1946 Hiawatha Doodlebug

Webster City, Iowa is the Doodle Bug capital of the world and the birthplace of the famous motor scooter which has turned many heads in it’s 70 years of existence. During World War II, automobiles were not being produced in the numbers that were experienced in prewar times. To help provide a cheap mode of transportation, Beam Manufacturing Company decided to design and build a small inexpensive motor scooter powered by a 1 1/2 hp gas engine that would originally sell for the staggering sum of $69.95.

The “Little Red Bug” was sold by Gambles stores under the name of Hiawatha, and Western Auto Stores as either Western Flyer or Wheel Goods. There were 40,000 Doodlebugs manufactured from the spring of 1946 through the fall of 1948.

Most Doodle Bugs had a Briggs & Stratton 1 1/2 hp gas engine, but a limited number were equipped with a Clinton engine of the same rating. It is estimated that possibly no more than a 1000 Doodle Bug scooters still exist.

They were produced in four production runs of 10,000 scooters each. The first production consisted of Standard Models A (Briggs & Stratton) and B (Clinton). Only 750 to 1000 of the first production were the Model B, making it the rarest of all Doodlebugs.

All Doodlebug motor Scooters had kick start engines and were painted red from the factory. The only accessories available were three headlight/taillight kits which consisted of: (1) Bendix headlight generator with a Do-Ray taillight for B&S only, (2) Do-Ray headlight and taillight with a 6 volt battery which would fit all scooters, (3) Make-A-Lite headlight and taillight with a 6 volt battery which also fit all scooters. In addition there was one Delta brake light kit that used a type D battery.

First Production Facts

White handle bar grips

Fluid drive clutches

Five slot belt guards

Side panels were flared at the bottom (horse’s hoof)

Single control for brake & throttle

Model A had fuel shutoff in the gas tank

Non-shutoff fuel filter mounted on the engine

Kill switch was push/pull

B&S was a model NP (type 306705)

Clinton was a model 710ASLB

Second & Third Production Facts

The second and third production runs were standard Models C & D, all Briggs & Stratton powered.

Black handle bar grips

Side panels were rounded at the bottom

Three slot belt guards

Fuel filter with shutoff mounted on the gas tank

Early Model C’s had fluid drive

Later Model C’s and all Model D’s had a centrifugal clutch

Kill switch was a toggle

B&S was a Model NP (type 306707 & 306709)

Fourth Production Facts

The Super Doodlebug was the same as the Standard Model D except it had separate controls for the throttle (left) and brake (right).

There was a parking brake on the brake control handle

B & S was a Model NP (306715)


The Doodle Bug Club

In an effort to perpetuate the legacy of the Doodle Bug, two scooter enthusiasts, Vern Ratcliff of Webster City, IA, and William Moore of Mason City, IA, organized the Doodle Bug Club of America. Through their hard work and dedication, there is a reunion each year during the 2nd weekend after Labor Day. The first reunion was held almost 30 years ago, and the club continues to grow in membership. Currently, there are members from 36 states. The shows are held at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City, and people come from all over the nation to show their scooters as well as ride around the city on both planned and unplanned routes. Club members include people from all walks of life, but the one thing all members have in common is that they enjoy the little motor scooter and want to keep the memory alive.