Wards-Riverside (pre-1965) made in France by Motobecane Motobecane engine
These were made from the late 1950’s to the mid 1960’s by Motobecane in France, for Montgomery Wards department stores throughout the USA. You could order one from their catalog. They were models AV78 and AV88.
Myrons Mopeds showroom has a Wards Riverside Mo-Ped hanging on the wall, an AV88 model, incomplete, but still cool. Everybody likes to see it and many people want to buy it. It’s exhaust interchanges with the 1970’s kind, even though it’s more rounded.
Montgomery Wards was one of the three major US department store chains that sold motorcycles, scooters, mini-bikes, or mopeds, in their catalogs and stores. The Wards line was named “Riverside”. The earliest Wards Riverside models from the 50′s and early 60′s where French-made Motobecane mopeds that consisted of models like the AV88 and AV78. There were also some scooters made by Japan’s Mitsubishi and Italy’s Bianchi companies. In 1965, Wards changed manufacturers and opted to sell mostly machines from the Italian company Benelli. Benelli offered not only a few different moped models but also a line of 2 stroke/single cylinder motorcycles that could compete in the marketplace with the Austrian Puch motorcycles that Sears was selling under their Allstate brand. See Benelli.
By 1970 the moped and motorcycle sales went away for the two department store retailers primarily due to the Japanese invasion with highly engineered, reliable and powerful 4 stroke motorcycles under the likes of Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki. Also, in 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to oversee and combat increasing pollution and air quality issues. Smokey two stroke motorcycles and other high emission vehicles would be the first targets.
After the mid-70′s gasoline shortage in the US, moped sales and popularity exploded. In 1978 Montgomery Ward (and Sears) began selling 2 stroke mopeds again. This time around, Wards sold the re-branded German-made Solo/Columbia Commuter moped, and two USA-made AMF models. Later they sold USA-made EZ Rider/Minarelli mopeds, and in California stores, the French-made 1980 Peugeot 102 (on sale for $279). Sears, once again, also started selling Puch (Kromag) powered mopeds but under their Free Spirit moniker. Catalog and department store retailer J.C Penney also got in on the moped action in 1977 by offering its own Puch (Kromag) based mopeds under the names of Swinger and Pinto. By 1981 the moped craze was over and all three department stores discontinued selling mopeds, this time for good.