The Trikes Return

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The heading is not a parody on The Rover’s Return in what is said to be TV’s most popular “soap” but which to me seems pretty puerile: it refers to a scrap of motor-racing’s past which I hope may be of interest, The “Trikes” are in fact the three-wheeled racing cyclecars which had been part of the Brooklands scene from pre-1915 times. They came under the jurisdiction of the Auto-Cycle Union, not that of the RAC, and were seen mostly at BMCRC race meetings. But they were also used for record-breaking, culminating in the hour run by H F S Morgan at just under 60mph, in a 90-bore JAP vee-twin-engined single-seater Morgan in 1912, as described in MOTOR SPORT last March.

But this was by no means the only one of the Morgans built at Malvern Link to use Brooklands Track prior to the 1914/18 war, pitting their pace against that of four-wheeled cyclecars and lightcars. They included Gordon McMinnies’s hotted up side-valve JAP-powered single-seater “Jabberwock” and his later 75mph TT MAG-engined job, Harry Martin’s streamlined two-seater with ohv 986cc JAP engine, and Warren Lambert’s Morgan which had a 1082cc long-stroke JAP power-plant. Then Vernon Busby did well in the 750cc category with his side-valve water-cooled Maggie powered with a Blumfield engine and HFS himself experimented with a bigger engine of this make in a Morgan previously run on the Track by N F Holder. E B Ware, who was to become one of the leading Morgan exponents after the Armistice, had a shoe-like single-seater with a very laid-back bath-chair driving position and Zenith 744cc engine, which did the f s kilo at just over 65mph.

Up to the outbreak of war the August BARC, in spite of ACU control, had mixed motorcycle races, with very large fields, with the car handicaps, but it was not until 1913, bowing to the increasing interest in economy vehicles, that it permitted a Morgan to compete; at the Easter Monday Meeting, Lambert ran his 880cc Morgan in the First Side-Car and Cyclecar Handicap. But the first Cyclecar Handicap at the 1913 Whit Monday Meeting was contested only by four-wheeled cyclecars. The same applied to the Second Cyclecar Handicap. but Ware ran his 7.2hp Morgan in the 1914 Whitsun Light Car and Cyclecar Handicap, lapping at 48.92mph, and in the August race Ware got his 773cc Morgan-JAP round at 63.76mph, before war called off such frivolities. . .

Mostly, however, such races were held by the British Motor Cycle Racing Club (BMCRC), which had been founded in 1909 and ran most of the motorcycle events at Brooklands, where even the BARC had been able to boast of fields of up to 50 riders. Some results of the BMCRC events can be summarised as: 1912

Cyciecar Scratch Race: H Martin (Morgan-JAP), 57 31mph, 1912 1100cc Passenger Hour Race: H F S Morgan (Morgan-AP) 55 miles 329 yards 1913 June Cyciecar Scratch Race: B Haywood (Singer), 57 34mph 1914 750cc Record Time Trials: E B Ware (Morgan-JAP) 61.02mph

Morgans, quite the most popular cyclecar on the road, with GNs, were also out in High-Speed Trials and record-bids. They were beaten in later pre-1914 races continually by B Haywood’s Singer, but this was what most of us would class as a genuine light-car… After the war had ended the increasing popularity of economy cars caused the BARC to organise a few more races for such cars, at its major race-days. These contests, and those of the BMCRC and other clubs, resulted in some good racing by the Morgan fraternity, the three-wheelers fast and safe. Ware had improved his odd-looking single seater and now used a side-valve water-cooled 970cc KT JAP engine and had exciting battles with Douglas Hawkes’s 1914 TT Morgan “Land Crab” with eight-valve MAG engine superseded by his “Flying Spider” also with a MAG engine. To prove the point and show that the Morgans were becoming faster, Ware won a BARC Light Car Long Handicap race in 1920, Hawkes led a short sprint, lapping at 70mph, and before the August crowds Ware took two wins in BARC Light Car Handicaps, and Hawkes beat Godfrey’s GN in another race. The “Land Crab” then scored at 72mph, over the 1 1/2-litre GN “Mougli” and Ware’s new narrow two-seater Morgan with 90-bore JAP engine, restroked to 1088cc, gained other victories. Suffice it to say that there was ample Morgan activity down at the Track in those early 1920s. After 1922 the BARC small-car races were confined to four-wheelers, but not before Hawkes’s 1098cc Morgan had won the last mixed one, lapping at 80.46mph, from a Lagonda and a twin-cylinder Crouch.

However, in 1921 the Junior Car Club, formerly the Cyclecar Club, had something so ambitious in hand, namely a 200-mile race at Brooklands for cars of up to 1500cc, with a 1100cc class, that most of the manufacturers of light cars, and even of cyclecars, saw in it a source of excellent publicity. From the top companies through the middle-echelons, to the miniscule-output forlorn hopes, they put in entries. From the beginning the 1100cc class attracted Morgan, although they never beat the GN or the Salmsons. Indeed they never finished. But better to be seen than not seen at all, I suppose! Not being able to get a place, due to various troubles, was bad enough.

But in the 1924 “200” it went more seriously wrong. The works had put in two entries, to be driven by Norman Norris and Harold Beart and Ware, head of JAP’s Experimental Department at Tottenham, had his own Morgan, with a prototype water-cooled engine based on the new 996cc JTOR ohv JAP.

In the race Norris duelled for a while with Zborowski’s Salmson until the top-speed chain broke, and Beart had to change a rear tyre, after which the KMB Blackburne engine didn’t want to restart. Ware, too, had problems. He made a bad start but, after a pit-stop, began lapping at some 90mph. The back wheel then appeared to be running out of true and Parry Thomas said he could smell burning rubber as he overtook the Morgan — whether this meant that the Marlborough-Thomas was lapping faster or whether Thomas passed Ware as the latter was slowing for a pit-stop, or coming out again, is conjecture. But on lap 35, as the Morgan was crossing the Fork, it swerved and shot into the iron fencing opposite the pits, then spun round several times and over-turned Ware and his mechanic, motorcycle racer Allchin, were thrown violently out and bits of the Morgan spread far and wide. Ware landed on the grass strip, Allchin on the concrete. Both were badly injured and did not recover for a long time. The crash had apparently been caused by the back tyre rubbing on the tail and losing its tread, which had caught in a driving chain and locked the wheel. Soon after the men and wreck of Morgan had, with difficulty, been removed, a dangerous task, Norris stopped to hack away wood from around his rear wheel. (JAP’s refused Ware compensation because he had been racing as a private entrant.)

This sad accident had far-reaching repercussions for the three-wheeler fraternity. The JCC banned them from its events (as the 1925 “200” was to have artificial corners incorporated, they may have been doubly disturbed) and the RAC retorted that the ACU controlled such cyclecars and had had no right to allow them in the race anyway. Protests tell on stony ground… In fact, the ban was not quite all-embracing. At Brooklands three-wheelers were still permitted to run in BMCRC races and on record-bids; indeed, Beart among others was successful with his streamlined Blackburne-Morgan and in 1925 was clocked over the f s kilo at 103.37mph. But for car-type racing the ban persisted, and it couldn’t have helped when Eric Fernihough’s 494cc Morgan burst its back tyre and rolled over several times during a 70mph record run in 1926, or when J J Hall and V W Derrington were hospitalised after their 750cc Morgan had crashed in 1927, on a similar run…

However, when it was seen that the ambitious JCC was moving away from purely light-car interests the New Cyclecar Club was formed, and after much lobbying three-wheelers were reinstated for its first Brooklands Meeting, in August 1928. If less ambitious than the JCC, the NCC also used an artificial “road course” for its inaugural meeting at the Track, using tubs and ropes and sand-banks for this purpose. Had its races been confined solely to Morgans it would have been welcome as the first car-v-tricar racing there since 1924, the event being open to four-wheeled small cars in spite of the Club’s title, and the entries even included a Riley Nine Monaco saloon. But still more variety was provided when Coventry-Victor decided to run its racing 746cc three-wheeler against the many Morgans entered. The C-V entry was driven by H J Vidler who had the benefit of front-wheel brakes.

This Coventry firm had been making tricars, rather optimistically, from 1926, using their flat twin water-cooled side-valve engine and chain drive. A sports version cost £110, or £115 with ohv. The Light Car & Cyclecar presented a fine trophy for the NCC’s race meeting — the Trikes had returned!

The first race was the Novices’ Handicap, over two laps of the normal course, won by Major A T Gardener in his sic Salmson, at 79.62mph, from E Martin’s A7 and the C-V. Next came a similar three-lap Handicap for three-wheelers only. R R Jackson’s low-chassis, 546cc Morgan-Blackburne had this sewn-up, at 67.85mph, from Ron Horton’s very quick Morgan with 1098cc Blackburne engine, and Clive Lones’s fast Morgan-JAP. Horton averaging 89.4mph from scratch. The Morgans then met A7s, Miss Worsley’s Jowett, a Fiat Nine, and even an ex-TT Riley Nine, in another outer-circuit Short Handicap, with 13 runners. It was a Morgan domination, Horton first, at 92.4mph, from the JAP-powered cars of A C Maskell and Lones. Horton then did it again, in the five-lap Long Handicap, although re-handicapped by 35sec, winning at 94.5mph. Jackson and Lanes followed him home.

The big race was the Cyclecar GP, for that Light Car & Cyclecar trophy. It was over 20 laps (50 miles) of the aforesaid “road” course, to a massed start, with three handicap classes, on a credit-lap basis. The incredible Horton was soon out in front, chased by Gardner, until the Salmson broke a petrol-pipe. Then Horton himself stopped after five laps, oil on the Morgan’s brakes, which he had not needed in the other races. The three-wheelers were steady and fast through the S-bend, Lones now in the lead, winning at 54.1mph, from A V Wilkinson’s Riley Nine and H Smythe’s Amilcar, followed in by the C-V, at 41.1mph to win its class, and an A7. So, in spite of stopping once for water, Lones won three cups and vindicated the speed and safety of “trikes” in races with corners.

The only accident had been that involving Martin’s Swallow A7, which had shot through a sandbank and overturned. The mechanic was unhurt but the driver went to hospital with a shoulder injury and mild concussion. I hate to write “poetic justice”; but it was rather ironic…

The Club did it again in 1929, Goodall’s Morgan winning the “Grand Prix”, after which the Morgans were impressive in the Light Car Club Relay Races at the Track; but that has been well documented in previous MOTOR SPORTs. W B

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