1966 Sears Allstate 250

This was my first bike, and it was a fairly ignominious beginning. It's not that it was such a bad bike, but it was certainly not stylish, and, even for a 250, the performance was hardly exciting. My hip self image was not complemented by the conservative-looking Allstate, or certainly not in the fashion which I desired.

Puch twingle engine The Allstate 250 was actually made by Puch of Austria, and featured a unique engine design with two pistons arranged in tandem on a common crankpin. By virtue of the unusual arrangement of the connecting rod big ends, with only one connected to the crankpin and the other connected to the first, the pistons moved up and down in parallel bores but arrived at TDC at different times. The combustion chamber was figure eight shaped, as if the wall between two chambers melted. There were two spark plugs firing simultaneously by virtue of separate Bosch coils, a single set of points and a six volt ignition system. The single carburetor mounted to the left side of the cylinder, with a 32 mm bore leading to the intake port on the side of the front piston wall (the pistons are mislabeled in the above illustration). This design was intended to afford asymmetrical port timing, since the intake and exhaust ports were opened and closed by the front piston, while the transfer ports were unmasked by the rear cylinder. At the time this design was unveiled, the big innovation in two-stroke technology, loop scavenging, was just beginning to prove itself, and the Puch design actually seems to incorporate a general, if primitive, loop scavenge design as well as the asymmetric port timing. When compared with contemporary ('50's vintage) designs, the "twingle" performance does not seem too shabby.

But this wasn't 1957, it was 1967, and the Sears Allstate was dead meat for anything from a Honda 160 on up. Comparison with Japanese 250's of the era such as the Suzuki X-6 or the Kawasaki Samurai were laughable from any sporting perspective. One unfortunate aspect of the Puch's design was a necessarily undersquare bore/stroke ratio, contributing to a low-revving engine with heavy pistons. The ports were small to match the bores, but with the long stroke they could be, or had to be, left open longer. But the "Puke" did have its virtues. The frame, suspension and brakes were generally up to the task of dealing with the earth-shaking 16 ponies cranked out by the well muffled "powerplant." For some reason the little 16 inch wheels worked well on gravel roads. The seat, like the taillight, was made in England, and featured a spring construction which was comfortable even if it didn't make for svelte design.

Sears Scrambler The overall styling of the Allstate was similar to the Honda Dream/Benly series, which is to say reserved, even stuffy. The fenders were generously proportioned on the '66 model. The throttle was of the scroll variety with the cable neatly routed through the handlebars a la Harley Davidson. The gas tank was also Harley-esque, with two caps, the second for the oil which fed the efficient oil injection system. The absence of a kick stand was consistent with Teutonic thinking of the time, and the left side kickstarter completed the Weird Harold character of the bike.

The Puch was the basis for my first customizing efforts. In the late '60's my influences were primarily Rickman Mettisse machines, whose Spartan and functional lines are still attractive. I trimmed off about half of the front fender, and bobbed the rear, which in this pressed steel design was integral with the frame. I also canned the stock handlebars in favor of flat drag bars, with a quick throttle, no less. I also attempted hot-rodding the twingle, cutting away at the piston crowns and skirts, all with no appreciable effect on performance other than the disappearance of a smooth idle.

I ended up with probably the only blue metalflake cafe style Allstate 250 in this hemisphere. I rode it a total of one and a half years, graduating to a single carb BSA 650 in the fall of 1968. The Allstate was resurrected briefly after I crashed the BSA the following summer, but eventually it was sold off for parts. A few of its components continued to serve on other bikes. The drag bars went onto my BSA, the English seat saw some service on my Sportster when comfort was more important than style, and the Lucas tail light put in many thousands of much faster miles mounted to the tail piece of my Kawasaki Z1.

Copyright 1998 by Patrick Inniss.  All rights reserved.

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