Montgomery Ward moped history

Much like Sears, Roebuck & Co who sold rebadged Puch and Gileria motorcycles, scooters and mopeds, Montgomery Ward sold imported bikes as well through their catalogs and stores. Their earliest models from the 50′s and early 60′s where French made Motobecane mopeds that consisted of models like the AV88 and 78 and also some scooters that were made by Japan’s Mitsubishi and Italy’s Bianchi companies. Wards sold these bikes under their Riverside badge name which was mainly used for the branding of tools and automotive products. In 1965, the retailer changed manufacturers and opted to sell mostly machines from the Italian company Benelli. Benelli offered not only a few different moped models but also a line of 2 stroke/single cylinder motorcycles that could compete in the marketplace with the Austrian Puch motorcycles that Sears was selling under their Allstate brand. The mopeds models that Wards offered were the 150-D and the 250-D. The 150-D was the saddle seat base model. The 250-D featured a flip-up long seat, steel front leg shield, passenger foot rests, speedometer and a attached canvas tool pouch.

1965 Riverside11 Riverside 150-D              Wards Riverside100_6316Riverside 250-D

Both models used the same pressed metal frame, CEV head and tail light assemblies, small round CEV switches, Magura RH throttle control, Magura LH starter clutch control (twist back type), 18″ x 2″ tires, Dellorto carb and of course a Benelli 49cc cast iron cylinder moped engine.

By 1970 the moped and motorcycle sales went away for the two department store retailers primarily due to the Japanese invasion with highly engineered, reliable and powerful 4 stroke motorcycles under the likes of Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki. Also, in 1970 a new government regulatory board was created to oversee and combat increasing pollution and air quality issues; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Smokey 2 stroke motorcycles and other high emission vehicles would be one of the agency’s first targets.

In  late 1977 when moped sales and popularity exploded, Montgomery Ward (and Sears) began selling 2 stroke mopeds again. This time around, Wards sold the re-branded German-made Solo/Columbia Commuter moped along with a couple of USA made AMF models and also a re-branded Italian moped with a Minarelli engine. Sears, once again, also started selling Puch powered mopeds but under their Free Spirit moniker. Catalog and department store retailer J.C Penney also got in on the moped action in 1977 by offering its own Puch based mopeds under the names of Swinger and Pinto. By 1980 the moped craze was over and all three department stores discontinued selling mopeds; this time for good.

….and now you have the rest of the story!