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|Key people||Mickey Rupp, founder, former CEO|
|Products||go-karts, snowmobiles, minibikes, dirt bikes|
|Key people||Mickey Rupp, founder, former CEO|
|Products||go-karts, snowmobiles, minibikes, dirt bikes|
Rupp Industries was a Mansfield, Ohio based manufacturer of go-karts, minibikes, snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles founded by Mickey Rupp in 1959. Rupp Industries operated from 1959 until bankruptcy in 1978. Rupp vehicles are known for their performance and bright red coloring, particularly the snowmobiles and off-road vehicles. They have since become extremely collectible.
Rupp Industries was born in 1959 when Mickey Rupp began assembling and selling go-karts from his basement. Originally Rupp Manufacturing, the name Rupp Industries was adopted by 1971. In that year Rupp employed 400, with 23 engineers in the R&D department and sales in the millions. In addition to their popular go-karts, Rupp began producing minibikes and snowmobiles in the early 1960s.
Mickey Rupp sold the company in 1973 when it ran into financial trouble. Although the company would continue to produce dirt bikes, minibikes and snowmobiles, they would never regain financial stability and by 1978 went bankrupt.
Mickey Rupp began assembling go-karts in his basement in the late 1950s. Rupp made many contributions to the design of go karts, including the step frame and a new braking system that augmented driver control and kart stopping power. Rupp karts featured single or dual engine models with behind seat mounted fuel tanks. Rupp would eventually introduce a kart with four wheel independent suspension.
The first Rupp karts introduced were called Dart Karts. Rupp also produced the A-Bone, A-Bone Deuce (both pictured to the right), Lancer, Monza Jr. and later the J Dart Kart. Rupp manufactured karts as late as 1968. The karts have become highly collectible and have a large following.
Following the success of their go-karts, Rupp began manufacturing mini bikes beginning in 1962 until the mid 1970s. Models included the Dart Cycle, Continental, Roadster, Scrambler, Hustler, Chopper, Black Widow, Enduro, Roadster 2, Swinger, Sprint, Digger, Goat, Ram, TT-500, XL-500, XL-350 and others. Rupp minibikes were made in a variety of styles with various features, including varying engine sizes, lighting kits and color options. Rupp offered upgrades to their bikes as well, including speedometers, luggage racks, lift bars, horns, mud flaps and crash bars.
The first Rupp minibikes were called Dart Cycles and were made starting in 1962. They featured a 2 1/2 HP, 4-cycle Lauson horizontal shaft engine with a Fairbanks-Morse clutch (an optional 3 HP was available for an extra charge). The bikes came with front suspension and rear drum brakes. They were advertised in Cycle World and other magazines.
Rupp's minibike offering in 1963 was the Dart Ridge Runner, classified as a trail scooter. It featured a 3 1/2 HP Lauson engine with a belt drive system and dual fuel tanks. A passenger seat was located over the two fuel tanks. It came in one color—high-visibility orange. The Ridge Runner was positively reviewed in Cycle World magazine's "Trail Test" in '63.
Rupp introduced their next line of minibikes in 1964 called the Continental. The 1964 Continental was rolled out with a 3 1/2 HP, 4-cycle Lauson engine as well as front and rear suspension. For the first time in 1964 Rupp also outfitted the bikes with a head and tail light. A chrome chain guard and chrome fenders were added features of the Continental. The Continentals had many models of their own, including the Electra, Custom, Special and Cub. All bikes were outfitted with 6" wheels.
The year 1968 marked a first for Rupp mini bikes in many ways, including the first and only year that the minibikes were made with disc brakes as well as the introduction of Tecumseh engines, which Rupp would use until the discontinuation of their minibikes. Rupp made significant changes to their Continental lineup and added the XL and TT models. In 1968 all Rupp bikes were available in metallic red, metallic blue or metallic gold and still featured the 6" wheels.
Some changes were made to the Continentals in 1968, including replacing the Lauson engine with a Tecumseh. Models were also designated with a C followed by a numeric based on the engine size. Three models of Continentals were offered in 1968 including the C-350, C-250 and C-220 Cub. The C-350 was outfitted with a 3 1/2 HP Tecumseh engine as well as a rear disc brake. The C-250 came with a 2 1/2 HP Tecumseh engine and also had a rear disc brake. The C-220, or Cub was an economy model which featured a different (not chrome) chain guard, as well as a scrub type brake, smaller seat and different fuel tank. The Cub could be purchased not assembled at a discount. 1968 marked the last year Rupp would make the Continental series of mini bikes.
The new models were the XL-350, XL-500 and TT-500. All of these newer models featured front and rear disc brakes, headlight/tailights, chrome chain guards and automatic clutches with jackshafts. Also new to these bikes were external spring shocks, front and rear, and noncontinuous forks and handlebars. The TT-500 was the top of the line newer model and featured a different chain guard as well as a two speed jackshaft. The XL-350 and XL-500 were identical, both featuring a single speed jackshaft, with the exception of the engine size—3 1/2 and 5 HP, respectively. Rupp also offered accessories for the bikes at an extra charge, including a front bicycle basket, windshield and crash bar.
In 1969 Rupp revamped their lineup with a totally new minibike offering and discontinued every bike from 1968. They also discontinued the disc brakes and replaced them with drum brakes. Rupp also introduced their first exhaust pipes to their bikes.
Rupp also offered a variety of economy models with frames similar to that of the Continentals with one piece fork/handlebars. These had differing engine sizes ranging from 2 1/2 HP to 5 HP. Some bikes came with front and/or rear suspension, others did not. The models included the Digger, Banchi, Sprint and Chopper.
Rupp's greatest change to their mini bike lineup in any year was arguably 1970. The frame was entirely redesigned and spoke-type wheels were introduced. The Roadster and Scrambler's 6" wheels were augmented to 10" spoke wheels and a new model, the Enduro was manufactured. These 10" wheel bikes were outfitted with 4HP Tecumseh HS40 engines.
A few economy models remained, including the Sprint which utilized the 1970 style frame but with the older 6" turbine style wheels. Other models included the Chopper and Major changes to the lineup in 1970: Rupp sold five models in 1970, the Roadster, Enduro, Scrambler, Sprint and Chopper. The style of the frame completely changed and for the first time Rupp used a slanted engine plate with diaphragm carburetor. Many features of the bikes were changed including the wheel size, gas tank, seat (notably manner of attachment), handlebars, exhaust pipe, taillight, chain guard, decals, new motorcycle style center kickstand and others.
Notably in 1970 Rupp introduced their TC-1 torque converter to some bikes that they would use on their higher priced models through '76. The TC-1 unit used a weighted clutch on the engine shaft with a belt drive to two sheaves on the jackshaft. The unit then ran a chain drive back to the rear wheel.
The year 1971 marked another set of changes to the Rupp line up. For the first time, 12" wire wheels were offered on bikes. The Roadster and Enduro were upgraded and a new model, the Black Widow, all came with the 12" wheels, either 24 or 28 spoke, the latter being rarer.
Some overall changes were made to the bikes: the handlebars were no longer welded to the mounts, the exhaust pipe now ran under the seat, the engines now used a float bowl carburetor/slanted intake combination and the front forks now had internal telescopic suspension. Bikes were offered in various colors, specific to the models.
Rupp introduced two new economy models for 1971, one using the newer frame style and another using the older style frame. The Rupp Bandit used the newer style frame on 10" mag wheels with Trials tires. It used a 2 1/1 HP Tecumseh engine with no TC-1 unit and the same chain guard as the 1970 Sprint. It had no suspension and was offered in blue only. The Rascal was essentially a renamed version of the '69 and '70 Chopper. It came in purple.
Rupp cut back their mini bike offerings in 1972. They still offered the Hustler, Scrambler and Roadster 2. No new Enduros or Black Widows were produced though some were sold. The major change to the lineup was the color scheme. All Rupps now came with black frames, swingarms and motorcycle fork; the gas tanks and rear fenders were the only painted items. The specs of the bikes remained the same. The Hustler and Scrambler were offered in red only. The Roadster 2 was additionally available in a copper color.
Rupp minibikes saw even more cutbacks to the lineup in 1973. The only bike that remained was the newly designed Roadster, stylized as the Roadster II. It continued to use a Tecumseh HS40 but with a larger blower housing. It came in two color options, brown and magenta. It continued to use 12" wheels on Rupp Trials tires, with 24 spokes only. Rupp sold their last minibikes in 1976.
Recognizing the need for a larger model bike, Rupp began producing and selling dirt bikes in 1972. Many models were produced, including the RMT, L, SS, RMX, RST and MX. Rupp sold their last models, the RX-80 and RST-100 in 1975.
Rupp manufactured some of the fastest and most sought after snowmobiles of their day. The first snowmobile produced by Rupp was the Sno Sport in 1964. Other models included the Yankee, Rally, Sprint, American, Magnum, Rogue, Nitro and others. Rupp also produced the world's first dragster snowmobile, the Rupp Super Sno Sport, in 1969.
Rupp also made some other vehicles including off-road and on road vehicles. These include the Go-Joe, Mini Go-Joe, Ruppster, Rat and Centaur. They also made some lesser known items, including a prototype ice boat.
Rupp vehicles have become very collectible and popular in the decades since the company's bankruptcy. Fairly simple to restore, they are popular as winter restoration projects. Rupp machines and parts often fetch high prices on auction sites such as eBay. Rupp mini bikes always have a good showing at car shows, and mini bike specific events such as the annual Minibike Reunion in Windber, Pennsylvania.