Although we have been told that “You’ve never had it so good,” there are still many people who haven’t got it good enough to afford a new motor car. The cheapest four-wheeler costs nearly £500, while the high cost of petrol, oil, tax, insurance, garaging, servicing, and so on can knock a very large hole in the weekly pay packet. However, there are still a number of people who prefer a new vehicle, and the only way to achieve this is by purchasing a three-wheeler, which is only subjected to a £5 Road Fund licence, requires lower insurance premiums and usually has a far better fuel consumption than most four-wheelers. With present-day traffic conditions the three-wheeler is also an excellent proposition as a second car for driving in crowded city streets.
There are nine different makes in quantity production on sale in Britain, six of which we were able to road-test. The makers of the Nobel and the Berkeley apparently had insufficient faith in their products to allow us to carry out a test, while the Reliant could not be made available in time for this issue. With typical refreshing Continental approach to car design, the Reinke’, Isetta and Messerschmitt were revolutionary when introduced after the war, while the British manufacturers, typified by Bond and Reliant, have retained the normal car layout. It is impossible to draw conclusions between the two approaches or even between individual makes, as no one vehicle embodies all the desirable features. We consider (and this is confirmed by its high sales) that the Isetta is the best buy in respect of road-holding, steering, comfort and noise level, but its fuel consumption and accommodation are not as good as some of the others. It must, however, be remembered that those using two-stroke engines require petroil mixture at 5s ld. per gallon.
The inherent weaknesses of the three-wheeler were taken into account when carrying out these tests, as the standards of roadholding, steering, braking, comfort and noise level are inferior to those of most four-wheeled vehicles. In the matter of reliability the three-wheeler has not yet reached the standards set by its larger brother, as both the Frisky and the Reinke’ suffered gearbox trouble, while the Isetta locked its brakes on. The gearboxes on the Bond, Messerschmitt and the Scootacar were none too certain at times. Most of those tested could only be regarded as town runabouts, for which job they are particularly useful, but on longer runs the majority become fatiguing to drive. It was suggested to us during our tests that the energetic Minister of Transport should ban all ears from city centres and supply a fleet of bubble ears for anyone entering the congested areas. With their short overall length the parking problem would vanish overnight! —M. L. T.
The general attitude to the Scootacar was best summed up by a garage hand who studied the car incredulously for a few moments, then grinned, and said : ” Sorry, mate, we don’t Service telephone boxes here.” Its unusual appearance creates great amusement everywhere it goes, and consequently is an entertaining vehicle to drive. Its total price of £275 makes it the cheapest enclosed vehicle on the British market and naturally the specification is rather spartan. The oddly-shaped glass. fibre. body is mounted on a steel platform to which is grafted the sliding pillar and coil-spring front suspension and swinging-arm rear suspension.
The 197-c.c. Villiers two-Stroke engine is mounted beneath the passenger’s seat (the Scootacar holds two adults) and the four-speed positive-stop gearbox is controlled by a rigid lever at the driver’s right-hand side. On the road the Scootacar is very lively up to 40 m.p.h. due to low gearing, but 50 m.p.h. is the maximum, which it will hold on half throttle. The engine is not too noisy but one has to become accustomed to the handlebar steering and the hard ride. The wiper is noisy and wipes only a small area, the exterior mirror is badly positioned, and the lamps are just about adequate for the Scootacar’s cruisingspeed. The rather hard seat would deter most people from making long journeys but as a town carriage it would be ideal. Hard driving gave 56 m.p.g. but a steadier gait achieved 63 m.p.g.
The Scootacar, which the Editor -considers is in the true tradition of cyclecars, is made by the Hunslet Engine Co., Ltd., who produced a car called the Attila in 1903. Sales Manager J. H. Melling is looking for information on this car and is also rebuilding a 3-litre Bentley as a relaxation from selling Scootacars.
Of similar general design to the Isetta (and the subject of a law suit), the Heinkel features a unitaryconstructed all-steel body/chassis unit with a forward-opening (Icor. It will carry two adults and two small children, or two adults and a fair anion /1 t of luggage. The two front wheels use Dubonnet-type i.f.s. and the rear wheel is sprung on a trailing arm and coilspring. The engine is a single-cylinder 198cc. o.h.v. unit giving 10 b.h.p. at 5;500 r.p.m., which is rather noisy in operation and also rather inflexible, so that occupants are troubled by vibration periods. much use of the gearbox being required to keep this from becoming too tiring. The four-speed and reverse gearbox is of the positive stop variety and it is advisable to double de-clutch all upward and downward changes to ensure correct engagement.
The seat position is rather upright, giving tall people backache after a while, but shorter drivers are not worried so much. The rack-and-pinion steering is excellent, giving a delightfully smooth action, while cornering was also of a high order except in the rain, when the rear wheel would skate about.
The best feature of the Heinkel is its fuel consumption, which averaged out at 72 m.p.g., and a lady driver obtained 86 m.p.g., which is a figure all three-wheelers should achieve with ease. Brave driving downhill vill see 65 m.p.h. on the clock hut a true 52 m.p.h. is available on the level. If the noise and vibration problem eould be overcome the Heinkel could easily outsell the Isetta as its fuel consumption-and accommodation are much better although at present it costs nearly .£40 more at £389 9s. 0d.
One of the best’ looking of the threewheelers, the Frisky was styled by Giovanni Miehelotti, the well-known Italian stylist who was also responsible for some of the Standard/ Triumph bodies. The frame is of ladder-type tubular frame con struction with by rubber in torsion, while the rear wheel is on a trailing .arm with a coil-spring and damper unit The engine is the Excelsior Tabstuna 246-c.c. two-stroke which gives 10.75 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. A three-speed gate-change Albion gearbox is in unit with this engine. Two adults can be accommodated in the front seats and two children on collapsible seats at the rear: The Michelotti styling has enforced some reduction in head and leg room to retain the clean lines, and anyone over 6 ft. in height would be decidedly cramped, and t he high door sills of the glass-fibre body make entry and exit rather awkward. The standard of interior -finish is very high.
The car tested was brand new and performance figures were rather poor due to a very Stiff engine which. had a tendency to seize. It was quiet in operation (by two-stroke standards) but would not propel the car at more than 45 m.p.h, Fuel consumption worked out to 56 m.p.g. Once the unusual gear-change is mastered, changes can be made very quickly, while the cam-gear steering is light and positive, Road-holding is good on smooth roads but bumpy secondary roads Ouse the car to pitch a lot. No fuel gauge or reserve tank is fitted, so that a careful watch has to be kept on fuel consumption. The Frisky sells at £391 16s. 8d.
Developed from the four-wheeler !satin and built under licence at Brighton, the Isetta three-wheeler is similar in .outline to the Ileinkel but differs in detail. The steering column is universally jointed so that it swings away when the front-mounted door is opened, allowing easy .access to the bench seat, which will held two adults in comfort or three at a pinch. No rear-seat room for children is provided. The engine is the 295-c.c. fan-cooled B.M.W. single-cylinder engine, which gives 13 b.h.p. In unit with the engine is a four-speed and reverse gearbox, which is operated from the left of the cockpit with the normal II-pattern change, which is, reversed, so that first-gear position is nearest to the driver. gear-change is better than most three-wheelers except for a hesitancy in selecting first gear from rest.
The suspension, by swinging arms and toil-springs at the front 1/4-elliptic springs and telescopic damper at the, rear, is first giving a remarkably soft ride, whilethe Burman steering gear is and responsive. The accessories are Of a better quality than found on the other three-wheelers, the headlamps being worthy of much faster velliele, and the windscreen wiper actually wipes of the screen. The son:shine roof is a boon in warm weather. On road 55 m.p.h. came up on top gear, but using the Isetta hard the fuel consumption down to 48 m.p.g., although it must be bered that it will consume the cheapest petrol on its 7-to-I sion-ratio. The standard model costs £314 19s. 6d. and the model, with front and. rear bumpers. hub caps, grab handle, and demister, and separate head and side lights, costs £349 19s 6d.
The three-wheeler obviously follows the design of the coekpit of its predecessor, the Messersehmitt fighter. The steel-tube frame is simple and the two front and one rear wheels are suspended on rubber spring and hydraulic dampers. The 19l-c.c. Sachs two-stroke engine drives the rear wheel by chain and develops 9.7 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. The tandem seats offer room for two adults and one child, although larger people would be rather cramped.
The handlebar steering will come as a surprise to most people except Kart drivers and the first drive will consist of a series of erratic swerves, but most drivers soon adjust themselves quite happily. The gear lever is to the right of the cockpit and operates the four-speed positive-stop gearbox. The engine rotation can be reversed for reversing.
On the road the KR200 is noisy but this improves as the revs. rise. The gear-change is very good apart from an occasional reluctance to engage first gear, and is much quicker than most gate-change boxes. The ride is choppy and it is best to avoid manhole covers and the like. Steering is rather heavy and not up to the standard of the rack-andpinion layout on the Ileinkel. On a downhill straight 65 m.p.h. was seen on the clock but 55 m.p.h. is the maximum on the level. Driving hard, we achieved 51 m.p.g. from the 3-gallon tank, half a gallon of which is trapped in reserve. The standard model costs £318 1s. 1d. and the de luxe £332 10s. 9d.
One of the first of post-war British minicars, the latest Bond uses a steel chassis frame with a stressedskin aluminium body shell. It is made in three forms, a 2/3seater coupe, 2/3seater tourer and a four-Seater saloon. The 250-c.c. Villiers single-cylinder twostroke engine is mounted over the single front wheel, which is suspended on a trailing arm using a double-acting hydraulic shock-absorber and coil-spring. suspended on trailing arms.The two rear wheels are also suspended on trailing arms.
The four-speed gearbox is controlled by a lever which is rather uncertain in operation. The steering gives a 90-deg. lock either way, which is useful in traffic, but the weight of the engine over the wheel makes the end very lively on anything but the smoothest surfaces. In the car, which was a tourer model, the engine let the occupants. when it was running at peak revs, by vibrating the whole vehicle a most alarming manner. Although the engine is not the of those we have tested, it bangs and splutters badly at idling Like the Frisky, the Bond has no reserve tap or petrol gauge, so spare can is essential if one is not in the mood for mathematics, and if the speedometer breaks one is in real Claimed maximum speed is 55 m.p.h. but the vibration set in at true 48 m.p.h., causing any further speed attempts to be Petroil consumption worked out at 58 m.p.g.
Like many of the other three-wheelers the Bond has a Owners’ Club which promotes many social and „sporting throughout the year, while one hardy member even completed 873-mile run from Land’s End to John O’Gronts in 23 he, .40 Prices range from £327 18s. 9d. to £376 18s. 9d.