Montgomery Ward: 1959 Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon

We often think of captive imports as being car-related, but this 1959 Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon was sold as a Riverside under the Montgomery Ward juggernaut, back when there was a pre-Amazon-bricks-and-mortar juggernaut store. This nice example of a rare little scooter can be found here on Craigslist in Cave Creek, Arizona, about 35 miles north of Phoenix. The seller is asking $3,000 for this Silver Pigeon. Thanks to Roger for yet another very cool and rare find!

Ok, first things first: Silver Pigeon? That name doesn’t exactly strike fear into rival scooter gang members’ minds, does it? This happens to be a Montgomery Ward Riverside model, and instead of letters and numbers as Mitsubishi used – such as C-10, C-111, C-200, etc. – Wards used names such as Miami, Nassau, Waikiki in addition to their own alphanumeric system. This is, I believe, a C-75 Montgomery Ward Riverside Waikiki model. The seller doesn’t provide any closeup photos of numbers or VINs or anything like that to make sure, but I’m betting that’s what it is. The Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon competed with the Fuji Rabbit in Japan. Our friend and Barn Finds fan and commenter, Beatnik Bedouin, has a Fuji Rabbit or two (three? more?) and he may be a great resource for information on them or on the Silver Pigeon.

They were sleek in design as you can see. Scooters were immensely popular in Japan after the war (WWII) and they helped the population get back on its feet again, so to speak. The Silver Pigeon was made for the 1946 to 1963 model years by Mitsubishi and they were imported to the U.S. by Rockford Scooter Company in Rockford, Illinois. The company sold sewing machines to Montgomery Ward and they got them to sell the Silver Pigeon as a Riverside through their catalogs. Remember those days? Yeah, me, too. They were popular for the eight years that they were sold here and they came in six models. They are very rare either as a Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon or a Riverside by Montgomery Ward. Most of us have heard of the Sears Allstate scooter which was a rebadged Cushman and now Wards had a good competitive model of their own.

This appears to be an original barn find scooter, other than the seller mentioning that the rims have been recently powdercoated. They say that this is “a true complete, original barn find with no rust, new tires and petcock, the carb and gas tank have been cleaned, rims newly powdercoated, and it is ready to ride. The seat has been reupholstered since these photos were taken.” The grips are cool and they look original and in great condition, thankfully. I can’t imagine the process or cost of having to get those reproduced or having to track down a NOS pair; ouch.

One of you may know for sure, but I believe that this is a 5-hp single four-cycle engine. The Riverside Waikiki would have had a top speed of 45 mph, which isn’t bad for a scooter. With all of that shrouding, getting enough air under there to cool the engine is a concern. These were “automatic” scooters, just grip and go. For around small towns and out in the country these are sure fun to ride. Have any of you heard of a Silver Pigeon or the rebadged Wards Riverside version?

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Comments

  1. Rx7turboII

    Yay! Rockford, IL!! My hometown! And even though we have the highest property taxes and have been rated The Last Place on Earth anybody wants to live we can claim something to the fame of this scooter now! LOL

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      You live there, Rx7turboII, that’s another draw for the city! I drive through there several times a year.

      • Rx7turboII

        Yes Scotty,I have grown up here my entire life and although we are considering moving out of Illinois in the next 2 years, it’s where I am right now paying $6,500 a year in taxes on a 95k house..ugh! But thanks for the compliment!

    • Ike Onick

      Hey, if it was good enough for Cheap Trick…

      • Rx7

        It’s funny you mention that because Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick is moving out of Rockford and his house is up for sale so if you would like to move to Rockford, now’s your chance! It’s only $810,000 and $31,000 a year in taxes. LOL

  2. Beatnik Bedouin

    Mitsubishi Silver Pigeons have a cult following in Japan as well as having fans, globally. They often come up for auction in Japan and get snapped up by local buyers who are prepared to pay a premium for a rusty ‘barn find’ (I just had to put a plug in for the fine folk who run this site!).

    Besides the ‘Monkey Ward’ Riversides, Rockford sold the range under its own brand – remember that this was a decade or so after WWII and there was still a lot of anti-Japanese feeling on the part of those who went to war, especially in the Pacific.

    Styling on this example was ‘inspired’ (LOL) by the contemporary Lambretta LC/LD series and has a 200cc engine, along with a CVT transmission.

    This one looks like a good, usable example and I believe that pricing is reasonable in the US market.

    Scotty mentions the ‘Allstate’ versions of the evergreen Cushman scooter. I’ll add that Sears also sold Allstate-badged Vespas, along with Puch mopeds and motorcycles for many years.

    For those of you who are sitting at home and bored enough to wonder about the Fuji Rabbit from my collection that Scotty was referring to, I’ve attached a pic of my now-rare, unrestored 90cc ’61 S-201C Minor step-thru (11K kms on the clock) that I picked up at a dealer auction in Japan just over a year ago.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thank you for the excellent information, sir, and for sharing a photo of your rare Fuji Rabbit. It’s going to stay unrestored, I’m guessing?

      • Beatnik Bedouin

        That’s what everyone tells me about the Rabbit, Scotty… LOL

    • Greg

      My first bike at age 15 was a 1958 Rabbit 125cc scooter…hence my high school nickname that I would never outlive:). It would outrun the popular Honda C-110 50 cc sports that every other 15 year old lusted for in 1963. My dad, ever the practical one, tried like heck to get me to let him buy me a new Rabbit 90 but my rampant testosterone forced me to insist on a Yamaha 125 Santa Barbara which would outrun the ubiquitous Honda 150 Benly’s that were taking the place of the C-110’s in the high school fleet. I worked part time to pay the difference. He really wanted me to get that Rabbit.

  3. Tony Primo

    I don’t know but if the people held onto that anti-Japanese and anti-German feeling a little longer the North American auto economy would probably be in much better shape.

    • ObviousLunatic

      Doubt that very much. Look how “they” out-thought, out-performed and out-delivered “us” in every aspect of what an automobile was, starting at the bottom end and eventually at the top as well. By the ’80s, Japan led in automotive technology and Detroit went calling.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Tony, I have a feeling that American car companies would have just kept giving us more of those “malaise era” vehicles that everyone picks on if it wasn’t for some stiff competition from overseas which forced them to get better. That doesn’t sound like a good thing to me at all. Now, I think that American car companies can compete with any country on the planet; not so much in the early-mid-1970s.

    • geomechs Member

      There were some Japanese vehicles in my family back in the 70s and they were nothing to write home about. I worked for a GM dealer and knew mechanics in the import business. Many of them didn’t even own what they worked on. The worst vehicle I ever owned was an import. And that’s out of 30 vehicles.

  4. geomechs Member

    Those scooters and even motorcycles that were sold through Sears and Wards were interesting at best. This one was IMHO a stylish machine compared to a lot of the competition. I heard some mixed reports on how it fared. Some years later I had a Honda Spree for a campground commuter and I really wouldn’t say it was any better than this one. On a different note, Wards sold a really stylish motorcycle (Mojave 360) that was a decent bike.

  5. 68custom

    I had a little rebranded harley motorcycle back in the day, it was a two-stroke 50cc bike with an odd clutch and shifter combo device mounted on the handlebars. It shifted all that power through three gears. But I dont remember if it was sears or wards? This one would be cool to putt around the neighborhood or campground, I would love to own it.

  6. RITON

    At first glance, I took this for a Lambretta

  7. Wayne

    Beatnik Bedouin, that is a really cool bike/scooter? It looks like a combo of both.
    I am not into these modes of transportation as I stopped 2 wheeled transport when I sold my BMW R90. But, I think the one in the article is a very clean, good looking unit also. My brain says pit bike! At larger race tracks tracks like Road America this would be the bomb!

    And Rx7turoII, Is not Danica Patrick from your area? I know that the road race track in Rockton was her home track. And I understand your desire to leave Illinois. I lived there for 30 years. Between the taxes, the corrupt government (where all the former governors are making license plates) and the weather. (too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter) I came to the conclusion that living in Northern Illinois was not living, but merely existing. So 35 years ago I moved to Northern Nevada. Where my property taxes are only 25% of yours on a property about 3.5 times yours. And no state income tax. (sorry to rub salt into that wound)

    Scotty, good article!

  8. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Hi Wayne, my buddy used to watch Patrick at The Sugar River Racetrack. Go karts. He said she was a pistol. https://sugarriverraceway.com/ Not sure about the Rockton track, but there is a cool track near Beloit. http://www.blackhawkfarms.com/

  9. Ike Onick

    Quick question for the group- If I’m in a bar, say somewhere in Rockford, IL and I am lucky enough to be chatting with a female Rockfordian, and I ask her if she would like a ride on my Silver Pigeon- What are the odds I end up in Rockford General Hospital?

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Great question Ikey, I have been blessed that I have not been to Rockford in 2 years. I will say the Silver Pigeon remark would put you into a Motel 6 in the couple Saloons that I stopped at. And they were not bad taverns. Saw Cheap Trick at the old Waverly Beach Ballroom in Beloit back in the mid 70’s. Fun times from what I can recall. Have a great New Year buddy!

      • Ike Onick

        @dude- I just might head over to Rockford and take a peek at Rick Nielsen’s chateau and stop at one of Rockford’s establishments for some light refreshment and a chance to observe and interact with the local fauna in their native habitat. Tally Ho!

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        Hey Ike, Ricks place is wide open. Great guy. As long as you are close, skip Rockford and stop at the Mouse bar for friday fish in Beloit. Kicks tail and cheap. Great place! Great times with the native habitat !

  10. BOP_GUY Member

    Very cool! I hadn’t heard of these before now. Before turning 16, I had a number of two-wheeled vehicles, including a Puch moped, a Honda Passport (not the suv), and a Yamaha Riva 180 sport, not to mention a badass go-cart my Dad helped me build.

    This is a really cool find, so I’m gonna have some fun reading up all about them online after work!

  11. Roland Skate

    I am restoring a C135 Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon. It is a two stroke cvt transmission and approximately 1963? Never seen another like this one?????

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