Please note that the cars or exhibit items shown in this database are part of our collection but may not be on display when you visit.
During the communist regime in Poland, scooters were associated with the freedom and luxury of the West. After World War II, when the motoring industry had numerous difficulties to overcome, scooters became very popular in Eastern Bloc countries, especially during the second half of the 1950s. Warszawska Fabryka Motocykli (Warsaw Motorcycle Factory), or WFM, led by Polish engineer Jerzy Jankowski, envisioned a utilitarian scooter that would be inexpensive and comfortable enough to tackle the rough road conditions in Poland. Between 1955-56, three prototypes were developed: Żuk or “Beetle” (1955), Bąk or “Bumblebee” (1956), and 5 examples of the vehicle which was deemed the best for production, named Osa or “Wasp” (1957).
The Osa M-50 entered mass production in 1959, powered by a two-stroke 148cc motorcycle engine with a capacity of 6.5 hp. It had to be tilted forward in the scooter so that the cylinder was horizontal in the tunnel between the driver's feet. The Osa M-50 was bigger and sturdier than popular Italian models of the time. Engineered to cope with the unpaved roads of rural Poland, its 14-inch wheels, excellent trailing wishbone suspension, and the low center of gravity meant that Osa did well not only on Poland’s uneven roads but also in rallies in Czechoslovakia, Italy and Great Britain. Osa frequently entered enduro-type competition events, winning gold medal in the 1961 Welsh International Six Day Trial (ISDT), and three silver medals in the Garmisch Partenkirchen ISDT.
Osa’s style was the work of Krzysztof Meissner from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. The vehicle was meant to be utilitarian but it had a beautiful, Rubenesque, shape with handsome lines. The engine cowls had air-scoops flourished with plated feathering. Osa became a symbol of a new lifestyle, synonymous to the youth and social changes of the times.
Manufacturer: Warszawska Fabryka Motocykli
Country of Origin: Poland
Engine: Air-cooled single cylinder, 148cc, two-stroke, 6.5 hp
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Top Speed: 50 mph
Years of Production: 1959-1965
Number Produced: About 25,000 units (both models, M-50 and M-52)
Original Cost: 17 000 zloty (approx. $175 USD)