The 1947 Salsbury scooter is by no means conventional. It’s incredibly long by comparison to other scooters of the era, and features a unique look. But this particular Salsbury Model 85 scooter is powered by a Honda engine, making this a Honda scooter in an American disguise. But what’s most shocking is that this classic motorcycle managed to sell for $24,000, nearly as much as a used car.
A closer look at this Honda scooter disguised as a 1947 Salsbury Model 85
On the surface, it looks like a jetsons-styled scooter that brilliantly encompasses the late 40s. With a bright orange paint job, matching handlebar, and yellow stripes, it’s a genuine piece of Americana. But under the hood, or rather the seat, lies a 270cc Honda engine, which replaces the original 320cc engine that came on the Salsbury Model 85 when new.
That swap bumps the horsepower up (despite the lower displacement) from six horsepower to eight horsepower. And while the seller stated that this engine swap was done by a previous owner, the five-digit odometer displayed just 1,000 miles. Only 100 of those miles were racked up by the seller, but the total miles this scooter has seen is unknown.
However, if you’re a purist, then you’d be delighted to know that not one, but three period-correct engines were included in the sale. 25 bids were placed, and the winner ended up taking this eight-horsepower scooter home for a whopping $24,000. If you’re a nerd like me, that’s $3,000 per horsepower. So how come this Honda-powered Salsbury scooter sold on Bring a Trailer for so much?
Why did this 1947 Salsbury Model 85 sell for $24,000?
There are a few key reasons, starting with the rarity of this particular scooter. From 1947 to 1950, less than 1,000 Salsbury Model 85s were made according to the National Motorcycle Museum. And the Model 85 itself was Salsbury’s top-of-the-line scooter, with advanced technologies (especially for the era).
One technological distinction is the continuously variable transmission (CVT) Salsbury used. In essence, the Salsbury Model 85 was an automatic at a time when most motorcycles, and even cars, were manuals. This adds ease of operation to the scooter, both in the 40s and by today’s standards.
On top of that, the Honda engine increases the scooter’s reliability ten-fold. It’s modern and boasts more power despite being smaller than the original engine. On top of that, this puny little scooter could reach speeds of 50 mph with the original engine. With an extra two horsepower, it may even be able to ride on highways.
But even with the original engine, the CVT layout of this classic motorcycle set the bar for years to come.
How Salsbury set the scooter standard for years to come
There were other models released by the Salsbury scooter company, including the Model 50 and Model 60. But they all used the same basic drivetrain: a small engine paired to a CVT transmission. It was a “step on the pedal and go” scooter, and today, many scooters utilize that same philosophy.
So the Honda-powered Salsbury Scooter that sold on Bring a Trailer isn’t just some random classic motorcycle. The company behind it created one of the earliest scooters with a CVT transmission. And paired with a more modern Honda engine, this scooter combines classic styling with modern (ish) technology. It’s no wonder the Salsbury sold for $24,000.