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Two-Wheeled Cars

Gallery opened Sept 2003

Updated: 18 Nov 2018

The Dalnik added

Chronological order ruthlessly imposed
Only two wheels but no gyroscope

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These machines are not gyrocars; they are simply cars with only two wheels. Such vehicles can be kept upright in much the same way as a motorcycle, so long as they are moving, but sooner or later you have to stop. Coming to a halt without falling over requires two small extra wheels that are lowered when stopping.

The perceived market for these cars was a large one; there were many people who wanted the motor transport without the dangers and inconvenience of a motorcycle, and wanted to carry a passenger, but could not afford a proper four-wheeled car. However the two-wheeled cars made little impact.

While these machines could be called cycle cars, that term tends to be used mostly for lightly-built four-wheel cars.


THE SCRIPPS-BOOTH BI-AUTOGO

Left: The Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo: 1912

Two passengers, side-by-side behind central driver.

The Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo could be considered to be the largest motorcycle ever built, or it could be regarded as a hefty 2-wheeled car. Given that it had a V8 engine and weighed 3200 pounds, (1,500 kg) I vote for the latter. Note the necessity for dual stabiliser wheels to take the weight. The two wheels were wooden-spoked and 37 inches in diameter. The engine was the first V8 produced in Detroit; however it only managed 45 HP from its 6-litre capacity. Power was transferred to the rear wheel by a four-speed manual gearbox. The Scripps had three seats and was steered with a normal steering-wheel.

The Scripps was a one-off project built from 1908 to 1912 by Detroit artist & engineer James Scripps-Booth.

Yes, that mass of tubing is the radiator. Given that most of the tubing is parallel to the air-flow, it cannot have been very efficient; perhaps that is why there is such a lot of tubing.

Left: The Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo: 1912

The Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo was preserved; it is currently on loan to the Owls Head Transportation Museum, from the permanent collection of the Detroit Historical Museum.

The Scripps has a Wikipedia page.


THE MOORE CAR

The Moore-Car was less car.

Left: The Moore Car: 1910

No passenger.

From Technical World Magazine Jan 1910 (Vol XII #5).

Thanks to for drawing this to my attention.

Left: The Moore Car: 1910

No passenger.

From Technical World Magazine Jan 1910 (Vol XII #5)

The Moore car seems to have been developed considerably before it appeared at the 1917 Auto Show in Washington DC.

Left: The Moore Car: 1917

No passenger.

Note the two stabilising wheels at the rear, and the odd way the front wheel seems to pass through the radiator. In fact the 'radiator' was a fake, as the two-cylinder engine was air cooled.

For a long time this car was also unknown to Google apart from this poor quality poor-image.

Left: The Moore Car: 1917

This picture of a Moore car was taken at the 1917 Auto Show in Washington DC. Regrettably Miss Hilda Vann is unknown to Google, so it is doubtful if her film career was very sucessful. There are and have been several companies called 'Crescent Films' but so far none of them are of the correct era.

There is in existence a 1917 brochure promoting shares in the Moore company. It gives a specification for the 1917 Model G Moore-Car, describing a two-cylinder, air-cooled 22 HP engine with magneto ignition and a separate electrical generator. There was a 3-speed gearbox and shaft drive with spiral bevel gearing; it appears there was no reverse gear. It had 36-inch half-elliptic springs, and a single bucket-type seat.

It was billed as a light car, and definitely not as a motorcycle; since it only carried one person, this seems to me to be stretching the definition of a car a bit.

Picture brought to my attention by Paul Dunlop.

It was reported that the stabiliser wheels would lift or lower at the touch of a button, but this seems to imply some rather sophisticated machinery that would be out of place on a lightweight car.

Left: The Moore Car: 1917

Regettably this picture is also of poor quality, but it shows some more features of the machine, such as the hybrid steering-wheel/handlebars arrangement.

Picture brought to my attention by Paul Dunlop.


THE MONOTRACE CAR

Left: The Monotrace 2-wheeled car: 1925

One passenger in tandem. (behind driver)

The Monotrace 2-wheeler was made in France from 1925 to 1928, under licence from Mauser of Germany. (Yes, that Mauser, the gun makers) It had two retractable stabiliser wheels. The passenger sat behind the driver (unlike the remarkable Sabella tandem car of 1913, where the driver sat behind the passenger)

It was powered by a 510cc water-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke engine. The water circulated through the small radiator at the front by thermo-syphon; there was no water pump.

Very few were made and even fewer survive today. La Monotrace was made in St Etienne, France.

The Monotrace was steered by a curious sort of wheel/handlebar that made up only a small part of a circle. Here a bulb horn is attached to the upper part of the wheel/handlebar. No windscreen is fitted.

The 'Morgan' part of the name appears to be nothing to do with the British sports-car manufacturers, but the situation is currently not entirely clear.

This photograph was taken when the first production models were being demonstrated.

Left: The Monotrace 2-wheeled car

A Monotrace corners hard in some unknown sporting event, a stabiliser wheel jauntily cocked in the air.

Date & place unknown at present.

Left: The Monotrace 2-wheeled car

It's coming right for us!

A Monotrace with stabiliser wheels lifted. Here the front of the 'steering wheel' appears to be outside the windscreen; to make this possible there would have to be no middle spoke as seen in the other Monotrace pictures. It is more likely we are seeing the 'steering wheel' through the windscreen, but due to the rotogravure it's hard to be sure.

Left: The Monotrace 2-wheeled car

A fine picture of a Monotrace with a rudimentary windscreen fitted on its nose; this allows the 'steering wheel' to retain its central spoke.

Single headlamp.

Judging by the appearance of the houses in the background, I would judge that this picture was taken in one of the squares in central London.

Left: The Monotrace 2-wheeled car

Another sporting event. The Monotrace seems to have overtaken a conventional 4-wheeled car.

Single headlamp.

Date & place unknown at present.

Left: A Monotrace car today: a restored model from 1928

This picture by kind permission of the restorers: KOHLER AG, Riedtwil

The Kohler website has a fascinating account of the restoration process with lots of pictures here.


THE AVRO MONOCAR

Sir Alliott Verdon Roe was best known as a pioneer pilot and aircraft builder; he founded the Avro Company in 1910. He was also interested in motorcycles, and he designed various versions of the Avrocar in an attempt to combine motorcycle simplicity cheapness with car comfort and safety. He was a member of the British Union of Fascists and in the 1930s was a supporter of Oswald Mosley.

There seem to have been many prototypes produced between 1913 and 1957, with differing engines and transmission arrangements.

Left: The Avro car: 1913

No passenger.

This drawing is currently the only information available on the first version of the Avro car; note that the blueprint describes it as 'The Avro Motorcycle', and not as a car. The engine was a single-cylinder design mounted between the driver's feet, gravity-fed from a fuel tank under the bonnet. The drive to the rear wheel appears to be by chain. The wheelbase was 183cm, and that is about all that is known at present.

Left: The Avro car: 1922

No passenger.

This is the second two-wheeled Avro design, in its first version. Initially it had closed bodywork, but the sides were later removed, making it more like a scooter than a car. The body was of steel sheet. The engine was a Barr and Stroud air-cooled 349cc design; there was a three-speed transmission with chain drive to the rear wheel. Barr and Stroud are best known for their optical rangefinders, but they also made air-cooled sleeve-valve engines from approx 1920 to 1927.

What appears to be a small radiator grille is an air intake for the air-cooled engine.

Note the stabiliser wheels are now much smaller.

Left: The Avro car: 1922

This is clearly a rear view of the first version as it still has its side-panels. There seem to be two windows in the back of the hood, one of them opaque. The rear view must have been pretty terrible.

Left: The Avro car: 1922

No passenger.

This is the second version of the 1922 two-wheeler with the sides removed and a new bonnet with louvres for cooling air. This gentleman is either surrendering or demonstrating the hands-off stability of the vehicle. It still has the registration number HO9530.

Left: The Avro car: 1926

No passenger.

The 1926 prototype had a 343 cc Villiers engine, a three-speed gearbox, and this time worm gear drive to the rear wheel.

It is not clear if this image is a drawing or a heavily retouched photo.

Left: The Avro car: 1926

No passenger.

Note the disc wheels and the front suspension springs.

Left: The Avro car: 1926

This Avro Monocar had a 2.5 HP air-cooled engine. It was sometimes described as the 'Avro Bicar'.

This car is part of the Science Museum collection; it was personally driven by Roe over many thousands of miles between Southampton and Manchester.


THE CERRETI CAR

Left: The Cerreti Motocar: 1929

Apart from this single image, for a long time nothing had been found about the Cerreti. I previously noted there was an writer of motor car books around called Felice Cerreti, but he appears to have had nothing to do with it.

Left: The Cerreti Motocar: 1929

No passenger.

The Cerreti 2-wheel car first appeared when it won a Gold Medal at the International Contest of Inventors in Paris on 11th May 1929. It was then exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1930. It was built by E Cerreti and P Valen in Courbevoie, a commune 5 miles north-west of Paris; part of La Défense, Paris's business district, is in southern Courbevoie.

The company was best known for their manufacture of pillion seats, silencers, footrests, and other motorcycling accessories.

The Cerreti had a 500 cc engine with magneto ignition.

Left: Cover of advertisding leaflet for the Cerreti Motocar: 1929

Left: Inside the advertising leaflet for the Cerreti Motocar: 1929

The photograph at upper left confirms that the poor-quality picture at the start of this section really is of the Cerreti.

The only model actually built was the one at centre left of the leaflet. The two-seater with enclosed cabin at bottom left never progressed beyond this simple drawing.

Left: The Cerreti Motocar chassis: 1929

This drawing is less than informative. It looks as if drive to the rear wheel is by chain, but no chain is shown.

It looks as if the engine is under the driver's seat, but no finned cylinder barrel can be seen.

Original source of drawing unknown, but probably a motorcycle magazine

Left: The Cerreti Motocar: 1929

The Cerreti next to its intended sidecar. It looks rather heavy and boxy compared with the car.

Note the stabiliser wheels have been removed; not required with a sidecar having a third wheel.


THE WHITWOOD-OEC MONOCAR

Left: The Whitwood-OEC Monocar: 1934-36

One passenger in tandem. (behind driver)

A Whitwood Monocar, manufactured by the Osborn Engineering Company. This was founded by Frederick Osborn who began building bicycles, then turned to motorcycles in 1901, becoming a well-known manufacturer. The Whitwood was a two-wheel car with retractable outrigger wheels operated by a lever like a handbrake. It could be fitted with three engine models from 250 to 1000cc. It was built from 1934 to 1936, but it appears only six examples were built.

There is Wikipedia page on the Whitwood, though bizarrely it is in German. Google Translate is your friend.

Image from Whitwood brochure

Left: The Whitwood-OEC Monocar: 1934-36

Clearly legroom was a bit limited in the Whitwood. Not a good car for long journeys.

Image from Whitwood brochure

Left: Whitwood brochure text

Some very persuasive advertising copy here, but it does not seem to have helped sales.

Hopefully this will be readable to you all. No better version has so far been found.

Image from Whitwood brochure

Left: The Whitwood-OEC Monocar: 1934-36

The Whitwood had two seats with behind them a small luggage compartment. Initially, the engine was mounted under the front seat, but in 1935, a Mk II Whitwood was produced with the engine in the rear and improved steering. It had a plywood body and a removable hood with side-screens.

The text on this picture is unfortunately illegible. No better version of it appears to exist.

Left: The Whitwood-OEC Monocar: 1934

This illustration of the Whitwood appeared in The Motor Cycle for 8 November 1934.

The shading makes it look as if the nose flared out at the sides, but the panels were actually flat, as shown above.


THE DALNIK

Left: The Anderle dalnik: 1948

Dalniks (or Daliks) were enclosed 2-wheelers chiefly developed in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s; they were also known as 'cabin motorcyles' though they were not just motorbikes with an added fairing. This example was built by Czechoslovak engineer and pilot Jan Anderle. (1900-82) There is a Wikipedia page that gives a little more information.

This dalnik was powered by a Jawa-Minor two-stroke water-cooled engine. Its 20 HP was claimed to accelerate the 300 kilogram machine to 120 km/h. (74 mph) Fuel consumption was 4.5 liters of petrol per 100 km. Note the retractable balancing wheels.

There is an excellent video of Anderle's car in action on YouTube.


THE CONVERTED NERACAR

Left: The converted Neracar: 1948

No passenger.

For a long time this machine was described here as a Verdon Roe car. This is now known not to be the case as the Vernon Roe car (note corrected spelling) or Avro car was a quite different machine.

The caption reads: "Mr E A Lawson in his NeraCar based FF machine in 19?8." The date has now been deciphered by Chuck Bencik, to whom many thanks, and it is definitely 1948. As Chuck pointed out, the style of the shirt-collar confirms this.

FF means Foot-Forward, and refers to a kind of motorcycle where the rider sits with feet ahead in a car-type sitting position, rather than with feet below and astride, as on normal motorcycles. The NeraCar (no, not my pun) was an FF motorcycle made in the USA from 1921 - 1926. Mr Lawson had therefore converted a machine that was already more than 20 years old.

It appears that the bodywork was added by Vernon Roe; it was probably a one-off conversion.

Left: Two Neracars in Holland: 1931

The Neracar had a good reputation for reliability and stability, thanks to its low-slung frame and hub-centre steering. However, production ceased in 1926, five years before this picture.

It looks as though adding rudimentary bodywork to this motorcycle would be relatively straightforward, but the sides would have to be left open so you could get a foot to the ground on stopping, as in the Verdon Roe picture above.

Left: A Neracar in a museum: 1921

The Neracar was produced in several forms in both the USA and the UK. The first models had a single-cylinder two-stroke engine of only 221 cc and a friction-drive transmission that gave five ratios.


THE VINCENT MONOCAR

Left: Vincent Monocar: 1958

One passenger in tandem. (behind driver)

The Vincent company decided, in 1958, that the time was ripe for two-wheeled cars, and issued a document that extolled their virtues. Here it is in PDF format. It claims that much work was done with mock-ups to test seating positions and so on, but there is no mention of a prototype being built. The engine was to be mounted under the driver's seat and air-cooled with a fan. It drove a four-speed gearbox via a chain in an oil-bath. A 12 V Lucas electric starter was to be fitted. These are about all the technical details given (it was not even settled if the engine would have one cylinder or more) and one gets the impression that the project was not much advanced.

The major question is why Vincent were trying to put on the market a 2-wheeled car at this late date. The Austin 7 was introduced in 1922, sold very well, and put paid to most of the cyclecars on the market. As just one data-point, the Austin had a proper four-cylinder four-stroke water-cooled engine, rather than a single-cylinder two-stroke air-cooled engine like most of the two-wheelers.

Even more to the point, the equally popular Morris Minor made its debut in 1948, a full ten years before the Vincent Monocar was projected.

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