PAGE 10. 1955 Earls Court Show: Debut of the ‘Mo-ped’

The new ‘Mo-peds’ at Earls Court Show, November, 1955

This was, of course, the ‘moped onslaught’ that killed off the humble ‘dinosaur’ cycle-attachment. Pedal-assisted motorcycling would never be the same again.

If you went to the Earls Court Motorcycle Show in November 1955, this is where you most likely saw your first moped. And if you had 60 odd quid in your pocket, this is where you may well have bought one.

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“Never before can there have been such an outstanding display of under 100cc pedal-assisted machines at a British motorcycle show as there is at Earls Court 1955!”

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In November 1955, we weren’t absolutely sure what to call them. Some mopeds were described as ‘autocycles’ when they were promoted in adverts; no doubt this made them appear more grown-up than the cyclemotors they were replacing. After a while the ‘autocycle’ tag was dropped, and the phrase ‘mo-ped’ was transcribed into ‘moped’ which is obviously still with us over 50 years down the road.

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Out of all the mopeds on offer, my favourite is the Her-cu-Motor. How about you? What would you have bought if you’d been there in 1955?

There’s no doubt the top moped of the day, the NSU Quickly, was a superbly-built machine, competitively priced, and with excellent service and back-up facilities worldwide; it deserved to be the market-leader in its field.

But I feel that if the Hercules had had the backing it deserved it could have given the NSU a much better run for its money.

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The Her-cu-Motor was advertised at £61 15/- including purchase tax. Bear in mind the famous Hercules motto for bicycles (the key to Hercules’ initial success) was to provide quality machines at the most competitive price.

So let’s compare the Her-cu-Motor with the other models reviewed in this ‘Motor-Cycling’ article:

The Dutch company Berini had a good reputation and the company sold Cyclemasters in Holland. Their M21 weighed in at £67 14/- 1d. The advert below from 1958 illustrates the same model for 53 guineas which, when you add purchase tax, is around the same price.

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The ‘Excelsior-Heinkel Standard Mo-ped’ was much more expensive at £85 11/- 3d. This was in fact the imported Heinkel Perle moped; it was well-designed and beautiful to look at, but very expensive in Great Britain. Excelsior was importing and selling the Heinkel Tourist scooter too, and this was also overpriced for the British market (though, again, a superb scooter). The Heinkel 110 A Perle type 2 (1955-57) is shown below.

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The Norman Nippy, with 47cc Sachs engine, was £71 18/- 6d.

Kieft Cars of Wolverhampton announced a price of £77 10/- for the imported Sachs-powered Kieft moped.

The Phillips moped was cheaper than the Hercules though, again, it was nowhere near as good a machine. It sold for £57 17/- 11d (up to 66 guineas a year later in the advert below)

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Britax-Ducati were selling an improved version of their 4-stroke Cucciolo powered bicycle. It was a cycle-attachment rather than a moped, and sold at £69 19/- 8d.
Retrospectively, this is would now be the most valuable and sought-after model of this 1955 line-up, worth three times as much as a Her-cu-Motor – though, interestingly, the Her-cu-motor is, 50 years later, a very much rarer machine.

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The ‘most famous of all mo-peds’ (according to the show review), the NSU Quickly, was £61 17/- 8d. The advert below refers to it as an ‘autocycle’ showing that we were still unsure of how to describe these new machines.

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The Zundapp Combinette (below) sold for £70 1/- 3d.

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The Norman Cyclemate (reviewed on Page 7 of the Cyclemaster Museum) was much cheaper at £46 12/- 3d, though as discussed in that article, it was a dismal failure so it would offer no competition to the Hercules.

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Mobylettes from France were basic, but an excellent bargain option.

Finally, the BSA Winged Wheel was on show at £32 4/-.

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Power & Pedal’s Review of the 1955 Show

The 1951 Earls Court Show had been an important year for the motorcycle trade. Not enough was sold, but it helped manufacturers feel they were getting back to normal after the War. New ‘modern’ designs were being introduced, and there was that traditional British sense that things would soon improve.

Whereas the 1955 Show presented a total revolution in transport for ordinary folk. They could now buy an affordable vehicle that was reliable, attractive and looked like a scaled down motorcycle or scooter rather than a ‘scaled-up’ bicycle.

After the 1955 mo-ped debut, some cycle-attachments hung in there for a few more years. But there was, simply put, no further need for a cycle attachment engine that required quite regular maintenance, was quite slow, had bicycle brakes, and often motivated via a roller that slipped when the tyre was wet. Cyclemotors already purchased were soon relegated to garden sheds; those unsold in dealers shops suffered a series of drops in price until they were eventually sold.

In the latter half of the fifties, mopeds and scooters became as common on the roads as cars and motorcycles.

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