America, returning soldiers had a glut of surplus Harleys and Indians to choose from. Their kids wanted to ride bikes just like dad, which is where the Doodle Bug came in, as well as its main competition, the Cushman.
Gallery: 1948 Doodle Bug
The Doodle Bug is minimalist motorcycling at its best. It's little more than a steel frame with a Briggs and Stratton NP engine sending its 1.5 fire-breathing horsepower to the back wheel. That's it. No suspension. No lights, although the lighting was an optional extra that could be installed on the Doodle Bug to make it street legal. A small cylindrical gas tank sat right above the back wheel. The pneumatic tires provided the only "suspension" there was between the rider and the road.
Obviously, the Doodle Bug was not a fast bike. Its low price and easy purchase through Gambles department stores more than made up for its lack of speed, especially for kids. Much of the Baby Boomer generation got its first taste of motorcycling thanks to a Doodle Bug. The scooters remain popular today. This particular Doodle Bug will be up for auction through Mecum in late January 2021.