No. 15: THE CASTLE THREE
LAST month I drove to Worcestershire in an ultra-modern car – a Chrysler Valiant – to chat with Mr. Stanley Goodwin about a ” lost cause” of the vintage years, namely, the Castle Three, which might have done for Kidderminster what Morris did for Oxford but, as it happened, didn’t.
After serving his time as an engineering apprentice, Stanley Goodwin, with his elder brother Laughton Cecil Goodwin, set up the Castle Motor Co. in New Road, Kidderminster, before the First World War. When war came they undertook munitions work, making depth-charge pistols, etc. With the Armistice they faced the problem, common at the time, of what to do with all the machine tools at their disposal. Stanley Goodwin decided to manufacture a small car and he set his sights on, to use his own words. ” Rolls-Roycing the Morgan Three-Wheeler:” The Morgan of that era was still an air-cooled vee-twin, changing the rear wheel of which involved a long and dirty task. Mr. Goodwin set about designing a better, if heavier, three-wheeler. He used a channel-section vee-shaped frame, a four-cylinder water-cooled engine and, by incorporating his own patented two-speed-and-reverse epicyclic gearbox and shaft-transmission it normal spiral-bevel final drive, contrived that the single back wheel could be removed easily upwards through the tail of the car after the spindle had been driven out. This also the subject of a patent. The gear-change, incidentally, was effected by “pedals to push,” after the fashion of the Adams and model-T Ford, there being no gear-lever.
Mr. Goodwin was determined to use a water-cooled four-cylinder car-type engine in his Castle Three but in 1919 the choice was limited. He was offered the residue Of the Continental “Red Seal ” output which William Morris had discarded, but these 11.9-h.p. engines were too heavy for his purpose. In the end he adopted the Belgian-Made Peters engine, a four-cylinder side-valve unit of 62X100 mm. (1,207 c.c.). supplied from a depot at Kingston-upon-Thames, although his prototype had a smaller Dorman power unit.
A particularly ingenious feature of the first Castle Three was a disc brake on the back wheel, similar to those used so successfully today. Unfortunately, hydraulic operation was not feasible at the time; the cam action used to actuate the pad was insufficiently powerful, and so this brake had to be discarded.
However, the prototype Castle Three was eminently successful, being entered for the usual M.C.C. trials and gaining its designer a gold medal in the London-Edinburgh, etc.
The Castle Three was exhibited at the Motor Cycle Show, Stanley Goodwin’s brother Laughton C. Goodwin, acting as Managing Director. The interest shown by the car-starved public proved quite embarrassing. Over 3,300 people placed orders, backed by firm deposits of 20-pounds a time ! This proved the soundness of Stanley Goodwin’s design and his brother’s ability as a salesman, but it was, of course, quite impossible to meet the demand at the modest Kidderminster factory. Dealers became impatient and deposits had to be returned. Had orders been limited to 500 the Castle Motor Co. might have survived. But they found it impossible to carry on under the circumstances and a decision to float a public company was taken little too late in the day. In fact, one of the most successful of Kidderminster’s carpet-makers was approached for financial assistance and on the strength of the orders obtained he willingly guaranteed a substantial loan. Having done this he ordered that all the remaining cars, partially-completed chassis and parts be loaded onto lorries and taken to Elephant Motors in London as scrap; it transpired that this gentleman wanted extra factory space in the town where he could service the carpet manufacturing machinery in his other factories and he had his eye on the Castle Motor works as eminently-suitable for this purpose! The end came in 1922 and to this day the building where this ingenious three-wheeler was built remains a carpet factory . . .
In the meantime several hundred Castle Threes hail been built and sold. The Peters engine was used in the production models, except for one car which had a Coventry-Simplex engine, found to be excellent but too heavy. The Peters engine functioned admirably apart from some early pre-ignition trouble. The design certainly departed from simple cyclecar practice, the back wheel being sprung on 1/2-elliptic springs, and the radiator and bodywork being extremely well-proportioned. In 1922 the price was 225 pounds. Some of the bodies were made by the Castle Co., others were bought out.
Right at the end Stanley Goodwin tried to save the day by building a four-wheeled Castle Four, using proprietary gearbox and back axle but retaining the Peters power unit. Some time ago this turned up at a rally held at Meashant and Mr. Goodwin bought the car; in 1958 he presented it to the Birmingham Museum.
At the Montagu Motor Museum they have a 1922 Castle Three with normal three-speed gearbox, so one of each is still in existence. Mr. Stanley Goodwin and his son remain in Kiddermiuster. in the motor track in a business founded in 1922, and the creator of the Castle Three today drives a. smart Jaguar XK 150 coupe. – W.B.
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