Bollees - fast, but difficult

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Good story by Nick Jonkheere in the current VSCC Bulletin about the veteran Leon Bollee three-wheelers, which did well in early races, Jamin winning the ‘cycle’ class of Paris-Trouville in 1897 with one, and S F Edge, H Duncan and Charles Jarrott being others who used them. In later times these fast but difficult tri-cars were seen in our Brighton Runs, Sammy Davis of The Auto car a regular entrant, who once pushed his stricken Bollee ‘Beelzebub’ 12 miles to the finish.

Davis described changing gear on this 1897 Bollee as “switch off, close the throttle, adjust the gear lever, feel for the next gear, mesh if lucky, tighten the belt, switch on, open the throttle, adjust the air, adjust the governor, and Wall goes well, you have changed up; if not, then you haven’t.” But he got to the finish year after year, except in 1948 when, after a mild bump into a modem car, a wheel collapsed. Indeed, at one time a team of three Bollees took part, those of SCHD, Wood and Barnes, and a Naval commander appeared with a fourth. a

I recollect being at a VCC dinner when a Frenchman at the top table heard that I had a Leon Bollee and was determined to buy it. I knew he thought it was one of the single-cylinder three-wheelers, but mine was actually a derelict vintage specimen with four wheels. I held up four fingers and explained as well as I could, but it took some time to calm him down.