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Factory Prototype? 1945 Salsbury Model 85

It’s hard to imagine what the Great Depression was like if a person didn’t live through that era. Some of us have parents or grandparents, who lived through the fall of 1929 through the pre-WWII (in America) era. This 1945 Salsbury Model 85 Standard scooter was designed in that era. The seller has this scooter, which they refer to as a factory prototype, listed here on Hemmings in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and they’re asking $26,000. Thanks to Alicia for the tip!

The Salsbury scooter story begins with Mr. E. Foster Salsbury seeing famed aviator Amelia Earhart scooting around a Northrup Aircraft facility at Lockheed’s airport in Burbank on an old motorized two-wheeler. He began to think about how such an inexpensive vehicle could help out during the Great Depression for people getting around without the need to buy a car when a lot of people couldn’t even afford food. The “Motor Glide” came out in 1936 and was an instant hit. Salsbury employees are seen in the photo above. The seller says that it is the same scooter as is for sale here and it’s a factory prototype from 1945, two years before they were made available to the public.

In 1938, the company came out with a revolutionary transmission that a lot of us have in our vehicles today: the Constant Velocity Transmission, better known as the CVT. That transmission would be included in the Model 85 when they were introduced in 1947. The Model 85 came both in Standard, as seen here, and Deluxe, with a windscreen, recessed headlight, and other features. It’s reported that there is only one Deluxe version left on the planet.

I love this period photo of a Deluxe model traveling up what was said to be the steepest street in Los Angeles: Fargo Street. Fargo and steep streets are two words that I never think of at the same time. You can see the incredible visual and/or cosmetic condition of the Model 85 here, it’s gorgeous.

It’s powered by a Salsbury air-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder, which had six horsepower and we don’t know if this one is operable or if it would have been painted orange or really any other details. Whatever the case, if a collector with big pockets wants to add a special scooter to their collection, this is it. Have any of you heard of the Salsbury Model 85?


  1. Avatar photo Will

    How many scooters did they make? How long was the company in business?

    Like 1
  2. Avatar photo Jon Calderon

    Scooters and fat chicks. They’re fun to ride until your friends catch you. 🤣

    Like 8
  3. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Trying to refrain from commenting on the authors unusual posts, is like the Greek story “Ulysees and the Sirens”. And I was always told( by hometown Harley folks) 2 things that should be done after dark, ( see Jon^).
    By looking at it, one would think European influence from a recent war, but not so. Some say THEY copied US. This had some unique features from before the war, like 4 cycle motor( of their own design?) while Europe chose 2 cycles, foot controls, and a useful trunk. It’s amazing to me, something like the CVT was used, and still today.
    Oh, there was a usual down side, the cost. Aside from being a kick start, and no front brake, I read, a 1947 Model 85 retailed for almost $800 BUCKS! Some say they made 700-1000, but others claim between 6-7,000, although that was over estimated for bankruptcy purposes. Too bad, again all about timing 30 years too soon. Another for the “swing and a miss” group, and should be in a museum, if any left, that is. Great find.

    Like 6
  4. Avatar photo Big C

    I’ve never heard of the brand. Must have been a dud. Or fairly regional sales?

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Wes

      Salsbury made a lot of great scooters, during a time that was probably before you were born.

      Like 2
      • Avatar photo Big C

        Born in 1960. I remember Cushman, Vespa, Lambretta, etc. Maybe all these were wadded up, or junked by the late ’60’s?

        Like 0
  5. Avatar photo Al camino

    Call 1 800 pickers ask for mr know it all mike

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo Glen Holmes

    Wow neat find!! What a rare piece!!
    I visited the Ad and the seller has a display stand documenting it as the prototype, this should have been included in the write up ? It is definitely the authentic prototype !

    Mind blown !!

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Ivan

    I just bought an identical twin to this one, a 1947 Salsbury 85 at the Mecum Auction in Vegas in January. What a great scooter!!!! So innovative, so unusual. I love this thing!!!

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Jim beal

      You bought yours at auction so what was the total price you paid???

      Like 2
      • Avatar photo Ivan


        Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Glen

    Wow what a great find!! That’s the holy Grail of Salisbury 85’s !!
    I checked out the ad and it includes a display stand that details the manufacturing differences that make this the prototype, this looks clearly authentic !
    Now I just need to win the lottery !!

    Like 3
  9. Avatar photo Mitchell

    My friend is a Salsbury aficionado, and according to him this “Prototype” is well-documented in the Salsbury world, and is absolutely authentic/ the real deal. He actually personally knows the seller, and was surprised to see him selling it as he has an extensive Salsbury collection, and this is the HOLY GRAIL of his collection.


    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      That’s great follow-up information, thanks, Mitchell!

      Like 3
  10. Avatar photo HBChris

    And it is Northrop, never Northrup. Jack Northrop bought the company in 1945 and by 1947 it was in bankruptcy.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo erler thomas

    Sorry, I know I am picky again, but it is according to the carburator more likely a two stroke engine? And to me it looks in lots of little details different to the b+w picture. Look at the lever in front of the seat, the handle bar, but awe inspiring anyways. Ilike it it but I dont buy everything.
    regards from Tyrol

    Like 0
  12. Avatar photo John b

    About 10 or 11 years ago i found the frame to one in abandoned junkyard in Lancaster, pa. At the time I wasn’t sure what it was. I kept researching Henkel scooters then thankfully due to the ease of the Internet, I realize it was a Salisbury. I ended u trading it for a hood for my Nash Metropolitan. Incidentally the hood is still collecting dust in my garage and the Salisbury i traded it to – still has it sitting on a table collecting dust as well.

    Like 2
  13. Avatar photo Arthur Deren

    This is a Full classic scooter.

    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Luki

    Never seen one before. I had a few of their “steaks”.
    I was disappointed, seemed like it was just a hamburger with some beef gravy on it.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Wes

    There use to be a Salsbury Club, then even had a nice looking magazine.
    I think the internet killed them.

    Like 0

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