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PAGE 12. Mopeds v Scooters: the ‘Scooterette’


By 1954 and 1955, as cyclemotors were evolving into mopeds
with the introduction of pressed-steel frames, the scooter market had firmly established itself as the prime area for sales of 2-wheelers to new riders.

Not only were scooters stylish, with an entirely new fifties look, but their engines were hidden. This provided the psychological lynchpin of the marketing campaigns: with no mechanical parts visible, they could be compared to cars; and with nothing ‘oily’ on show female owners were less likely to get their clothes dirty.

Observe the advert above for the ‘Scooterrot’ – it describes the scooter as ‘like a luxury car’ with the scooter in the foreground to emphasize its size compared to the luxury car diminished in the background, and the rider smoking a pipe just as one could in a car where there was no wind factor to blow it out!
Interestingly, the Terrot is a very small scooter; but it enjoyed a more dynamic marketing campaign than any other French scooter (deservedly, though, as it is one of the most beautiful scooters ever made).

Obviously moped manufacturers were keen to cash in on the success of scooters.

By 1953, petrol tanks were moved forward on mid-engined cyclemotors, engine covers were added …and bingo it was a moped. But that style was immediately superceded by real mopeds: in 1954 the first pressed-steel frames were introduced.

The new moped market was very competitive, and those with 2-speed gears and fast, reliable engines dominated sales. NSU Quickly was a market leader: see the picture below, illustrating the ‘NSU Lecture/ Service vans’ which toured the country.


Styling innovations are always a good way to increase sales in a competitive market, and it wasn’t long before moped manufacturers started to copy scooter styling. What separated the two? The answer is engine covers, leg-shields, running boards, dual seat, perhaps a bit of extra plastic around the headlight, smaller wheels and a new name.


Compare the 1962 59cc Cheetah ‘Scooterette’ (above), which sold for £99 17/- 6d, with its budget cousin the 50cc MS 50 Nomad moped, below, with a £82 10/- price-tag.



Belgium, in particular, provided a very good market for ‘scooterettes’ – mopeds with scooter bodies; they were very fashionable there in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
The Puch illustrated had its 49cc Nomad engine uprated to 59cc for the Scooterette, though some manufacturers used an ordinary moped engine for their pseudo-scooters.

As you can see, not only can it be difficult to define the difference between a cyclemotor and a moped; but sometimes the line between a moped and a scooter is also a bit blurred. You could say that mopeds and scooters meet at the scooterette.


Britain, France and Germany were the main players in the cyclemotor, moped and scooter markets of the 1950’s. Many models were rebranded to sell in other countries. But even if you don’t include such duplicity, the variety and choice on offer in the fifties was astounding. It was in stark contrast to the austerity of the previous decade and it was this new optimism, no doubt, that fuelled the market.

When hire purchase was introduced in Britain, sales increased further, though this did affect the cyclemotor market adversely: mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and small cars were now affordable and it was no longer necessary to buy an engine to attach to your bicycle to commute to work at 20mph (and still have to pedal uphill).

Of course, Honda’s new mopeds of the early sixties incorporated all the best features of the European models and boasted a reliable 4-stroke engine too. The Honda 50 competed directly with European mopeds, scooters and lightweight motorcycles too. So really it was the ultimate ‘scooterette’ and the European moped, scooter and motorcycle market died almost overnight.





Mopeds, Cyclemotors and Scooters Meet at the Scooterette…


In my opinion, nothing epitomises this merging of the 3 genres better than the Starlett.


Not only was there a full body enclosure to hide the oily bits that might offend potential female purchasers, and leg-shields that flowed into running boards, but the engine fired up via an unusual handle (reminiscent of the early Velocette LE models) that I’m sure was designed to give it the appearance of a car.


The Starlett was fitted with a 98cc Villiers engine, which was known in France as the Comet engine – the early 1950’s James Comet (with 98cc Villiers power) was well-promoted in France, both because of Britain’s postwar export drive and because France already had a well-established market for 100cc motorcycles.


For more about scooters please CLICK HERE

When I’ve collected this 1955 Monet Goyon Starlett Scooter from France I’ll add a new page about it on http://www.Maico.mobi

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