Cyclecar days

Just before the First World War all manner of new makes were competing in the market for “motors-for-the-millions” which had grown out of the cyclecar boom at the 1912 Motorcycle Show at Olympia.

One such car, as reader Mr RW Lavender of Leicester has reminded us, was the Kennedy, which surfaced in 1914, made in a factory in Oaklands Road, off Welford Road in Leicester, by a Mr Kenneth Kennedy-Skipton. This engineer and intellect, says Mr Lavender, later inherited a small estate near Dublin, where he lived from the 1940s until he died in the 1970s; his wife survived him and lives in Dublin with his older children, while his youngest son lives in Huddersfield.

The Kennedy had a water-cooled four-cylinder 69mm x 90mm (1346cc) Salmon engine, driving the back-axle by friction-transmission and side belts, and fed by a Zenith carburettor. Its chassis had a long wheelbase of 9ft, track of 4ft, and overall width of 4ft 8in. There was a useful 91/2in ground clearance, in spite of the customary skinny tyres, in this case 700mm x 80mrn on wire wheels.

Steering was by rack-and-pinion and a simple but effective interconnection of hand and foot throttle-controls was a feature. The two-seater was a smart little car despite its simple construction, with a radiator not unlike that of the Horstmann; with lamps, screen and hood the weight remained in the region of 8cwt.

The selling agents were set up as Kennedy, Skipton & Co of 70 Rutland Street, Leicester, and the well-known motorcyclist Harold Petty of King Street, Leicester, was an agent — late in 1914, after war had broken out, others were being sought.

Of course, the war had killed the project stone dead by 1916, although a revised design, with a conventional three-speed gearbox and an overhead-worm-drive back axle was in course of development and an automatic transmission may also have been visualised. It is thought that a Mr Brookes was in charge of assembly.

The price of the Kennedy was £131.5s in 1914, with a hood and windscreen and neatly-valanced running-boards. Its lines were quite sporting. Among the prizes awarded at the Cyclecar Club Rally late in 1914 (starting at Hatfield, going to Wisley Hut on the Portsmouth Road for lunch, and ending at Burford Bridge) were three for the most novel features. First prize went to the Horstmann, second prize to the Old Mill, and a Kennedy took the third prize for the clean appearance of this white two-seater with aluminium bonnet, for its novel design, and for the method of obtaining increased pressure on the friction-disc when it was giving a low ratio. A breath of an age long gone! WB