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Sleek & Sassy Cycles from Sears

In the ’50s and ’60s, you could truly buy just about anything through the Sears & Roebuck catalog, including motorcycles and yes, even an “Allstate” Henry J automobile for a little while. Sears sourced their Allstate bikes from a number smaller European manufacturers, mainly Gilera and Puch. Above is the selection of motorbikes available from Sears in 1967.

The bike at the upper left is a Gilera. While it could be a 124cc model, the vast majority of Allstate Gileras were the slightly smaller S106. I’ve owned both an Allstate 124 and a larger, much rarer, Gilera-badged 202cc version of this bike (which was never sold through Sears). Owning and riding a Gilera single of this era is not very rewarding. The engines were pleasant, and actually fairly reliable, but clearly outdated by the late ’60s. The chassis parts were shockingly crude, even by Italian standards of the day.

The two Puchs on the right-hand page were better bikes. The “Twingle” at the top of the page (it could be a 175cc or 250cc model) was a uniquely innovative dead-end in two-stroke technology that used two cylinder bores below a common combustion chamber. The rear connecting rod was attached to the front main rod in such a way that the rear piston rose to TDC slightly before the front. This allowed the rear piston to help push combustion gasses to the exhaust ports in the front cylinder bore, while allowing the transfer ports in the rear cylinder to open slightly earlier. It was a very complex way to inefficiently do what loop-charging and reed or rotary valves could do; by 1967 most Japanese 175s were making well more than double the Twingle’s horsepower without the added mechanical clutter. It was, like the Gilera, already well past its use-by date.

It may seem unimaginable nowadays to buy a street-legal motorcycle for a few hundred bucks from a source that could not provide even the basics of maintenance and dealer support. But consider this: The Allstate Twingle’s $579 price is, in today’s dollars, about $3700. That just happens to be the MSRP of the 250cc, v-twin Hyosung GT250, a second-tier Korean manufacturer whose U.S. dealer network is composed mostly of scooter boutiques, farm implement dealers and other non-core motorcycle retailers. Is that really all that different from buying an Allstate?

  • Number_Six

    Tanshanomi, the bike in the lower left is a Sears Sabre, which was built by Puch. It's sporting a 50cc motor.

  • zsm

    In 2000 Montgomery Ward still had scooters in their catalog and larger stores. They were right by the baby cribs of all things in the one my my place. I never saw one sell.

    • theeastbaykid

      Wards sold various Italian stuff under the Riverside brand in the '60s–Lambrettas and Benellis, maybe others as well.

      • I stupidly confused Wards and Sears when I mentioned Benelli in my original post. I deleted the reference. Thanks for jogging my brain loose.

  • Tshel

    But for only 500 bucks more than the Hyosung you could get a Kawaski Ninja 250R

  • Pep Boys displays a temptingly cheap 125, which I have kinda halfway considered worth it, until I look at the flimsy fork tubes and swing arm, then think of how unmercifully I'd beat the hell out of the poor thing out in the desert. And how it would fold right up after hitting a rock or something. Then I imagine a long walk back to town carrying a helmet. Not worth it.

    • DeadinSideInc

      And try to figure out
      1) Who put that together (a Pep Boys "associate")
      2) To what standards did the factory make the parts (or sub-sub-sub-sub contractor in a hut in a slum)?
      3) Parts? Did they use something screwy that was only in that container full of bikes?

      I was, for some reason, looking @ some Chinese manufacturer's sites. They quote prices for their bikes/scooters/tuk tuks in "per container".

  • Pellematt

    In the country of Volvo`s and Viking`s and midnightsun the Puch on lower left side was called Puch Dakota !
    You could drive one from your 15 th birthday and i hooned mine for 1,5 year before it blew up.. Oh , those WERE the days…