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Trike Profile - Posted 15th June 2012

Bond Minicar 2
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Two wheels good: three wheels better? Alan Freke recalls his time with a Minicar, including converting it from Villiers-power to being driven by a four-stroke BSA engine...

Another RC contributor's experiences with a Bond Minicar rang a bell. I had two Bond Minicars in the 1960s; the first a Mark B when I was seventeen, which was a bit of fun, and the second, a Mark C plus 2, when I was nineteen, which was used for several years, including a number of serious journeys. On one occasion my fiancée and I travelled from Bristol to Devon, and on another to her sister's home near Manchester. Following our marriage in 1964, we drove it from Bristol to our new home in Kidsgrove, north Staffs, where it gave good service until replaced by a Reliant Regal.

1961, and a Bonda Minicar features on the front cover of Motor Cycling...

Was Bond Minicar ownership all plain sailing? No. There were drawbacks.

The Mark C I owned had an electric starter, which consisted of a car-type starter motor mounted above the engine, with a loose pulley outboard of the engine flywheel. When the starter motor was energised the Bendix gear was supposed to move the belt, which normally went around the loose pulley, over onto the flywheel itself, and thus turning the engine, although I never remember it so doing.

The back-up was a floor mounted lever - like a handbrake lever - to the driver's left, which had a cable from halfway up, which went through the bulkhead, and was attached to the normal 8E kickstart. Using it was very hard work, and I guess anyone using it regularly would end up like a Fiddler crab, with a giant set of muscles on the left arm. Much easier to open the bonnet, and just kick. A bit undignified - but it worked!

1950 Bond Minicar advertisement...

In an attempt to produce a more sophisticated vehicle I spent most of a summer holiday fitting a BSA C10 engine in place of the Villiers 8E. This was a non-trivial task, and I had to spend most of the time chain-drilling and filling to make engine/gearbox plates (no electric drill in those days) and arrange for an oil tank, and many other minor changes, like the gear-change linkage. When I road tested the only four-stroke Bond in the world the result was awful, and I spent the last day of the holiday putting it back to standard. You may think that I had wasted my time, but I had learned something - I was an idiot!

Another feature of the later Bond concerned the side windows. These Perspex windows just slotted onto two pintles on the front windscreen side support, and they had a PVC flap below the Perspex, which being flexible, allowed you to put your hand out to make hand-signals. Unfortunately ours only had one side window, so when it rained and there were two in the car, whoever was on the windward side had the window. Simple, really!

During one winter the Bond was left overnight in a railway station car park, and the front wheel froze solid into a deep puddle. When we tried to drive away we discovered that the engine didn't have enough power to break the ice, so we walked home for some thermos flasks of boiling water to effect the escape…

Advert for Bond Mark C...
Three Wheelers on Right Now......

A memorable incident in the Bond came about when I tried to rush some traffic lights, which I judged to be about the change against me. I attempted to change down into second, and made a hash of it. It had a three-speed gearbox with a dash mounted change lever. There was no positive-stop, or traditional car-type gate, you just had to feel for second and neutral, and on this occasion I got neutral instead of second.

As I floored the accelerator the engine screamed to whatever the limit is on an unloaded Villiers 8E is, before the flywheel came off! Flywheel ignition meant a sudden silence from the engine, which was punctuated by the clang of the flywheel hitting the road at 5000rpm or so. It was as if I had launched a torpedo, as the spinning flywheel took off down the road ahead of me like a scalded cat. The car, now devoid of even the little power the engine normally gave, rolled to a standstill.

I nonchalantly got out and wandered up the road until I found the fugitive flywheel many hundreds of yards away…

Slightly creepy, spy-shot style photo of a Bond Mark C...

In 1963 I was a final year apprentice, and my friend Dave was a temporary clerk in the same department. Dave was rebuilding his Vincent Black Shadow at the time, and had bought aircraft quality bearings from BAC for the engine and gearbox rebuild. However, he wasn't doing it himself, but trusting the rebuild to Messrs Harper of Stevenage, who, following the demise of Phil Vincent's company, had taken over as the main Vincent experts. So early one Saturday morning (probably about 5am) we left his house with not only a Vincent twin engine/gearbox in the child seats of the Bond, but various other parts of the bike as well. There must have been quite a lot of the bike, as we couldn't close the hood, so it was lucky it didn't rain.

Our objective was to reach Harper's before noon, as that was when they closed on a Saturday. We made it with time to spare, but were met with a closed sign. Dave frantically banged on the doors, until finally someone opened up. No they wouldn't take the parts we'd brought, as they were closed for stocktaking. Dave pleaded with them, but they were adamant, until he pointed to the Bond and told them that we'd come all the way from Bristol in it. That did the trick, and drawing a chalk box on the floor, told us to put everything within the box upon which they wrote 'do not count'.

We had probably travelled about 40 miles towards Bristol before we opened the bag with our sandwich lunch, and discovered the cardboard box with the aircraft spec. bearings! In all the fuss over stocktaking Dave had forgotten to hand them over. A quick about turn, and the bearing were delivered. I seem to remember that it was early evening before we got home, and I never did see the rebuilt Shadow before I moved away. Dave told me he had to sell it when it was finished. as money was needed. He struggled to get £100 for it...

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