Kids who dreamed of a Harley or Indian could actually get their hands on a Cushman.
As Harley-Davidson and Indian sales took off after World War II, younger people yearned to get one of their own. If they couldn't afford a big bike, though, the Cushman Eagle was the next best thing, sporting similar styling cues in a smaller, more affordable package. This 1956 example is currently for sale on Bring a Trailer.
The Great Depression almost took out Cushman, like so many other companies. They survived, though, thanks to the creative idea of taking their existing small engine and building an affordable scooter around it. A military contract for World War II ensured their survival, and the company continued to thrive into the 1950s. The Eagle was a big reason for that success. It featured an 8-horsepower single-cylinder flathead engine that displaced 21 cubic inches (344cc). With that large an engine in such a small frame, it could reach speeds of 50 mph if the rider went into a full tuck, maybe 55 with a tailwind.
Gallery: 1956 Cushman Eagle
Cushman nailed the Eagle's styling, which mimics both Harley and Indian at the same time. Rather than a traditional step-through scooter, the Eagle's has a top tube. A teardrop gas tank with fancy lettering sits on top of it, making it look more like a big bike than a little scooter. It has a foot clutch and two-speed hand-shifted manual transmission. The vast swaths of orange paint just scream Harley-Davidson, even though it isn't one. The front fender, rather than Indian's traditional "hood ornament" resembling a Native, is adorned with an eagle's head, befitting the bike's name.
The Eagle lasted into the 1960s before being discontinued. However, you can actually buy a brand new one today. The new one looks very much like the original but has a modern engine, as well as the variable speed clutch, electric start, and government approvals you'd expect on a modern machine. The reimagined Eagle costs $5,885. At the time of writing, the bid on this 1956 example was $3,500. That's a great deal for a piece of motorcycle history.