The ‘first generation’ of motor scooters were manufactured soon after WW1, and were popular until around 1922. The ‘second generation’ started after WW2 when lots of people needed to be mobilized at minimal cost. Vespa and Lambretta set the bar. Hundreds of other manufacturers got caught up in scooter mania, particularly in France and England.
The Scoto was the most innovative of all the early machines, and was the first to feature QD (Quick Detachable) interchangeable wheels with monotube front and rear forks. The petrol tank is of galvanised steel and the leg shields and running boards are aluminium.
The 1949 prototype model (illustration above) was fitted with a Veloreve engine over the front wheel; on this model, the pedals did not rotate, rather they were pushed up and down alternately. Few of these were sold: bear in mind that by this time the Velosolex was in full production – and it was very much cheaper and of similar style.
By the following year the company had introduced a proper production model (below) with a chain-driven Mosquito engine fitted centrally to drive the rear wheel. With its conventional pedals and three-speed derailleur gears, this Scoto scooter was essentially a motorised bicycle.
The illustration shows a normal bicycle saddle fitted. Presumably the company received some negative feedback regarding road comfort after testing this production model, as a unique Scoto saddle was fitted to subsequent models, being the machine’s only real suspension.
The unique interchangeable wheels on the Scoto are designed to help owners maintain their own machine rather than taking it to a garage. But such features are obviously far more expensive to produce. In the early 1950s, competition for small scooters came mainly from cyclemotors, which, in France, were developing into what would soon be known as mopeds. By 1952, the market was dominated by the mass-produced Velosolex, being very much simpler and therefore cheaper to manufacture. The VeloSolex cost only 32,500 francs compared with the Scoto’s 54,900 francs, and the Solex was very heavily promoted (1 million had been built by 1957). As a result, early scooters such as the Scoto became obsolete within only a few years.
Apparently only 350 Scoto scooters were sold before production ceased.
The example featured here has a VAP4 engine. It appears to be a production model, with minor additional feature differences, such as no zipper on the moleskin engine cover. The right side pedal has been removed: this was common practice with pre-war French autocycles, the remaining pedal giving the appearance of a kickstart to make the machine look more like a fully-fledged scooter rather than a bicycle with legshields, running boards and engine. (I have spare bicycle cranks and pedals available).
Although the VAP4 is not recorded as an engine option in historical reviews of the Scoto, it would have been a sensible development for the company to fit an alternative to the Mosquito, which was criticised for having insufficient power. A VAP4 engine was fitted to Peugeot’s first ‘moped’ the BMA 25. In fact, this centrally-mounted engine was so perfect for the many new mopeds being developed that ABG soon became France’s top moped engine suppliers.
1950 Scoto Tubauto Scooter-Bike
with 48cc VAP4 Engine
500 x 50A Wheels
This Scoto is a perfect candidate for restoration, as the machine is complete except for a spare wheel. Scoto wheels are unique and therefore not easy to find. The frame is in good condition and solid throughout. The engine turns freely. The clutch (operated by the left handlebar grip) is stuck, but easily freed once the engine is removed for restoration. The other cables move freely. The right handlebar grip has throttle control in one direction and decompressor in the other. The tyres pump up and hold air, but should be replaced before riding it. The moleskin engine cover is in remarkably good condition; the holes in its centre are for the pedal spindle.
THE MOLESKIN ENGINE COVER
MGT – MILLION-GUIET-TUBAUTO
The company behind the Scoto scooter-bike made trolley buses, coaches and trucks, and tubular components for the automotive industry. The Scoto was their only foray into two-wheelers. The prototype model made its debut in 1949, with a 49cc Veloreve engine. But the definitive model went into production in 1950 with the Mosquito engine fitted. After the Scoto’s short production run (1950-1952), the company returned to the manufacture of commercial vehicles and auto accessories.
In 1950, MGT (Million-Guiet-Tubauto) produced the first rear-engine buses to operate with an agent. You can see a 1951 prototype B9 PU above. With its 100 hp Panhard engine, it was put into service in August 1951. Note the new innovation of a front passenger entrance and rear exit. It had 23 seats and could accommodate 65 standing. The MGT buses were removed from service in 1961.
I assume that the scooter and buses were designed and put into development around the same time. Once the innovative new bus went into production, it was no longer viable to develop the Scoto scooter further.
The knob between the handlebars is the gear-change trigger.
Of course, the monofork was an innovation first used on bicycles. The extracts pictured here are from 1909, and the bicycle is believed to have been built in 1908 by Maurice de Cleves.