CC Outtake: Basket Handles and More, From the Sears Catalog

Basket Handles

The 1977 Ford Thunderbird Town Landau profiled this morning, with its prominent basket-handle B pillar, prompted pulling out a photo of a 1977-79 Thunderbird side by side with a smaller user of the same basket-handle B pillar, the Fairmont Futura coupe introduced in 1978.  Lee Iacocca’s habit at both Ford and Chrysler of re-using the same styling features has been the subject of many commentaries, including in the case of the Fairmont Futura here.

This side by side comparison shows how extensively Ford re-used the Thunderbird’s roof styling features in the Fairmont Futura, from the B pillar and side window shapes to the character line sweeping backward from that B pillar — everything but the small window inset into the B pillar.  “The Futura Is Now” proclaimed Ford’s ads, but a more accurate tagline may have been “The Futura Is a Mini-Thunderbird.”

Eagle eyed observers with long memories may have recognized in the background the 1964 Imperial profiled last November.  As if a pair of 1970s basket handle Fords and a 1960s Imperial were not enough oddball classic goodness for one parking lot, there was more sitting curbside only a few steps back.


Holding up an adjacent cycle and scooter shop’s mailbox was a Sears Allstate Puch scooter, made in Austria by Steyr-Daimler-Puch and a relic of the era when Sears Roebuck had a large automotive line of business under the Allstate name.  Allstate began in 1926 as a brand of tires, its name chosen by a contest that Sears conducted in 1925, in which almost 1 million people submitted entries at a time when the entire population of the U.S. was 115 million.  Allstate Insurance, which continues to thrive today, followed in 1931.  In 1952-53, Sears briefly sold Kaiser-Frazer’s Henry J compact in its stores as an Allstate, but it was an unsuccessful move with only 2,363 cars sold.  Far more successful was Sears’ sales of mopeds and scooters, which lasted from the 1950s to the 1970s.

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Sears sold Puch scooters and mopeds as Allstates, along with Vespa and Gilera scooters.  The famously comprehensive Sears Catalog listed them through 1963, after which they became store-only items.

Allstate 250 cropped

The Sears/Allstate motorcycle department’s pinnacle in size and sophistication was the Puch 250 SGS, a motorcycle whose 250cc two stroke engine had an unusual split-single layout, with two pistons sharing a single combustion chamber.  Puch made split single two strokes from 1923 to 1970.  Allstate sold the Puch 250 SGS from 1953 to 1970 as the Allstate 250 or Twingle.

Puch cropped

This Sears Allstate Puch scooter is an 810-94381, a model that dates back to the early 1960s.  This example appears to be rough but complete after over half a century of riding, storage, and outdoor display in the elements.  Most likely, no one will ever consider it to be worth restoring and its sheet metal will live out its life in this way, but it does make an interesting conversation piece for anyone who recognizes it.

Twingle Engine