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Trike Profile - Posted 23rd September 2011

Bond Minicar
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This three-wheeler was sold as a car but was powered by a motorcycle motor and was sold squarely at riders who wanted to little more luxury in life. Greg Powell is definitely experienced...

The Bond Minicar was definitely aimed at discontented motorcyclists looking for something with more weather protection than two-wheels could provide. In the early 1950s the Minicar was displayed in bike showrooms like Pride and Clarke, with good deals offered for motorcycles in part-exchange. Prospective purchasers could view the Minicar at the 1953 Motor Cycle Show and marvel at its independent suspension with brakes on all wheels. Britain's 'finest three-wheeler' was powered by a 250cc Villiers motor: 'Britain's finest two-stroke engine'. It had four forward gears plus reverse, with 12 Volt electrics running a Siba electric starter.

'More Room! More Power!'...

The Minicar majored on a combination of comfort and economy. It was marketed as 'the world's most economical car' with 40 to 45mph cruising speeds returning 80 to 90mpg fuel consumption. Or you could do 55mph and get 75mpg in the four-seater, which promised to cram two adults and two children 'in greater comfort'. Bond didn't mention compared to what - 'greater comfort' than a unicycle, perhaps!

I well remember the back seat of the Bond Minicar and can understand Dave Minton's discomfort (see RC88). I was only twelve when my sister bought one and I was consigned to the back seat on outings while she and her boyfriend occupied the front. This was not the classy electric start model, but an early one that needed the bonnet opening and an embarrassing kickstart if stalled in traffic. Its only saving grace was the ability to turn on its own length.

'Power in Plenty'...
Three Wheelers on Right Now......

There is a level crossing at Moreton on Lugg near Hereford. It's on a bend in the track and used to be notoriously uneven, necessitating bottom gear and very slow progress in any vehicle. The plan hatched by my sister and her chap, and revealed to me too late to argue my case, was to run flat out (probably 45mph) then up the slight ramp to the crossing, when the little car would become airborne, landing safely the other side. It was a complete success until the landing, which was not taken kindly by its tiny wheels and primitive suspension. Whiplash doesn't come near to describing the result.

Other happy memories were of being hunched prone in the back during a really bad winter while the driven wheel/engine unit tried to follow the ridge of frozen slush in the centre of the road left by more conventional vehicles. Every time it fell off, the floorpan would impact with the ice. The Minicar eventually went the same way as most of its kind, the aluminium alloy bodywork being worth more as scrap than the car's resale value.

He looks happy enough...

I can't really be too critical though, later swapping a lovely 500cc AJS single for a Reliant Regal coupe - it was a choice of either that or a Morgan with a Matchless V-twin engine. I chose the Reliant (a much more sophisticated vehicle than either the Bond or Morgan, with a four cylinder 750cc sidevalve motor) as I thought spares would be easier to find. We all make the occasional mistake.

The chassis was so rustily flexible that if passengers were taken in the back, the doors would gradually jam shut during the journey, trapping the occupants if the hood was up. It would also lift a rear wheel if the driver dared to ease up on the throttle when negotiating a bend. The last straw was when the wooden floor caught fire one hot summer day. It did have a genuine Rolls Royce flying lady mascot on the bonnet though - I was Delboy before his time (though in retrospect, Rodney is probably more accurate).

The very best memory though is of driving five-up the 40 miles to Cheltenham in a winter fog, using the puny 6-Volt headlights to follow the centre white line. This was to see Jimi Hendrix at the Blue Moon club above Burtons Tailors on his first UK tour the week 'Hey Joe' was released. Brilliant - it was all stadia after that!

I can't help thinking that, although probably safer, today's young drivers miss out on a lot of fun. Or perhaps they just find it in different ways.

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