Small Barn Find: 1946 Hiawatha Doodle Bug

I know that a few of you have to remember the classic old variety stores such as Ben Franklin, Woolworth’s, and Gambles? This classic 1946 Hiawatha Doodle Bug would have been sold by Gambles stores. This rare little barn bug can be found here on Craigslist in Massillon, Ohio, just west of Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The seller is asking $1,400 for this little barn find bug. Thanks go to Roger for sending in this tip!

This example appears to be missing a few parts and some very key pieces such as the shields that give it the classic, sleek Doodle Bug look. Gambles-Skogmo was a huge company in a sea of similar companies with variety and hardware stores and others, up until the early-1980s when they went out of business. The Doodle Bug was made for three short years, from 1946 to 1948, in Webster City, Iowa and they sold them under the Hiawatha name at Gamble’s Hardware stores. They were meant to compete with Sears-branded Allstate scooters made by Cushman. Now we can say that in one short paragraph we have talked about two giant companies that were too big to ever fail, yet they both did. That’s either scary or exciting depending on if you’re a history buff or you like to keep things evolving.

This Hiawatha is a “Model A” that used a Briggs & Stratton engine. “Model B” Hiawatha Doodle Bugs used a Clinton engine and they’re much rarer. There will be some fabrication work needed to make the missing parts for this example but the other portions of the restoration should be fairly straightforward. The seller says that this is the original seat. That may cause a few folks to laugh and point, like seeing the guy at the state fair with shorts and black socks on, but any decent upholstery shop could restore that seat to an original-looking beauty in no time.

Beam Manufacturing of Webster City, Iowa made around 40,000 Doodle Bugs in that short span between 1946 and 1948 yet we rarely see them today. I bet that there are thousands of these things hidden in garages and basements all over the US. The Model A Hiawatha used a 1.5-hp Briggs & Stratton and there is no word on if it runs or even kicks over. Yes, they were kick start!

Most Barn Finds readers could rebuild the mechanical systems on this Doodle Bug in a few weekends and restore everything else in a few more weekends. It’s the fabricating or somehow finding those original shields that would have me pounding my forehead against the nearest door. Have any of you owned a Doodle Bug?

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  1. Had Two

    I owned one. It ran. Needed paint/restoring. All there. Sold it for $400……

    Like 2
  2. Howard A Member

    Sorry, when I hear Hiawatha, this is what I think of;
    About as basic as it gets. I’ve never seen a starter like that, and back brake( at least it has something) Restored, it looks neat, but not much use, maybe a factory setting, but any road use is out of the question. Tell you one thing, gonna be loud with that straight pipe,,,

    Like 2
  3. Drunkduck

    Looks to me like you would lift the handle to start it instead of kick it??

    Like 1
  4. Phillip Tenney Member

    I wanted one of those so bad when I was a kid.

    Like 2
  5. Joihn

    Great Scooters-Here’s one I restored-1948 model-Western Auto store

    Like 3
  6. Blake Young

    The sheetmetal sides would be easy to fabricate, and the side cover just a little more difficult. Sourcing cables, handlebar stuff, etc, that would make this more difficult for me. Cool little bike, but not at that price level. Especially when it’s across the country from me.

  7. chad

    ur Hiawatha locomotive engine is ona plate on the steering stem of this lill guy.

    I’d need some help w/gettin a throttle goin again.
    Man, those wheels R small!

    Like 1
  8. Keith Hall

    I had one, you would step down on the pedal then lift it up with your hand to try again, crude but it did work. Motor didn’t have much power, l stuck with building my motor bikes with a lawn mower motor and fan belt, pulley rim mounted to a banana bike as they were faster you just had to push start and jump on. Keith H

    Like 1
  9. Ralph

    “I get 80mpg on this hog……….still going to Aspen?”

    Like 4
  10. half cab

    Resembles the scooter the ole messenger man rode on looney toons

    Like 3
  11. RexFox Member

    My first motorized cycle was a mini bike too, but not a fancy one like the Doodle Bug. It took months of begging to get permission from my parents to buy one. My mom was a nurse and had seen some pretty bad crash victims. My dad called them ‘murder-cycles’ and just kept saying; “You won’t be satisfied for long and some day you’ll want a Harley”. I said he was wrong and told my mom I’d always wear a helmet.
    I found a home-built, brakeless, 1.5 hp Briggs and Stratton powered mini bike for $65. After 3 months of saving, I finally had enough to buy it (amazingly, my parents loaned me 1/2). In the mean time, the kid who owned it ran the piss out of it. So not long after taking delivery, a boyfriend of my sisters helped me install new rings and valves. I found a threaded piece of cast iron water pipe in the garage and promptly replaced the muffler (a true straight pipe).
    My dad was right about it not having enough power though, so it wasn’t long before I went through a progression of bigger and bigger Japanese bikes. Judging by the Road King and Dyna in my garage today, I’d say he was right about the Harleys too.

    Like 7
  12. LodeStar

    Would probably get $50 or $75 in one of those very cold Midwest winter Farm Sales. Good luck to the seller. Aim High and take the first offer over a $100.

    Like 2
    • cyclemikey

      Yeah, dream on. It’s gone already.

      Like 2
  13. KevinLee

    With the gas tank mounted on the back like that, this could turn into a Pinto-like catastrophe!😁

  14. Hollywood Collier

    SWEET scooter Joihn…beautiful work. I am a scooter buff.

  15. john

    Thank you- What scooters do you have ?

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