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These are your ancestors' 3-Wheelers.

Gallery V014

My thanks go to Gordon Bennet for this photograph of his old Gordon.  Gordon writes:

I bought one of these for 30 pounds (a months pay) by chance at the age of 17. It was at a time when you could legally drive a 3 wheeler on a motorcycle licence provided it weighed less than 7cwt (350 kg) and was not capable of reversing under power.

The vehicle was powered by the ubiquitous 197cc Villers 9E 2 stroke engine (a very crude thirsty engine) It had a 3 speed and reverse gear box connected to a lever inside the cab. The reverse notch was blocked off with a simple bolt (easily by passed). It was equipped with a car dynamo and 12v electrics (not very good) It had 2 crude electric windscreen wipers.

The front wheel was a leading link sprung suspension similar to a motorcycle. The hand brake also only operated on the front wheel. This hand an amusing characterstic. If the driver applied the handbrake sharply on a dry road, say approaching a junction), the wheel would lock and the whole front end would buck up and down like a bronco, in a most dramatic and alarming way (great fun for scaring a bus queue).

The engine drove the offside rear wheel only via a simple chain. The rear wheel suspension was a trailing link swing arm supported by a coil spring and integral damper. The bushes would wear quickly leaving the wheel noticeably out of alignment (splayed outwards). This meant that the drive chain would regularly come of the wheel sprocket. I got so fed up with having to run around, crawl under the trike and put the chain back on in heavy traffic, rain and snow. In the end I cut an access hole in the wheel arch and this enabled me to replace the chain from the drivers seat. I was permanently oily (not popular with my gf).

The cloth hood had disintegrated so I contrived to build a body on top
instead. All bits were obtained from a local scrap yard for about 5 pounds. The wooden door frame and similar on the drivers side had slding window panes and came from an Alvis speed 20 shooting brake. The petrol fill cap came from a SS jag.. Other features were a raked back rear window modelled on the popular 105E Ford Anglia. A folding sunroof (with me poking out of it) and a bench front seat modelled on the Ford MkII Zephyr also very popular with my gf.

Unfortunately I had cut through a chassis memeber to install this seat and within a short while the body was begiing to collapse through lack of a support member. I solved the problem with some very stout gusset plates and a dozen 1/2 inch bolts. That did the trick.

I re -routed the air flow from the engine cooling fan and cut a hole in the drivers side to allow warm air into the cabin. One could slide a plate over this opening in the summer. The engine had to be kick started from outside. On the many occasions when I was stopped by the police on my way home from a bop, I would ask them to give me a push or a kickstart. They stopped hassling me out of curiosity (as they did with youngsters in those days).

It would do about 45 mph max (but would overheat at such prolonged high speed) and about 45mpg. Driving on snow laden roads was a nightmare because the snow would be heaped up in the middle of a track, so the front wheel would bounce from one track to the other. Hedgehogs were a pain because they would hear you coming and
curl up into a ball in the middle of the road. If you hadnt seen it you
would bounce over the creature and nearly lose control.

One time I broke down on the M1 motorway in the snow (water in the magneto). I abandoned ship and got the AA to arrange a tow to the nearest garage. Well the average tow truck isnt equipped for towing a trike, so they wrapped a rope around the front grill and promptly pulled it right off. The trike found its way back to my house plus a large can of paint filler and the front grill in the back seat. I never did get a bill for that work.

I wanted to do some work on the underside so I was able to lift up the nearside myself and prop it up on its remaining 2 wheels using some wooden props. Very convenient, till I discovered that the front axle couldnt take the strain and promptly broke in half (very surprining considering it was 1/2 inch diameter. Well I fetched it out, took it to work and turned up a new one on a lathe - much stronger than before.

On the whole it was a pretty stable vehicle and very utilitarian with a 112 foot turning circle. Notice it had relatively large wheels (from a Baby Austin). I had lots of fun and eventually traded it in for a Triumph Speed twin 500 (rear sprung hub).

In these fuel concious days, I believe there is still a niche for the ultra
economy 3 wheeler which does at least 100mpg, 55mpg, 3 seater with dicky seat/luggage compartment weighing less than 350kgs.

The French made the 2CV in 1935 60mph 60mpg, a brilliant concept even then.

Oh Well