doodle-bug-1
Today we know that Victory and Indian motorcycles are manufactured in Iowa, but even decades ago, Iowa had a motorcycle industry. The Doodle Bug and Egley scooters were manufactured in Iowa. The Doodle Bug is small, only about 1.5 horsepower, was meant for use as local transportation and was promoted to youth.

Doodle Bugs were manufactured in Webster City, Iowa just after World War II, 1946 to 1948, by Beam Manufacturing. They were part of the scooter craze that lasted into the early 1960’s when Japanese motorcycles started to dominate sales. Over 40,000 Doodle Bugs were made, some Clinton four-cycle engine powered at the beginning, but most later machines like this one used 1.5 horsepower Briggs & Stratton engines, all with kick-starting and bright red paint.

Using the Hiawatha brand name, Beam sold the scooters through Gambles department stores to compete with Cushman and Allstate scooters. A range of accessories from Doodle Bug allowed owners to make them street legal. Headlight and taillight kits could be operated from a “D” or 6-Volt battery, or with the available generator kit. Looking back, though they may have been street legal, most would agree they are somewhat small and underpowered to be out in today’s traffic on public roads.

Today the following for these interesting machines, with a cool name, is very strong and there’s even an annual gathering in their town of manufacture, Webster City, Iowa.

This nicely restored Doodle Bug was graciously donated to the National Motorcycle Museum by Bev Kerkove, Monticello, Iowa.

8 replies
  1. Richard Booth
    Richard Booth says:

    My uncle gave me one of these in the summer of 1950 I was 10 . We lived more than ten miles from the nearest paved road . I rode the wheels off of it ,
    Used it to deliver milk to people ,get the mail at the post office, and generally get in trouble, Because it and I were so small ,we startled many car and truck drivers especially on curves. I did see this at the museum this summer and took many pictures ,but these are much better. OH gave it back to my Uncle when he had kids that age ,Not much left of it by that time, but it still ran. MEMORIES.

    Reply
  2. Paul Baillie
    Paul Baillie says:

    In 1959 when I was 11 I built a very similar scooter (with the help and guidance of an old gentleman who repaired lawnmowers, he was probable younger than I am now!) using a cut up and welded together 20″ bicycle frame, an old 1-1/2 HP Tecumseh lawnmower engine, and wheels, jack shaft, and centrifugal clutch I got from Western Auto. My Dad called it a Doodlebug, now I know where He got the name!

    Reply
  3. Rabbi Larry Winer
    Rabbi Larry Winer says:

    When I was about 15 years old my parents had a grocery store and we lived in Munster, Indiana. I fell in love with small aircraft and was very interested iin airplanes of all kinds, particularly a Piper Tripacer whose owner kept it at the Lasnsing Illinois Airport and used to ride my bicycle out to the small airport in Lansing Illinois. My dad eventually got tired of driving me out to the airport and he finally agreed to let me get a Cushman Motor Scooter to get out to the Lansing airport.
    Today, I ride a Harley-Davidson Sportster, and as much as I love my Harley, I only wish I still had that Cushman today.
    Thanks for the memories.
    Rabbi Larry Winer
    Maui, HI
    (954) 295-2878

    Reply
  4. Eric H.
    Eric H. says:

    As a kid around 10 in the early ’70’s, I developed a fascination with engines. My grandmother noticed my interest, and told me about this old engine that she had in her barn. She took me there to get it and gave it to me to play with. It was intriguing to me that it had a kick starter on it rather than the wrap-around-and-pull start that was more common on lawn mowers at the time. She told me the engine was all that was left of a “motor scooter” my uncle had as a kid. He had taken it all apart and left it in their tool shed. He lost interest in it for awhile and later found that someone broken into the shed and stole the frame along with many of the parts. She didn’t know much more about what kind of scooter it was, nor could she tell me much else about it.

    I managed to get that engine running again and learned an incredible amount about engines in the process. I learned enough that soon the neighbors were bringing me all their broken lawnmowers and I would fix them for a small fee plus parts. The owner of the local mower shop where I was buying my parts was so impressed, that he hired me to work for him. I worked at that shop all through high school and into college. The owner payed me by the job and I was so good at it, I was earning upwards of $20/hr when minimum wage was not quite $3/hr!! Not bad for a high school kid!! I later got my mechanical engineering degree and now work for a major auto manufacturer…in engine design!!!

    I attribute much of my career to the interest that little 1 1/2 HP Briggs and Stratton engine sparked in me…stumbling across this website has given enough clues to identify that mystery scooter of my Uncle’s as a Doodle Bug!!! How cool!! I still have that little B&S engine. Now I gotta find me a Doodle Bug frame to put it on! Thank you for posting these beautiful pictures. I wish my grandma was around so I could share them with her.

    Reply
  5. Wendell Moeller
    Wendell Moeller says:

    My dad had a portable welder and did a repair job for a farmer. He noticed what was a Doodlebug laying by a corn crib and bartered the farmer for it. Brought it home, put a belt drive on it. My brother and I would have to push a lever down to push the pulley up to tighten the belt and go. Road it for years till it probably started falling apart. Moved up to a Honda CB160, then my brother bought a Honda 350. He now has a Honda Shadow and I have a Harley FXD (With about $3000 of chrome on it)

    Reply
  6. Donn Zolman
    Donn Zolman says:

    Bought a new one in summer of 1946 when I was 14. Bought it at the Gambles store in Rantoul, IL. Cost was $158.00. Rode it for about a year and then moved up to a Cushman (with gear shift).

    Reply

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