Mustang (motorcycle)

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Customized Mustang motorcycle with a Triumph engine installed

The Mustang was a lightweight motorcycle built by Gladden Products Corporation in Glendale, California,[1][2] from 1946 to 1965. The second production version, the Mustang Model 2, was the first motorcycle manufactured in the United States to have a telescopic fork.[2]



Howard Forrest, an engineer and former midget car racer, designed and built a 19.2 cubic inches (315 cc) water-cooled four-cylinder engine in 1936.[1][3] In 1941, Forrest built a motorcycle powered by the engine,[1][3][4] and he commuted to work at Gladden Products on the motorcycle during World War II.[1][5] Company president John Gladden had Forrest and co-worker Chuck Gardner design a commuter motorcycle based on Forrest's custom bike,[1] and started Mustang Motorcycle Corporation as a division of Gladden Products.[2] The factory was located at the corner of S. Brand Boulevard and E. Colorado Blvd. in Glendale, California.[6]

Villiers engined models[edit]

Prototypes built during the war used pre-war Villiers 191 cubic centimetres (11.7 cu in) "Double Century" engines. These were no longer available at the end of the war, so the Mustang Colt, the first production version of the Mustang motorcycle, used a 125 cubic centimetres (7.6 cu in) Villiers engine in a downsized frame with 8-inch (200 mm) wheels.[2][5] 235 Colts were made before the supply of Villiers engines began to dwindle.[2]

Model 2 and DeliverCycle[edit]

Mustang engine
Manufacturer Busy Bee, a subsidiary of Gladden Products Corp.[2][5]
Production before 1947 - 1965[5]
Combustion chamber
Configuration single-cylinder engine
Displacement 19.48 cu in (319.2 cc)
Cylinder bore 2.875 in (73.0 mm)[7]>[8]
Piston stroke 3.00 in (76 mm)[7][8]
Cylinder block alloy Meehanite[7] (cast iron)[8]
Cylinder head alloy aluminium alloy[8]
Valvetrain side valve[5][9]
Fuel system carburetor, 78 in. Amal[7] or 22 mm Dell'Orto[8]
Management flywheel magneto[7][8]
Fuel type gasoline
Oil system wet sump[8]
Cooling system air-cooled
Power output
  • 5 hp (restricted output)[5]
  • 9.5 hp (Standard,[7] Pony, Bronco, 1956-1958 Colt)[5]
  • 10.5 hp (Stallion)[5]
  • 12.5 hp (Thoroughbred)[5][9]
Predecessor 125 cc Villiers engine[2][5]

Gladden bought the Busy Bee Company, a manufacturer of small engines, to ensure supply for later Mustang motorcycles.[2][5] He then had Forrest and Gardner rework the Mustang design around a Busy Bee 320 cc side-valve single-cylinder engine. The resulting Model 2 formed the basic design for most later Mustangs, with the Busy Bee engine, a three speed Burman transmission, and 12-inch (300 mm) wheels.[5] The Mustang Model 2 was the first motorcycle manufactured in the United States to use telescopic forks.[2]

Production of the Model 2 began in 1947. Initial problems like noisy timing gears were remedied with special quality control measures, which included having the production foreman test and personally approve each engine that left the plant.[5] The 1948 Model 3 DeliverCycle, a three-wheeled commercial vehicle used for parking enforcement by city police departments, was developed from the Model 2. Production of the DeliverCycle began in 1948.[5]

Model 4 and derivatives[edit]

The Model 2 was further developed into the 1950 Model 4 "Standard" with more reliable components and with the intake and exhaust ports facing forward instead of rearward as they had faced in the Model 2. A Model 4 "Special" was derived from this, with engine performance upgrades. The DeliverCycle was similarly upgraded and became the Model 5.[5]

1951 Mustang Pony on display at the California Automobile Museum

The Model 4 Standard evolved into the 9.5 hp (7.1 kW) Pony and the Bronco, the latter of which had the Pony's drivetrain and a standard front brake. The Model 4 Special evolved into the Stallion, with a 10.5 hp (7.8 kW) engine, a four speed transmission, and two-tone paint. The best-selling of these was the Pony, which became the base model of the brand.[5]

Colt, Thoroughbred, and Trail Machine[edit]

In 1956, Mustang discontinued the slow-selling DeliverCycle[5] and introduced a new Colt as a budget model. This second Colt model was a stripped-down version of the Pony, with an undamped leading link fork, a centrifugal clutch, and no transmission. The Colt was discontinued in 1958.[5][10]

Mustang introduced the Thoroughbred in 1960. Based on the Stallion,[5][10] the Thoroughbred had a revised frame featuring swingarm rear suspension,[10][9] a dual seat, and optional storage under the seat.[5] The engine was uprated to 12.5 hp (9.3 kW) and powered the Stallion's four-speed transmission.[5] The handlebars of the Thoroughbred were welded to the forks, preventing adjustment or replacement of the bars.[8]

The Trail Machine was introduced in 1961. Unlike earlier Mustangs, it was powered by an upright Briggs & Stratton 5.75 hp engine; this was coupled to the usual 3-speed Burman motorcycle transmission and a rear tyre with a tractor tread.[5] These components were mounted in a new, specialized frame constructed of heavy duty 7/8" tubular steel.[citation needed] Originally available only with a rigid rear end, the Trail Machine gained a version with a swingarm rear suspension in 1964.[5]

Decline and demise[edit]

Sales began to decline in 1956. The Colt, the Thoroughbred, and the Trail Machine were developed to improve sales. By 1960, when the Thoroughbred was released, Mustang had fired Forrest and replaced him as head of design with Gardner. The DeliverCycle, which had been withdrawn in 1956 due to low sales figures, was reintroduced in 1963 and upgraded in 1964.[5]

Production of Mustang motorcycles ended in 1965.[5][10][11] Reasons for this have been given as the unavailability of Burman gearboxes,[5][11] competition from Honda,[5][10] and problems within management.[5]

Racing and custom bikes[edit]

Forrest built special racing engines for factory rider Walt Fulton. Fulton raced Mustangs in the Lightweight class until the AMA required racing motorcycles to have wheels with a diameter of sixteen inches or greater.[12]

Forrest built several custom motorcycles based on Mustang frames, including one powered by an Ariel Square Four engine.[4][12][13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Pfouts 1995, p. 12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pfouts 1995, p. 13.
  3. ^ a b Bagnall 1952, pp. 26–29.
  4. ^ a b Torrey 1952, p. 176.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Berk & Cavanaugh 2013, pp. 52–56.
  6. ^ "Mustang Motorcycles". California Scooter Company. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Steele 1949.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Road Impression – Mustang Thoroughbred", Cycle World, September 1963
  9. ^ a b c Wilson 1995, p. 134.
  10. ^ a b c d e Hatfield 2006, p. 394–395.
  11. ^ a b Wilson 1995, p. 273.
  12. ^ a b Pfouts 1995, p. 14.
  13. ^ Billingsley & Bond 1951, pp. 10–11.


  • Bagnall, Bill (February 1952). Billingsley, Oliver; Bond, John R., eds. "Forrest Water Cooled Cycle". Hop Up. Glendale, CA US: Enthusiasts' Publications. 1 (7): 26–29. 
  • Berk, Joe; Cavanaugh, Jim (January–February 2013). "The Magnificent Mustang Motorcycles". Motorcycle Classics. 8 (3): 52–56. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  • "Road Impression – Mustang Thoroughbred". Cycle World. September 1963. 
  • Billingsley, Oliver; Bond, John R., eds. (October 1951). "Forrest Cycle". Hop Up. Glendale, CA US: Enthusiasts' Publications. 1 (3): 10–11. The powerplant for this bright yellow and chrome beauty is a 1931 Ariel "square four" of 500 cc displacement. 
  • Hatfield, Jerry (2006-02-08). "M". Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles 1898-1981: The Only Book to Fully Chronicle Every Bike Ever Built. Iola, WI USA: Krause Publications. pp. 394–395. ISBN 978-0-89689-949-0. LCCN 2005922934. Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  • Pfouts, Chris (April 1995). Wood, Bill, ed. "Mustangs". American Motorcyclist. Westerville, OH USA: American Motorcyclist Association. 49 (4): 12–15. ISSN 0277-9358. Retrieved 2012-09-23. 
  • Torrey, Volta, ed. (February 1952). "Bike Designer Rolls His Own". Popular Science. New York, NY USA: Popular Science Publishing. 160 (2): 176. ISSN 0161-7370. Retrieved 2012-09-23. Smaller, 215-lb. cycle (left) was entirely designed and built by Forrest... Piston displacement is 19.2 cubic inches; bore, 1 34 inches; stroke, two inches. 
  • Steele, Harry G., Jr. (1949-05-26). "Road Test Report (Mustang Standard)". The Motorcyclist. 
  • Wilson, Hugo (1995). The Encyclopedia of the Motorcycle. London: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 134, 273. ISBN 0-7513-0206-6. 

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