The Dangerous Past: the 1941 U.S. Army Cushman Model 53 “Parascooter”

Even by today’s standards, the (U.S. Army Cushman Model 53) Cushman Airborne 53 Parascooter is a powerful, capable all-terrain scooter. Cushman was tapped to build a scooter that would allow a single soldier to have swift, utilitarian mobility at a fraction of the cost or weight of a Jeep.

ALSO SEE: The Dangerous Past: The Honda ATC-70 Three Wheeler

Like a motorcycle, the Parascooter had a kick-start gas engine with a roller bearing crankshaft. Producing 4.6-horsepower from a one-cylinder, four-stroke 242cc engine, the 250+ lbs Parascooter was capable of a 40 mph top speed. With a gas tank that held slightly over a gallon of gasoline, the Parascooter was capable of up to 100 miles of driving range and it could climb a 25% grade. 

Slick utility ideas like the tire size matching up with aircraft tire size, so they could easily be replaced, or the rear hitch which could be used to tow trailers and small vehicles (while in low gear) made the Parascooter well suited for our troops. There were versions that had a side-car and three wheels as well.

The 1941 U.S. Army Cushman Model 53 Parascooter was ideal for the paratrooper as it could be dropped anywhere and was easy to maintain. Often used as a small reconnaissance vehicle, a message delivery conveyance and small tow vehicle, the Parascooter could also hold a 50-caliber machine gun. 

There are a few still lurking around, left in Europe as many were abandoned after the war, though some of the 15,000 built made it back to the United States. The Cushman Model 53A was the civilian spin-off of the Parascooter and it sold well for years. In many ways, it was an early example of an off-road fun vehicle well before the 1973 ATC.

I did ride one, although it was the civilian Model 53A, it still was the same machine. While it was speedy, it had no suspension (other than the seat’s springs) and it was terrible on rutted or rocky trails. Some of the metal components were sharp and placed in areas that seemed sadistic as injuries were common. It was pretty noisy too.

Do you have any experiences with the Parascooter? Let us know!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.