1920 Autoglider Scooter

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1920 Autoglider Scooter

(Now sold)

I sold this rare early scooter in 2010.

1920s scooters were launched to much acclaim, but the public relations exercise did not translate into good sales. There was too much competition from conventional motorcycles, and they were a fashion that passed quickly.

With a heavy and quite powerful engine at the front, the Autoglider was not as easy to steer as a motorcycle.

Bear in mind that, with a low centre of gravity, the scooter was originally designed to encourage women to start riding motorcycles.

Nevertheless, the Autoglider was a very well-made machine and was considered one of the best models of the time.



Great Charles St, Birmingham

First made in 1919, this motorized scooter achieved fame in August of that year when C.R. Townsend and another brave rider rode one, standing because, of course, there was no seat, the 112 miles from Birmingham to London.

While remaining true to the front-mounted engine concept, in 1920 the Autoglider evolved into a proper scooter, with a two-stroke 292cc, later a Villiers 269cc engine, still placed over the front wheel, and linked to it by a chain and cogs. It also had a clutch but no gearbox, and the fuel tank was located between the two handlebars. The frame remained tubular, the wheels were 16 inches in diameter and the rear section received a supposedly elegant plywood box, which was extended to the floor, and carried the driver’s seat, all suspended on leaf springs.

Capable of 36 mph, the scooter also came in twin-seat, no-seat and delivery box versions; there was even an attempt at a 50mph ‘sports’ model. There is little doubt that the second-generation Autoglider was one of the most accomplished scooters of the 1920s.

‘The A-Z of Classic Scooters’ by J. Goyard & B. Soler-Thebes



The previous owner constructed the rear bodywork.

As you can see below, various styles were available, including one with no rear bodywork, on which the rider stood instead of sitting. Some also had front mudguards, others did not. My intention was to remove the bodywork to make it a standing version as, one century on, I felt that would be much more of a curiosity.





The Autoped, which made its debut during WW1, was the world’s first motor scooter (see Page 29). Once the War was over, motorcycle production resumed in earnest, with many important lessons learned from wartime manufacture.

At the first postwar Olympia show in 1919 (t0 which this 1920 guide refers), 112 motorcycle manufacturers were represented. Many were small companies assembling from proprietary components with their own badge on the tank. By the end of the twenties there were 300 motorcycle manufacturers.

It was in this climate of invention, mechanical innovation and marketing optimism that machines such as the Autoglider made their debut. This was the first era of motor scooters.


A strange feature of this scooter is that it pivots at the front of the footboard: that seems to act as its suspension.