The Squirrel all started back in 1908, when Alfred Angas Scott built the first Scott motorcycle, a 333cc water-cooled two-stroke twin.
The allure of this bike starts with the Scott marque itself, which produced motorcycles so far ahead of their time that it’s hard not to label them technological oddities.
By the time the Super Squirrel debuted in 1924, when most motorcycles had heavy air-cooled four-stroke engines and solid forks, the Scott boasted a two-stroke motor, water cooling and telescopic forks.
The Most Alluring Squirrel of them All
The 1929 Scott Super Squirrel – Restored by Von Dutch for Steve McQueen – The King of Kool’s Squirrel is the most sought after motorbike of the lot. McQueen’s Scott Super Squirrel motorcycle, painted by Von Dutch, fetched an astounding $ 276,000—double its estimated value at Antiquorum’s summer auction held in New York on June 11, 2009.
A well-known customizer and one of the icons of 1960s “Kar Kulture,” Von Dutch applied his legendary pin-striping and painting skills to the Scott. The design even features the famed flying eyeball logo that was Von Dutch’s signature. On a scale of 1 to 10, this particular Super Squirrel is considered by many to be an 11.
Riding The Super Squirrel
At only 260 lbs., the British Scott’s 600 cc two stroke, twin cylinder, water cooled engine makes it a very lively performer. Scotts are sometimes referred to as “The Bugatti of Motorcycles”. Handling and braking are excellent, even by modern standards.
The Scott engine has two main bearings, with an open flywheel in between, and the big ends overhung in two separate crankcases. The deflector pistons give the Scott a very distinctive “Yowling” exhaust, which doesn’t sound anything like a modern two-stroke. The Super Squirrel has two speeds only, and there is no gearbox, but two chain drive primaries, which are activated in turn by separate steel drum clutches.
A rocking pedal activates the gear, tilting back for low, and forward for high, with neutral in between, negating the necessity of a separate clutch control. Lighting at this late date is still acetylene, whereas the Americans had been using electric lights for over a decade.
The Scott Motorcycle History
The Scott machine was the product of an engineering genius called Alfred Angas Scott (1874 – 1923). His first motorcycle was built using a homemade twin cylinder engine installed into the steering head of a modified bicycle. He went on to produce a motorcycle which, on paper at least, would not look out of place in a modern motorcycle catalogue: his machine incorporated water cooling, telescopic forks, low slung weight and a lightweight duplex frame giving superb road holding.
This was the Scott of 1908 (90 years ago!) and these features were to remain an integral part of the Scott motorcycle for the next 70 years.
The number of Scott motorcycle model variations were quite numerous considering the relatively low volume machine production which ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand per year: indeed many Scotts were built an individual customer’s specification thus diversifying further the combination of features and fittings found on Scott machines even within a specific model type.
Today, it seems, there are no two Scotts the same (though whether this is because every machine really was unique or because owners have modified the machines themselves over the years is not always clear).
The outbreak of the Great War (1914-1918) effectively halted the production of civilian Scott motorcycles. It was around this period that the seeds of change were being sowed by Alfred Scott: in 1919 Scott left the company he had founded so that he could pursue other interests.
With Scott Motorcyles back in production after the Great War, new models began to roll off the Scott factory in Shipley, Yorkshire:
- The Squirrel in 1922
- The Super Squirrel in 1925
- The Flying Squirrel in 1926
These were the machines which made the Scott Motorcycle truly famous. They evolved from a two-speed clutch/transmission into a three-speed gearbox/conventional clutch driven machine. The frame was modified into a stiffer (and heavier) duplex arrangement leading to a new range of machines known as the Flyers, namely the Tourer, De Luxe and TT Replica. Other variants of the Scott machine were the Kendal Scott and the Reynolds special. Both of these models were built to order by second parties and comprised proprietary modifications to suit the customer.
In the early 1930s the lightweight two-speed model was dropped from the range. This, coupled with that fact that each new season’s model saw an increase in the weight due to contemporary specification additions contributed to an overall reduction in the performance of the machines and a loss of the ‘slim and low weight’ characteristics of the early machines. These changes culminated in the one of the heaviest Shipley models ever: the 1939 Clubman Special which weighed in at over 400lbs but still had a claimed top speed of over 90mph (mostly down to its highly tuned engine).
Around 1934/35 the Scott Three cylinder motorcycle made its debut in the form of a water cooled 750cc in-line machine. This was superseded by the 1000cc version and proved to be another example of innovative engineering by the Scott company. Unfortunately this motorcycle was never produced in large numbers due to the onset of the Second World War coupled with dwindling business fortunes. Hence these Three cyclinder machines are rarely seen today.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War (1946/7) Scott relaunched the Flying Squirrel model. Available in 500 or 600cc form the machine was even heavier than its pre-war predecessor due to the addition of massive wheel hubs. The machine was relatively expensive for the performance it offered and this did nothing to enhance sales. The company limped on for a few more years until going into voluntary liquidation in 1950.