The Duo



This venture was commenced in 1910 by Mr LF de Peyrecave, just as the Cyclecar Craze, the so-called “new motoring”, was preparing to take off. Duos were originally supplied by Duocars Ltd of 70 York Street, London SW, though the factory was at Deptford, in Alpha Street, south-east London. The name was rather clever, because there was a tendency to refer to all two-seater cyclecars as duos . . . The concept was commendably simple. The frame was reinforced ash, with halfelliptic springs. The tubular front axle had car-type stub-axles, but these were moved by three cables working independently, over a bobbin made of fibre. Wire wheels were shod with 650×65 tyres. A (AP 85x85mm vee-twin engine, fan-cooled, drove by chain to a countershaft and then via expanding-pulleys, giving variable ratios as these were expanded or contracted in sympathy with movement of the back axle (no clutch). Lubrication was by hand pump from an underseat tank. A Lukin carburettor and Bosch magneto were used. Braking was achieved by pushing forward the belttensioning lever, so that the belt-rims contacted two brake blocks. There was a normal accelerator pedal and the clutch

and belt-tensioning pedals were inscribed ‘Duo’. That was the form of this simple cyclecar, which in 1912, when the craze was at its height, sold for £99.15/ — , with a two-seater body. It weighed only 4%2 cwt. Mr de Peyrecave obtained excellent publicity for his cyclecars. He and others drove them in reliability trials, took records at Brooklands, and The Cyclecar magazine (a Temple Press weekly which quickly sold out at the 1912 Motorcycle Show its initial print-run of 80,000 copies, so that another 20,000 had to be run off) bought a Duo as a staff car. There was also the distinction of the photographic front cover of the first issue of this journal, published on November 27 1912 (price Id) depicting a procession of four Duos being driven along a country road, the first one by a lady, who 1 expect was Mrs Peyrecave. (Incidentally, this effective fullpage photographic cover, before the age of colour, was to remain a feature of this magazine for a great many years, even after it had been renamed The Light Car & Cyclecar) Before the end of October 1912 de Peyrecave and McArthur (Duo directors) had set records of up to nine hours and 300

miles, at Brooklands, averaging over 38.3 mph.

At the first rally of the newly-formed Cyclecar Club (which was to become the Junior Car Club and after WW2 the British Automobile Racing Club), held at The Bear at Esher, five Duos turned up. Mr de Peyrecave then took part in the 100-mile Midlands Trial, carrying a spare tyre on his Duo’s lamp-bracket, but ran off the road. In the 1912 MCC London-Exeter-London Trial one Duo retired while RF Messervy’s Duo gained a gold medal. Soon after this de Peyrecave scored full marks in the Bournemouth & DMCC’s trial, completed the course in the Children Trial and climbed Alms Hill non-stop.

A Duo (IT 39) was modified in respect of a pointed-tail body Plater body, disc wheels, lowered seats and steering column, gas headlamps, battery-fed horn and P&H side and rear lamps and a Selfridge’s 13/6d clock. This was regarded as an enjoyable exercise, the owner saying that he dreaded the day, should it ever arise, when the Duo would reach such a state of perfection that nothing more would improve it. Thus more useful publicity, enhanced further when Percy Bradley ran one of these

cyclecars when he became Secretary of the Cyclecar Club — he went on to be clerk-ofthe-course at Brooklands in 1930, long after Duos were forgotten . . Meanwhile Messervy had failed in one trial when a belt-rim detached itself but Bradley and others put up many more good performances and a standard Duo climbed Chalk Pits hill for its new owner, with a racing Duo also present.

In 1913 an improved Duo was announced, with an extra countershaft, driven by Reynold chain, on which were two sprockets for a drive to the belt-pulleys countershaft. With dog clutches to engage these free-running sprockets an extra twospeeds were obtained, GN fashion, and with the variable-belt-drive from the rear countershaft, this gave an unusually wide range of ratios, from 4-toI to 16-to-1. It involved three levers, for the new change-speed, the variable ratios, and the belt-tensioner. The front countershaft run in Skefko self-aligning ball-bearings in gun-metal

housings bolted to the chassis sidemembers. A cover over the side belts formed a step into the cockpit. All nuts and bolts on Duo were secured with spring washers or split-pins. The new model cost 106 guineas, the older model 97 guineas. Meanwhile, The Cyclecar had done 3000 miles in its Duo and spoke highly of it. Good performances continued to pile up. For example, while it is impossible to refer to them all, in the 1913 Stratford Rally, led by Bradley’s Duo, de Peyrecave restarted his, four up, on Sunrising Hill. Bradley’s

racing Duo ‘The Deuce’ had lost its exhaust pipes, so on a good climb made ‘Brooklands’ noises. In the Cyclecar Club’s Fuel Consumption Trial three IAP-engined Duos, using respectively Lukin, Stewart-Precision and Solex carburettors, gave 40.2, 50.7 and 53.1 mpg. Not to be outdone, Messervy climbed Saltbox hill near Cudham fast on a stripped chassis and ‘The Deuce’ did a four-up restart of a freak hill near Buxton. Clearly, the Duo was one of the better cyclecars . However, de Peyrecave did not stop there. He also made the De P light-cars, using a variety of proprietary four-cylinder engines. The 10 hp 1098cc model had a wheelbase of 8′ 6″, pressure lubrication, a four-speed gearbox, 700×80 tyres and, unusual for a small car, three-quarters ellip

tic back springs. It cost £210 when a Deemster was priced at £205, a Singer at £225, a Standard the same, a de luxe Morris Oxford £220 and an AC the same as the De P. The cyclecars were continued as well. Alas, the war-clouds were gathering. The Duo factory, although with a staff of 40 and making an average of nine cars a week from 1910 to 1915, was probably too small to make munitions. So Mr de Peyrecave patriotally joined the RFC, and was posted to Italy. When he was demobbed he reasoned that he could not compete against the giants like Austin and Morris. So he went instead into the Estate Agency business. It is nice to know that his son, Victor de Peyrecave, and his son, continue this business; I am indebted to Victor de Peyrecave for some of the above information. W B