The Pump Scooter

We have nothing against foot power, but our homemade variation on the pump scooter will give your arms and shoulders a workout too.

| March/April 1983

  • pump scooter - finished device
    The completed pump scooter, painted and ready to go.
    Photo by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • pump scooter - young boy driving scooter
    Truckin' along!

  • pump scooter - finished device
  • pump scooter - young boy driving scooter

With warmer weather just around the corner, it won't be long before the neighborhood streets and sidewalks are fairly humming with bicycles of all shapes and sizes. But two-wheelers don't have to be the only game in town, especially for the younger set. In fact, our merry researchers recently decided to spend a bit of time developing a four-wheeled "pump scooter."

This sporty little runabout — which is merely a homebuilt and simplified version of the once popular "Irish mail" handcar — is constructed almost entirely of electrical metallic tubing (about $20 worth) and thus is fairly inexpensive to put together. The vehicle's cost is further reduced (and the toy made stronger in the process) by the five-spoke "mag"-style wheels, which we made from discarded rims and sections of cut-to-length E.M.T.

Of course, you'll need to have access to a small welder and two different tubing benders (to handle 1/2 " and 1" E.M.T.) in order to complete the car, but if you can borrow these tools — or buy them with an eye toward future projects — you'll be all set. Other than that, even a relatively modest home shop should easily supply you with the equipment necessary to get the job done: a hacksaw, an electric drill with bits, a screwdriver, a round file, a measuring tape, a pipe wrench, and a coping saw.

Our Scooter Assembly Diagram details the parts that are required to make the scooter. But before you start gathering and cutting your building materials, it might help you to know that, if you're purchasing the electrical conduit new in 10-foot lengths, you'll need two complete 1" sections, one 3/4" piece, and three 1/2 " lengths to handle most of the job. (You will have to get an additional 2 feet of the 1/2 " size and an 8" length of 1 1/4" tubing to finish up.) Likewise, the two-piece seat can be cut from a single 20" x 28" slab of 1/4 " plywood.

The chassis is made from two 58" lengths of 1" conduit which are bent to the same contour, then joined together to form a sort of paddle shape. To curve these sections properly, choose one, and — starting at either end — measure off 4 inches, make a 90' bend at that point (which should eat up about 10 inches), mark off 5 more inches, start a second arc (this one a 5-inch-gobbling 45°), leave 8 inches straight, form the final 45' curve, then determine the length of the remaining leg (it should be about 21 inches).

Once you've curved a pair of the tubular side rails, join them together by temporarily placing your 1 1/2" pipe coupling between the parallel front tubes (it'll serve as a spacer), then welding the butted rear tips to each other with a scrap of 1"-diameter mechanical tubing (or filed-down 3/4" pipe) inside both parts to serve as a bridge.


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