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Bike of the Month

December 2018

1955 Cushman 710 Highlander

By George Canavan


I was visiting The National Automobile Museum recently when I ran into an acquaintance who wanted to tell me about his latest yard sale score. During a mid-week parts run he came across a gent with a front yard full of tools and machinery. If that was not interesting enough, there was this two wheel contraption front and center. The object with wheels turned out to be a Cushman scooter from the ’50’s. A deal was struck and the object was loaded up for transit.


Enter the wife who questions the wisdom of the purchase. Drama! We have all been there before and have practiced our defense mechanisms. This time the tale of restoration and profits fell to callous heart dagger eyes. Seems that this was not her first rodeo either and she had well practiced defense mechanisms too. In the name of domestic tranquility, regular meals and not bunking with the Chihuahua on the couch, a deal was struck. Immediate sale was in order. 


After a short conversation, he convinced me of the restoration potential and sheer joy of opening my horizons to two wheel adventures aboard a machine of challenged stature. A deal was struck and the object was loaded up for transit.


So, what is this thing? Enter, the back story. As vehicular folklore would have it, Everett and Clinton Cushman were the founders of said company back in 1903. Their forte was small engines primarily for stationary applications such as pumping, agricultural use and even lighting. Eventually, one of their engines was put into a home made scooter in 1936 by Robert Ammon, son of the company’s owner Charles Ammon. The scheme was to enter the transportation market as a line extension to sell more engines.


Cushman went on to sell many engines in their scooter line as a result. There were several variations to both engine and scooter lines as time progressed. Wheezing two horsepower scooters developed into double digit horsepower cruisers capable of sustained speeds exceeding 40mph. Eventually OMC purchased the Cushman company who produced the Silver Eagle in the early ’60’s.


What was the “hook”? Why would people buy a Cushman Scooter? America and American’s transportation needs were shifting rapidly in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. For instance, gas rationing made fuel economy an essential during WWII. In the 50’s suburban sprawl put school, work and entertainment out of the reach of the bicycle. Freedom to choose when to depart and arrive also held an advantage over public transit too.


Back to the moto of the month - True to form, this Cushman had come with the usual issues. A carb without gaskets, a fist full of bare wires that were twisted together and the nebulous bill of sale.


The mechanical bits can be worked out in the usual ways. Documentation was the most concerning issue. When a Cushman falls out of favor, it degrades into yard art or a man cave trophy always beyond the grasp of the DMV for years into decades. If you don’t have title then you can’t register it for road service. If you can’t ride it, why bother! At this point the dialog becomes terse at the DMV. Application? Yes. VIN inspection clear? Yes. Insurance? Yes. Title? Well, that’s why I’m here. Please step back from the counter. Next!


Well, there are ways and then there are ways to reenter the DMV system. If you have one or more vintage vehicles you have experienced this problem or have heard stories of these solutions. Some good, some expensive, some should not be mentioned here. The state of Nevada has an interesting documentation path to secure title. Township judicial systems will entertain applications for “Submission Without Action” or an “Order Vesting Title”. These legal proceedings follow a set format. Application to the court, a DMV VIN inspection, a statement of facts and supporting documentation. Pictures, a bill of sale, prior receipts, etc to establish a flow of ownership are all essential to supporting your position. The court reviews the docs, does a vehicle background search and decides - denied or success. Success is defined in these words in the decree,


         “…the court finds that it has jurisdiction over the parties and the vehicle in question, it is hereby ordered that the title to ____________ VIN # _____________ hereby is vested in Plaintiff as full and complete satisfaction of the judgment…”


And that as they say is a beautiful thing. What was a pile of parts is now a legal vehicle; title and registration impediments are absolved.

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