For those who are too young to know and for those who forgot, below is the story of the Mustang Scooter Company. Steve Seidner and his new venture California Scooter Co. are honored to continue the legacy of the original Mustang Scooter (see article above) and to offer to a new generation the legend that was started in Forrest’s garage all those years ago.
It was 1949 and young, fresh faced high school graduate Jim ‘Jimbo’ Cavanaugh was walking down Brand Blvd. in Glendale California. Jim was in need of a job. Passing a warehouse he heard a voice cry out, “Hey, kid! I’m talking to you!” Turning round while pointing to himself Jim heard the man call again, “Yes, you! Come here!” Jim walked over and the man asked, “You want a job?” “Yes!” came Jim’s quick reply. “Okay, you’re hired! And do you know why I hired you?” questioned the man. “No,” said Jim. Sizing Jim up the man said, “Because you didn’t ask how much it paid or what the job is!” With that interview Jim landed a job with the steady wage of $1.05 an hour and thus began his career with Gladden Products and the Mustang Motor Corporation.
John Gladden, owner of Gladden Products Corporation, manufactured aircraft parts during World War II. He providentially hired as his chief engineer, Howard Forrest. Working in his garage, Forrest, a machinist by trade, had crafted his own four cylinder 300cc water-cooled engine. Setting aside his first ride, an Indian Twin, Forrest acquired a Salsbury scooter and adapted his four-cylinder engine to the Salsbury. While working for Gladden, Forrest continued to court his first love, his scooter, and transplanted his mini four engine into a scooter of his own design. Forrest rode his handcrafted scooter everywhere and wherever he went his scooter was noticed. It didn’t take long for his boss, John Gladden, to notice too and together these two men designed a motor scooter that would become a legend.
The allies had won World War II and Gladden realized the need for aircraft parts for government contracts would quickly decline. But where some people see misfortune others recognize opportunity and Forrest’s hot little scooter was just the ticket. Gladden called into his office Forrest and Forrest’s friend, Chuck Gardner, a fellow engineer and scooter rider. Gladden put the two scooter enthusiasts to the task of designing a lightweight motorcycle. Forrest and Gardner dove headfirst into the new scooter project.
Choosing to design away from the dubious boxy ‘putt-putt’ look all other scooter’s shared it was with their fifth attempt they struck a chord. Their design used a British 125cc Villiers two-stroke engine and they built the steel frame on 8-inch wheels with a forward-inclined cylinder and integral gearbox.
Gladden already had the name. The new scooter was to be called the Mustang after the horses that had returned to the wild to run free on the open prairies. The model name ‘Colt’ was added in anticipation of a future model with the larger 197cc engine and 12-inch wheels. Eventually there were 237 ‘Colts’ produced and most were hand-built under Forrest and Gardner’s personal supervision.
In late spring 1947 they introduced a Mustang using the larger 12-inch solid disc wheels and the first telescopic fork on any U.S. two wheelers. The new fork led up to a western style handlebar that guided the double-tube frame. The teardrop gasoline tank along with the low 27-inch solo spring saddle gave the Mustang its classic motorcycle presence. Forrest and Gardner had morphed their Mustang into what scooters had always dreamed they could be, a motorcycle style presence unique in the scooter industry. That same look remains unique even to this day.
Business picked up and through a network of established dealers, sales increased. Additional employees were added for increased production and Jim ‘Jimbo’ Cavanaugh went on to become production manager. Forrest and Gardner continued to make improvements to the scooter’s basic operation and efficiency. Chuck Gardner designed and engineered a functional swing arm rear suspension system for the new Thoroughbred model for 1960 along with a long dual seat and a spacious toolbox as an option. The look of the Mustang also advanced with a spectrum of colors to contrast the black enameled frame and forks. The performance and handling engineered into the Mustang quickly began to manifest itself in a series of stunning competitive victories and speed marks. The sleek little Mustang and its snappy acceleration, primarily the result of its high power to weight ratio and healthy cam curve, made news in the cycle world as early as the 1940’s. The Mustang was raced throughout the 40’s and 50’s including winning first place prize at the Catalina Grand Nationals in 1951. The Mustang’s exceptional handling caused it to steal the show.
With the 60’s came the winds of change. In 1964 Ford Motor Company burst onto the scene and introduced the Mustang car. Not long after the economy shifted, big cars were in and the Japanese onslaught initiated by Honda and Yamaha was gathering steam. By that time the Mustang Scooter factory in Glendale had wound down. Scooter production ceased, the assets were sold, and employees retired or moved on, but before they were done the Glendale factory had built and sold over 20,000 Mustang scooters. And although the Mustang was out of production it was not out of mind.
In 1949 another teenaged boy, 14 year old Eddie Seidner, wanted a Mustang. Eddie’s friend, Billy Buster, not only had his learners permit but he owned a Mustang. From the chrome headlight to the black peanut tank, everything about it was cool. Ed Seidner grew up and although he never got his Mustang he never forgot. He went into the motorcycle business himself and following in his father’s footsteps so did his son Steve.
At fifteen Steve started out in his dad’s service department in 1969 as a helper. He eventually moved on to learn all aspects of the motorcycle industry from design to showroom sales. By the end of the 1970’s Steve had established his own business and in 1989 opened Pro-One Performance Mfg. Inc. Through the years Steve enjoyed the hobby of rebuilding hot rods, custom cars and especially motorcycles. He learned to design his own parts and accessories. Over time he transformed that hobby into a business of designing his own unique motorcycle along with custom chrome bolt on after market accessories. Steve’s experience and working in the industry have taught him to recognize the change in trends and anticipate the desires of the market.
Steve grew up hearing stories from his father about the Mustang scooter and once again Ed reminded Steve about the Mustang. In 2008 Steve began to investigate the Mustang scooter his dad had always wanted. He bought an original 1954 Mustang on eBay, joined the Mustang Club of America and through the club met production manager Jim ‘Jimbo’ Cavanaugh. Jimbo and Steve immediately became friends. All who preview the new scooters are saying much the same thing, “I want one.” But first before any sales, Steve presented both his father Ed and his new found friend Jimbo with their own California Scooter Co. ‘Classic’ scooters.