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Friday, February 15, 2013

AMF Roadmaster moped was a boy's dream in 1978

This dusty AMF Roadmaster moped was once a young man's dream.
"Proof that man will try to motorize anything," I wrote in my notebook after spotting a forlorn looking 1978 AMF Roadmaster at the Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show Jan. 26.

The AMF Roadmaster has no connection to Royal Enfield motorcycles but, oddly, it does have a modest connection to Harley-Davidson. AMF owned Harley at the time. But this is no Harley-Davidson.

Every boy wants a motorized bicycle, whether he has anyplace to go on it or not. When I was a boy we knew about the Whizzer-style motor bicycles, of course. But they were expensive and, with their multiple drive lines, too complex for young engineering skills.

More accessible, at least in our dreams, were the friction-drive motors that simply sat atop the front wheel of the bicycle and propelled the wheel with a roller. When you wanted to stop you just pulled the motor up and off the wheel.

Even in our dreams we knew there was one additional problem: that motor on the front wheel would make the bike top heavy, almost certainly toppling it when parked on the kickstand.

I'd never heard of the AMF Roadmaster, but it solved that problem by putting the friction-drive motor over the rear wheel. That would be far more stable. Why hadn't that ever occurred to me?

It wouldn't have mattered. By 1978 I had a job, a wife and a house to keep me busy.

The Roadmaster I spotted in Dania was in rough condition. But it must have been a dream machine when it was new. It had a headlight, speedometer and front rack — even an electric horn!

The 48cc McCulloch two-cycle motor was controlled by a right-hand twist grip. There apparently is an automatic clutch that engages when engine rpm increase.

There's no mention in the manual but it looks as though the motor must be started by pedaling the moped forward.

An automatic stop switch turned off the motor when the lever on top of the motor raised it from the wheel. You could then bicycle normally.

Reaching back blindly to pull up the lever while riding would have been dangerous. A better plan would have been to let the motor slow so the clutch disengaged, then brake to a stop and pull up the lever with both feet on the ground.

Hand brake levers on left and right appear to operate front and rear drum brakes.

McCulloch illustration with engine cover removed. No. 1 is the lift lever.
The Moped Army website refers to the Roadmaster as "the butt of jokes and at best a quirky little trophy owned by collectors." They estimate top speed at 15 mph and suggest even that would have been terrifying.

The Roadmaster was never a thing of beauty. I frankly doubt that friction drive would have conquered the first hill it met. But a boy could dream.

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