fragments on forgotten makes




THE cyclecar boom began in 1912, when nearly 40 different makes were ‘exhibited at the Motor Cycle Show at Olympia and it was claimed that the first issue of The Cyclecar sold too,000 copies. The cyclecar survived the war but the advent of the Austin Seven in 1922 killed off these simple vehicles. Amongst the better-known cyclecars the Tamplin is remembered with affection.

After the Armistice of 1918 Mr. Edward A. Tamplin, A.M.I.A.E., who is now retired and living in Hove, realised that there would be a glut in cars and designed the Tamplin cyclecar. The Tamplins were well-known Sussex brewers whose ancestral home in Lewes has only recently been demolished to make way for modern town planning. Edward Tamplin’s father, Mr. W. F. Tamplin, owned a cycle business in Twickenham and early introduced motor vehicles, often sending his son to school on a de Dion Houton tricycle, which, at the age of 12, the young Edward rode to Sheerness. In due course the boy was first apprenticed to the Enfield Autocar Co. in Redditch, and trained as a very capable and accomplished engineer. He went later to Milnes-Daimler-Mercedes, who were then British concessionaires for Mercedes cars and Milnes-Daimler-Vanguard ‘buses. Mr. Tamplin overhauled H.M. King Edward VIrs two personal Mercedes cars which the King preferred among those in his Daimler fleet.

In 1907 he opened a motor business at 12. King Street, Twickenham (the premises have since been demolished), after working on Mercedes cars. He came to know Mr. Avey whose A.C. cyclecar became a competitor after the war.

In 1913 or 1914 Mr. Tamplin sought quieter premises and moved to a garage close to Staines Station. The 1914/18 war found him in charge of transport maintenance at the Ministry of Munitions National Shell-Filling Station No. 7 at Hayes, Middle sex, where a fleet of 30 lorries, mostly de Dions and StrakerSquires, Were kept in good order in spite of a severe shortage of spares. Mr. Tarnplin found skilled fitters in short supply and devised a means of replacing engine bearings without the customary hand-scraping. But a greater achievement Was designing a carburetter that enabled the lorries to be run on coal gas or petrol as required. A distance of 35 miles could he covered on one gasbag with no falling off in performance on hills. In carrying out these experiments Mr. Tamplin converted his own model-T Ford to run on gas. The Ministry of Munitions was so pleased with the conversion that they depicted one of the de Dims lorries with its big gas container on an official postcard.

Returning to his Staines works, Mr. Tamplin designed the simplest possible form of cyclecar. This was virtually a singleseater, very narrow, but with provision for a passenger to sit sideways behind the front scat. legs extended beside the driver— when ladies were carried this arrangement found favour with the men, 75-year-old Mr. Tamplin told me, with a twinkle in his eye.

In recent years I have sampled this extra seat on Neil Smith’s Tamplin and didn’t find it very comfortable!

The petrol tank comprised the bonnet of the Tamplin, the top deck lifting off to provide excellent accessibility. The body-cornchassis was made of light yet strong ‘-in. fibre-board impregnated with linseed oil, supplied by Sundeala of Sunbury. Horizontal decking acted as a continuous mudguard on each side. Front suspension, by coil-springs and vertical pillars, a la Morgan, was independent. An 85 >: 8,5 mm. 980-c.c. side-valve air-cooled J.A.P. engine controlled by a hand throttle was mounted on the side of the body and drove via a gearbox by belt to one side Of the solid back axle.

The Tamplin was extremely simple and very light, so that it had an excellent performance. Driving standard models in M.C.C. Trials, sprints and speed hill-climbs like the J.C.C. event at S. Harting, Mr. Tamplin gained at least 18 gold medals, many of which he still possesses. He recalls an occasion when a petrol-pipe union gave way in Dorchester during an M.C.C. Trial. A garage allowed a soldering-iron to be heated in a forge, the union was welded without emptying the tank of petrol, and the Tamplin resumed its long journey within 20 minutes, to win another ” gold.” On another occasion Mr. Tamplin, in spite of being allocated a very heavy observer, won a Fuel Consumption Contest with a figure of 102 m.p.g. The normal tandem-seat model gave some 70 m.p.g. hut on this occasion the fuel was pure benzoic and small jets had been fitted.

The Tamplin would climb the dreaded I-in-2.9 Alms Hill near Henley without difficulty, and in all these trials and hill-climbs standard gear ratios were retained.

In effect these little cyclecars were assembled at Staines, because the bodies were made by three different concerns, respectively at Ascot, TeddingtOn and Ashford, arriving ready-painted. A few Tamplins had Blackburne and M.A.G. engines but the former lacked speed and the latter, although nicely made, was sadly out of balance. A special J.A.P. engine was also out of balance, so was returned to its makers, all competition successes being achieved on standard J.A.P. we-twin engines. Re-balancing was done by Tamplin before the engines were installed. A staff of about 20 assembled between 6 and 12 Tamplins a week, from 1919 onwards.

In 1924 Mr. Tamplin decided to produce something more akin to a conventional car. After toying with the idea of a broadenedout version of the original model, with dickey-seat and a R.-R. shape ” radiator,” he saw the need to redesign an entirely new Tamplin. Going down to Worthing Ile slaved away and in about three months a car had been completed, just in time for the Olympia Show, the lubricator being fitted actually on the stand. The new model had a remarkable chassis, made by bending angle-section steel into an oval, and placing three cross-members across this oval on which to Mount the body. This ingenious chassis cost its. An air-cooled J.A.P. engine was retained at the front, behind a dummy radiator and under a proper bonnet. It drove by a long chain to a Sturmey Archer gearbox, from whence another long chain conveyed the drive to a solid back axle. A wooden member below the chain, and the floorboards above, restricted chain whip. The entire top of the body lifted off and the bonnet sides were detachable, for accessibility. Front suspension was by -elliptic springs and the side-by-side 2-seater body was still Made of compressed-fibre. Most of the bodies were made at Teddington. A bulb-horn and battery lighting set and hood were fitted; one car was actually provided with a dynamo. Avon supplied the tyres, the chains were Reynolds, a single brake drum with contracting band without and shoes Within proved quite effective, and the new Tamplin was so light that two men could easily lift it to Chest level. The result was that it was unexpectedly

fast, being capable of 65-67 m.p.h. Because drivers of large cars forced the pace to read the name on the radiator, the Tamplin name was also displayed on the back of the body. Incidentally, a single cycle-type cotter pin retained each hub, another the axle sprocket, another the brake drum, but these always proved adequate and never worked loose.

An attractive display was staged at that 1924 Motor Show and orders for too cars were taken, providing a reverse gear could be installed. To do this proved a difficult task but Tamplin eventually put a reverse into the Sturmey Archer gearbox and the new Tamplin was built at the rate of half a dozen a week. An attractive sports model, with aluminium body, was listed, which would do 72 m.p.h.

The normal 2-seater was priced at 143 gns. The aim was to make the car for about half the selling price, but the discounts demanded by agents, labour charges, etc., made this ideal unattainable.

In 1924 Mr. Tamplin moved to a garage at 48/50, Malden Road, Cheam, and commenced a normal motor engineering business.

At Cheam, having one solitary M.A.G. engine on his hands, he built the last of the Tamplin cyclecars. In all, 1,896 were made between 1919 and 1924.

Mr. Tamplin retired from the motor trade in 1935 and has no desire to return to it. Today he lives in retirement and derives much satisfaction from a Ford Zodiac, after keeping a MercedesBenz 220 for a very brief period. He also speaks well of a rather elderly Chrysler he had a few years ago.

I do not know of more than two or perhaps three Tamplins surviving today, all the original tandem-seater belt-drive version. The Curator of the Montagu Motor Museum has said that he would like to see one take its place beside the A.V. cyclecar in the Brighton Motor Museum or with the Bleriot-Whippet, Morgan and Castle Three cyclecars on display either there or in the Montagu Motor Museum at Beaulieu.—W. B.