The Edith

While it would appear that the micro car of the 50s was a European thing, there was an early attempt to build a micro car in Australia. The December 1956 issue of the Australian magazine Modern Motor contained a road test on a prototype three wheeler, which was about to be marketed as the Edith. It was built by Gray & Harper motor engineers of Melbourne, and was powered by a two stroke single cylinder 197cc Villiers motorcycle engine. This gave a cruising speed of about 30 mph (48 k/hr) with a top speed of about 40 mph (64 k/hr), although the road tester noted “40 mph feels a bit strenuous”

The Edith was constructed of tubular steel, with the skin welded directly to it and in every respect appeared very basic – although it did boast rack and pinion steering. One interesting “feature” was the starter – a folding kick start that protruded from the side of the vehicle just behind the driver. The thought of stalling in heavy traffic would seem a little perilous.

It is not clear how well the Edith sold. Apparently the first batch of eight vehicles were about to be released at a price of 450 pounds ($22,000 in todays money) That appears a lot when a reasonable second hand car could be bought for a similar sum. Overall only about 12 vehicles were made and there is no record of why it was called the Edith.

The remains of one can be seen in the Birdwood Mill National Motor Museum in Adelaide, as can be seen in this Youtube video:

Here

 

Warmer weather is coming.

How about a picnic in the country with a classic car from Classic Rides.

Hire a car for a day and we will provide the picnic gear as part of the deal, folding table and chairs, rug and hamper. Bring your own goodies, or talk to us about organising the whole thing.

We will also provide itineraries with advice on some special picnic spots.

The Messerschmitt KR200 or Kabinenroller (cabin scooter) was produced between 1955 and 1964. Following WW2, the aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt was not allowed to make aircraft and turned to other products to keep their Regensburg factory busy. It appears there are some aviation aspects to the KR200, with the pilot up front and the observer(s) to the rear….

It was powered by a single cylinder two stroke engine, operable in both directions of crankshaft rotation. With a four speed gear box, it was capable of full speed in either direction! It had a top speed of 100 k/hr, so this seems a disturbing possibility. Despite this, it proved popular and 40,000 were sold during the production run.

The picture shows some of the fine features of the Kabinenroller, although “Limousine comfort” does seem a bit extreme, it looks a little crowded in the back there.

Our Daimler Conquest Century (The Old Dame) was brand new, and had just been sold by Gee Motors of Napier to its first owner.

You can hire this classic 1950’s luxury car and find out why  Autocar magazine said “The Conquest Century is one of those cars that is right, absolutely right.”

Find out more

 

What else was happening in 1957?

  • The British motor industry was the largest exporter of cars in the world – how things change!
  • The largest manufacturing companies were all American, in fact 70% of world production, but virtually all for the home market.
  • The Formula One Drivers Championship was won by Juan Manuel Fangio, for the fourth consecutive year. He drove a Maserati 250F (V12  2490cc, 315bhp)
  • New cars introduced in 1957 included, from the UK: Vauxhall Victor, Jaguar XK150, Lotus 7 and Wolseley 1500. From Italy: Fiat 500 and Alfa Romeo 2000. From the US: Pontiac Bonneville, Rambler Rebel, and Ford Fairlane 500. From Japan: the original Toyota Corona and Nissan Skyline. And from Czechoslovakia, the Tatra Diplomat, a six seater saloon with a rear mounted air-cooled V8 engine.
  • The Chev Corvette was offered with a fuel injected V8, producing 283bhp – a remarkable amount of power for the time.
  • Saab introduced seat belts as standard equipment, the first car manufacturer to do so.

This cheerful group seem particularly pleased to be heading off for an outing in their Bond Minicar.

The Bond Minicar was a three wheeled micro car made by Sharps Commercials Ltd in Preston, Lancashire, UK, between 1949 and 1966.

This appears to be the Mark D, Deluxe Family Safety (!) model made between 1956 – 1958.

By 1956, all Bond Minicars were powered by a single cylinder Villiers two stroke engine of 197cc, producing around 8.5 bhp. This gave a cruising speed of about 45mph (72 k/hr) and top speed of 51 mph (81 k/hr) – which sounds quite leisurely, but probably felt quite terrifying to the occupants.

Why were the 1950s the golden age of the micro car in Europe? The price of petrol was probably a factor: in France in 1957, a gallon of fuel cost more than a skilled mechanic earned in an hour. Yet that same mechanic aspired to be a car owner, and so the market was there for cheap to buy, cheap to run vehicles.

From the end of WW2 to the early 60s, dozens of manufacturers attempted to meet this market – some were marvellous and clever, others were plain awful. In 1959 with the appearance of the original Mini, the days of the micro car were numbered. A few survived into the 70’s but by the mid 60s most had gone

In this series, let’s look at a few of them – first up: the Vespa 400:

The Vespa 400 was made in France, powered by a 400cc two stroke motor from Piaggio of Italy, makers of the famous Vespa scooter. It weighed 375 kg, had a top speed of about 80 km/hr, and accelerated to 60km/hr in a rather leisurely 23 seconds. The publicity of the time promoted the fact it had space for two adults plus their luggage, or two small children – not both at the same time it would seem.

 It was made between 1957 and 1961 and sold 28,000 units, costing the equivalent of about 300 pounds, or  $14,000 at today’s  rates.

 

Now here’s a classic ride from the 80’s – the mighty Lada.
Look at what they could do – who would have thought!

TV ad from the UK