PAGE 58. 1956 Cyclemaster Piatti Scooter

Cyclemaster Piatti Scooter

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In the following Page (59) of the Cyclemaster Museum, we observe how the cyclemotor, moped and scooter all meet at the Scooterette.

Cyclemaster, in its last desperate days, also brought out a similar kind of affair …though giving it a title as grand as ‘scooterette’ would be somewhat deceptive.

In an era of hundreds of new scooter designs, the majority of which were not successful in either sales or practical terms, the Piatti was probably the least successful of the lot. Even the Mercury Hermes (see Page 45), which was a total flop due to its bad engine, was more successful than the Piatti.

However, the Piatti must rank as one of the quirkiest scooter designs ever made. It’s a motorized 2-wheeled sausage.

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My 1958 Cyclemaster Piatti Scooter

I first owned a Piatti 20 years ago. It was missing a few bits and pieces, was hand-painted red and I sold it in 1992. I have no photos of it.

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My current Piatti, pictured here, is also missing a few essential components – engine, gearbox and rear wheel. But in (and probably because of) its decrepit state it’s still absolutely charming. When you’re a nutcase about these things, seeing a rare little scooter in this state is like finding a puppy with big, sad eyes looking up at you in the dog-pound – you immediately want to rescue it and give it a good home. I’ve already prepared a small corner of my garden shed for the Piatti, complete with blankets and food-bowl. The Starlett Scooterette has just been restored and has promised to take the Piatti under its wing.

I bought it in Angus, Scotland. From the registration HTS 108 I know that it was first registered with Dundee Borough Council in 1958. Like most Piattis, it was not used for long, and the intervening 50 years saw its sad decline.

Alistair, from whom I purchased it, explained that he worked on a sporting estate in Kirriemuir; when the owner died 5 years ago, the family asked him to clear out the house and outbuildings. He threw everything into a skip, including an old motorcycle engine and gearbox.

He didn’t find the Piatti – minus its engine and gearbox – until some days later; but by that time it was too late to retrieve the missing parts because the skip lorry had already been.

I’ll turn up the missing parts, because I really enjoy hunting for bits for obscure vehicles. Although I might also add a few accessories, I shall not restore it; I think it’s absolutely glorious as it is.

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Motorized Sausage

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The Piatti Scooter was designed by the brilliant Italian Vincent Piatti (who also designed the Mini-Motor). After two years as a prototype, it was manufactured in Belgium, in 1954, by D’Ieteren (see above). The bodywork was pressed in Italy and the engine was a Sachs. It was well-made.

Unfortunately, when Cyclemaster Ltd produced their version, in 1956, in Great Britain, it was nowhere near as well-made as the Belgian machine, and the 125cc Cyclemaster engine fitted to it was …how to put it kindly? …as reliable as a Norman Cyclemate.

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Still, it looked good, and image was everything – remember Cyclemaster Ltd was really EMI, experienced in promoting music and selling records.

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“Design, Comfort, Safety and Price” – 4 reasons why you should buy the Piatti, according to Cyclemaster Ltd. I bought mine for only one reason – design.

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“Sturdy as a young lion….?”

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“It’s safest?”

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The “3,500 Mile Honeymoon” mentioned above and pictured below is actually Claude Tipper, ex-racing driver and car dealer from Bournemouth, who was paid to test the Piatti. He had made several similar trips to Europe testing scooters, and was well-known locally for charming young female companions into accompanying him.

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Although Cyclemaster Ltd cut corners on quality control, they had a large advertising budget, and they also exported many of the machines that were built. Was this to minimize negative publicity at home?

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If you don’t believe me, cut out and fill in the form below, send it to Cyclemaster Ltd, and find out for yourself.

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Cyclemaster Piatti Road Test

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Last word goes to Claude Tipper.

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The photo below is of Claude Tipper racing a Monaco at Luton Hoo, August 1949.

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Mr. Tipper was well-known in Bournemouth in motoring circles; I believe he was in the car trade. He had a racing history: “Claude mainly stuck to hillclimbs and sprints, though he also made a Goodwood appearance. The car was still competitive in 1950, winning at Gosport, Tewinwater, Queensferry and Markyate, plus third at Blandford and Brighton. Claude continued in 1951 with more sprint wins, and I believe he stopped competing at that point.” [John Humphries, Auto Racing Archives Research]

He certainly must have been able to lay on the charm to take such attractive passengers on tours of Europe to test scooters. It would have been risque in those days to share a tent in such circumstances, and there was gossip about at least one of his companions deserting their pillion position.

Traveling to Europe was considered exotic in the fifties; most families still carved out their little spot of sand on a crowded British beach for their holidays. Cyclemotors and scooters newly available as cheap transport in the fifties made cross-channel excursions much easier, and camping trips to France, and beyond, soon became all the rage among young people.

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A most charming website, dedicated to the Piatti Scooter, can be found here:

http://www.piattiscooter.com/

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