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Bike Review - Posted 27th June 2016
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Heinkel / Trojan Kabine

Roy Workman re-lives his youth with a ride in a three-wheeled bubblecar, powered by a 200cc scooter engine...

Ever since I was a small child I’ve had an interest in micro-cars. There were lots of these small cars of under 700cc popping around in the 1950s. Later, in the early 1960s I worked at Canvey Island for a while and travelled home every week to Kent. This was in the middle of winter, and the roads were covered with snow and ice, and riding my Matchless motorcycle got quite hairy at times. Walking past a motor dealers on the island I spotted a BMW Isetta bubble car - this could what I was looking for. I purchased the BMW and my journeys home became less hair-raising, and definitely a warmer!

Heinkel / Trojan Kabine

The car was surprisingly roomy. A friend of mine, a 6’ 5” tall rugby player, laughed when I said hop in - however he got in all right. I quite enjoyed my time it with the Isetta. It coped well with the hills in Kent provided that you made full use of the gearbox, but eventually it was sold on.

Heinkel / Trojan Kabine

Recently I had a ride in another type of bubble car. This was the Heinkel / Trojan Kabine. This was courtesy of Mike and Paula, who run the Bubblecar Museum and campsite near Boston in Lincolnshire. The Heinkel was made in Germany for a couple of years from 1956. However, a copyright dispute led to production of the vehicle being transferred under licence to Dundalk in Ireland. Sadly the build quality was not the best and the licence was withdrawn after a short period of time.

Heinkel / Trojan Kabine
Bubblecars (Maybe) on Now...

From 1960 to 1966 the car was made by Trojan Cars in Croydon, and it was appropriately re-named the Trojan. Building the car for right hand drive instead of left called for a little clever thinking and ingenuity. For instance, the floor panel was turned over to make it work for British roads. The wiring loom was also simply inverted, but not every part was that simple to work with, and some required extra parts welding on.

Mike runs the Trojan when time and weather permit. It is powered by a Heinkel Tourist 198cc scooter engine. There is plenty of room for two passengers to sit in comfort. The Trojan cruises nicely at 45 to 50mph and top speed is in the high 50s. I had forgotten how well bubblecars handled; it really cornered well and it was a nice smooth ride. Mike has raced 2CV cars and it shows in his handling of the bubble car. The Trojan has a sequential gearbox, unlike the BMW which had the more usual H-gate system. The Trojan also has a slightly deeper windscreen, giving a better view of the road than the other make.

Heinkel / Trojan Kabine

Working on the Trojan engine is easier because there is a lift-up section at the rear of the car, whereas the BMW had a side panel that you removed to access the 250cc engine. My BMW had twin back wheels which were very close together, like some front scooters wheels today. These four-wheelers were classified as cars and you had to pay full purchase tax (the forerunner of VAT) and car tax on them. You also had to have a full car licence to drive these. The bubblecars had a hinged roof which folded back; this was your escape route in case of an accident where you could not open the single front door

Heinkel / Trojan Kabine

Towards the end of 1963 Trojan started running out of body panels, and those panels which had been discarded earlier because of dents or damage were refurbished and used. Some of the work was a bit Heath Robinson; on the inside of the door, the hole for the left-hand drive wiper blade had a piece of metal welded in it, and another hole was drilled to take the right-hand fitting. The earlier models had glass quarter-lights surrounded by chrome for added ventilation. However, when these ran out, pieces of plastic were used without any metal surround. Mike told me that the Trojan badge on the door had to be that big to cover up the fixing holes for the earlier H-for Heinkel badge.

Heinkel / Trojan Kabine

It was really nice to have a ride in a bubblecar again, as it was over 50 years since I had the Isetta and you forget just how good they were. By the mid-1960s bubblecars were going out of fashion; the Mini had a lot to do with this. The Mini van was a bit cheaper than most three-wheelers because, at that time, there was no purchase tax charge on vans.

The museum is well worth a visit, and at £3 a time to see over 50 micro-cars on display it is a good deal. There is also a collection of motorcycles and scooters; the Heinkel scooter engine works in the bubblecar. Lots of the motorcycles on display have Villiers engines – these engines were very popular in British made micro-cars: a nice touch!

On my last visit I noted they were charging £15 for a ride in the Trojan, a visit to the museum and a tea / coffee and a piece of cake in their café. Gift tokens for this package are available. The café does a nice selection of light bites. Mike and Paula have worked hard here, and also with the adjoining campsite.

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If you fancy a bubblecar ride, check first to see if the Trojan is doing rides that day. 01205 280037 / www.bubblecarmuseum.co.uk

The museum is situated on Main Road, Langrick near Boston PE22 7AW. It opens Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on Bank Holidays from Easter to Guy Fawkes night. Last admissions are at 4pm and there are plenty of brown tourist signs to guide you there.

Thanks to Mike for his expert knowledge which helped with this article.


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