The Big Car Database

Cyclecar

1912 Bédélia BD-2
1914 MHV Hawk

A cyclecar was a type of small, lightweight and inexpensive car manufactured in Europe and the United States between 1910 and the early 1920s.

The purpose of cyclecars was to fill a gap in the market between the motorcycle and the car.

The demise of cyclecars was due to larger cars – such as the Citreon Type C, Austin 7 and Morris Cowley – becoming more affordable. Small, inexpensive vehicles reappeared after World War II, and were known as microcars.

Introduction

From 1898 to 1910, automobile production quickly expanded. Light cars of that era were commonly known as voiturettes. The smaller cyclecars appeared around 1910 with a boom shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, with Temple Press launching The Cyclecar magazine on 27 November 1912 (later renamed The Light Car and Cyclecar), and the formation of the Cyclecar Club (which later evolved into British Automobile Racing Club). From 1912, the Motor Cycle show at Olympia became the Motor Cycle and Cycle Car Show.

The number of cyclecar manufacturers was less than a dozen in each of the UK and France in 1911, but by 1914, there were over 100 manufacturers in each country, as well as others in Germany, Austria and other European countries. By 1912, the A.C. Sociable was described as "one of the most popular cycle cars on the road, both for pleasure and for business", though another source states that the "Humberette" was the most popular of cycle cars at that time. Many of the numerous makes were relatively short-lived, but others became better known, often through racing success, this including names such as Bédélia of France and both G.N. and Morgan from Britain.

Characteristics

 
1911 Violette
Advertisement for 1914 La Vigne
Advertisement for 1912 Premier

General description

Cyclecars were propelled by engines with a single cylinder or V-twin configuration (or occasionally a four cylinder engine), which were often air-cooled. Sometimes motorcycle engines were used, in which case the motorcycle gearbox was also used.

Cyclecars were halfway between motorcycles and cars and were fitted with lightweight bodies, sometimes in a tandem two-seater configuration and could be primitive with minimal comfort and weather protection. They used various layouts and means of transmitting the engine power to the wheels, such as belt drive or chain drive often to one rear wheel only to avoid having to provide a differential.

All cyclecars were required to have clutches and variable gears.This requirement could be fulfilled by even the simplest devices such as provision for slipping the belt on the pulley to act as a clutch, and varying of the pulley diameter to change the gear ratio. Methods such as belt drive or chain drive were used to transmit power to the drive wheel(s), often to one wheel only, so that a differential was not required.

The bodies were lightweight and sometimes offered minimal weather protection or comfort features.

The rise of cyclecars was a direct result of reduced taxation both for registration and annual licences of lightweight small-engined cars. On 14 December 1912, at a meeting of the Federation Internationale des Clubs Moto Cycliste, it was formally decided that there should be an international classification of cyclecars to be accepted by the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Austria and Germany. As a result of this meeting, the following classes of cyclecars were defined:

Class Max. weight Max. displacement Min. tyre section
Large 350 kg (772 lb) 1,100 cc (67 cu in) 60 mm (2.4 in)
Small 150 kg (331 lb) 750 cc (46 cu in) 55 mm (2.2 in)

Origins

From 1898 to 1910, automobile production quickly expanded. Light cars of that era were commonly known as voiturettes. The smaller cyclecars appeared around 1910 with a boom shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, with Temple Press launching The Cyclecar magazine on 27 November 1912 (later renamed The Light Car and Cyclecar), and the formation of the Cyclecar Club (which later evolved into British Automobile Racing Club). From 1912, the Motor Cycle show at Olympia became the Motor Cycle and Cycle Car Show.

The number of cyclecar manufacturers was less than a dozen in each of the UK and France in 1911, but by 1914, there were over 100 manufacturers in each country, as well as others in Germany, Austria and other European countries. By 1912, the A.C. Sociable was described as "one of the most popular cycle cars on the road, both for pleasure and for business", though another source states that the "Humberette" was the most popular of cycle cars at that time. Many of the numerous makes were relatively short-lived, but several brands achieved greater longevity, including Bédélia (1910-1925), GN (1910-1923) and Morgan (1910–present).

Motor racing

Several motor racing events for cyclecars were run between 1913 and 1920. The first race dedicated to cyclecars was organised by the Automobile Club de France in 1913, followed by a Cyclecar GP at Le Mans in 1920. The Auto Cycle Union was to have introduced cycle car racing on the Isle of Man in September 1914, but the race was abandoned due to the onset of the war.

On 14 December 1912, at a meeting of the Federation Internationale des Clubs Moto Cycliste, it was formally decided that there should be an international classification of cyclecars to be accepted by the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Austria and Germany. It was also decided to establish two classes of cyclecars, as follows;

  • (i) Large class
    • Max. weight: 350 kg (772 lb)
    • Max. engine capacity: 1,100 cc (67 cu in)
    • Min. tyre section: 60 mm (2.4 in)
  • (ii) Small class
    • Min. weight: 150 kg (331 lb)
    • Max. weight: 300 kg (661 lb)
    • Max. engine capacity: 750 cc (46 cu in)
    • Min. tyre section: 55 mm (2.2 in)

All cyclecars were to have clutches and change-speed gears. This requirement could be fulfilled by even the simplest devices such as provision for slipping the belt on the pulley to act as a clutch, and varying of the pulley diameter to change the gear ratio.

Sporting cars and cyclecar races

Some cyclecars such as Amilcar, Major or Salmson of France had sufficient performance and handling to be regarded as sports cars.

The first race dedicated to cyclecars was organised by the Automobile Club de France in 1913, followed by a Cyclecar GP at Le Mans in 1920. The Auto Cycle Union was to have introduced cycle car racing on the Isle of Man in September 1914, but the race was abandoned due to the onset of the war.

Demise and renewed interest

By the early 1920s, the days of the cyclecar were numbered. Mass producers, such as Ford, were able to reduce their prices to undercut those of the usually small cyclecar makers. Similar affordable cars were offered in Europe, such as the Citroën 5CV, Austin 7 or Morris Cowley.

The cyclecar boom was over. The majority of cyclecar manufacturers closed down. Some companies such as Chater-Lea survived by returning to the manufacture of motorcycles.

After World War II, small, economic cars were again in demand and a new set of manufacturers appeared. The cyclecar name did not reappear however and the cars were called microcars by enthusiasts and bubble cars by the general population.

List of cyclecars by country

Argentina

  • Viglione

Austria

  • Austro, 1913–14
  • Grofri

Belgium

  • CAP
  • SCH

Canada

  • Baby Car
  • Campagna T-Rex
  • Dart Cycle Car Co
  • Glen Motor Company
  • Gramm
  • Holden-Morgan
  • Welker-Doerr

Czechoslovakia

  • Aero 500
  • Novo
  • Vaja

Denmark

  • Dana

France

  • Able
  • Ajams
  • Ajax
  • Alcyon
  • Amilcar
  • Allain et Niguet
    (AN)
  • Ardex
  • Arzac
  • Astatic
  • Astra
  • Austral
  • Auto Practique
  • Automobillette
  • Autorette
  • Bédélia
  • Benjamin
  • Billard
  • Blériot Aéronautique
  • Benova
  • Bollack Netter and Co (B.N.C.)
  • Bucciali (Buc)
  • Causan
  • Coadou et Fleury
  • Contal
  • (Coudert), see
    Lurquin-Coudert
  • Croissant
  • De Sanzy
  • D'Yrsan
  • D'Aux
  • De Marçay
  • Derby
  • Deschamp
  • Désert et de Font-Réault
  • Dorey
  • Eclair
  • Einaudi
  • Elfe
  • Emeraude
  • G.A.M.
  • G.A.R.
  • Gauthier
  • Griffon
  • Grouesy
  • HP
  • Huffit
  • Ipsi
  • Jack Sport
  • Janoir
  • Janémian
  • JG Sport
  • Jouvie
  • Julien
  • La Confortable
  • La Flèche
  • La Perle
  • La Roulette
  • La Violette
  • Lacour
  • Laetitia
  • Lafitte
  • L.B.
  • Le Cabri
  • Le Favori
  • Le Méhari
  • Le Roitelet
  • Lurquin-Coudert
  • Major
  • Marguerite Typ A
  • Marr
  • Max
  • Molla
  • Micron
  • Molla
  • Monitor
  • Mourre
  • Noël
  • Orial
  • Patri
  • Pégase
  • Pestourie et Planchon
  • Phébus
  • Quo Vadis
  • Rally
  • Revol
  • Roll
  • Salmson
  • Santax
  • Sénéchal
  • SICAM
  • SIMA-Violet
  • Sphinx
  • Spidos
  • Super
  • Tholomé
  • Tic-Tac
  • Tom Pouce
  • Utilis
  • Vaillant
  • Villard
  • Violet-Bogey
  • Violette
  • Viratelle
  • Virus
  • Weler
  • Zénia
  • Zévaco

Germany

  • Arimofa
  • Bootswerft Zeppelinhafen
    (B.Z.)
  • Cyklon
  • Dehn
  • Grade
  • Koco
  • Minimus Fahrzeugwerk
  • Pluto
  • Slaby-Beringer
  • Spinell
  • Staiger
  • Zaschka

Greece

  • Theologou

Italy

  • Amilcar Italiana
  • Anzani
  • Baroso
    (Officine Barosso)
  • C.I.P.
    (Cyclecar Italiana Petromilli)
  • Della Ferrera
    (Fratelli Della Ferrera)
  • Marino
  • Meldi
    (Officine Meccanica Giuseppe Meldi)
  • San Giusto
    (S.A. San Giusto)
  • SIC
    (Società Italiana Cyclecars)
  • Vaghi
    (Motovetturette Vaghi)

Poland

  • SKAF

Spain

  • Alvarez
  • David
  • Izaro
  • JBR
  • Salvador

Sweden

  • Mascot
  • Self

Switzerland

  • Moser (Fritz Moser, Fabrique d’Automobiles et Motocyclettes)
  • Speidel

United Kingdom

  • AC (Auto Carriers Ltd)
  • Adamson
  • Aerocar
  • Allwyn
  • Alvechurch
  • Amazon
  • Archer
  • Armstrong
  • Athmac
  • Atomette
  • Autotrix
  • AV
  • Baby Blake
  • Baker & Dale
  • Bantam
  • Barnard
  • Baughan
  • Beacon Motors
  • Bell
  • Black Prince
  • Blériot-Whippet
  • Bound
  • Bow-V-Car
  • BPD
  • Bradwell
  • Britannia
  • Broadway
  • Buckingham
  • Cambro
  • Campion
  • Corfield & Hurle
  • Carden
  • Carlette
  • Carter
  • Castle Three
  • CFB
  • CFL
  • Chater-Lea
  • Chota
  • Coventry Premier
  • Coventry Victor
  • Crescent
  • Cripps
  • Crompton
  • Crouch
  • Cumbria Motors
  • CWS
  • Cyclar
  • Dallison
  • Day-Leeds
  • Dayton
  • Dennis
  • Dewcar
  • Douglas
  • D'Ultra (D-Ultra)
  • Duocar
  • Dursley-Pedersen
  • Economic
  • Edmond
  • Edmund
  • Edwards
  • EYME
  • GB
  • Gerald
  • Gibbons
  • Gillyard
  • Glover
  • GN
  • Gnome
  • Gordon (1912-1914)
  • Grahame-White
  • Guildford
  • GWK
  • Hampton
  • HCE
  • Heybourn
  • Hill & Stanier
  • HMC
  • Howard
  • Howett
  • HP
  • Humberette
  • Imperial
  • Invicta
  • Jappic
  • JBS
  • Jewel
  • Jones
  • Kendall
  • LAD
  • La Rapide
  • Lambert
  • LEC
  • Lecoy
  • Lester Solus
  • Lington
  • LM (Little Midland)
  • Matchless
  • Marcus
  • Marlborough (Anglo-French car)
  • Mead & Deakin (Medea)
  • Medinger
  • Menley
  • Meteorite Cars
  • Metro-Tyler
  • Morgan
  • New Hudson
  • Nomad Cars
  • Northstar
  • Norma
  • Paragon
  • Pickering, Darley & Allday (PDA)
  • Pearson & Cox
  • Perry
  • Premier Motor
    (PMC)
  • Princess
  • Projecta
  • Pyramid
  • Ranger
  • Rex
  • Richardson (1903)
  • Richardson (1919)
  • Robertson
  • Robinson & Price
  • Rollo
  • Royal Ruby
  • Rene Tondeur (RTC)
  • Rudge-Whitworth
  • J. A. Ryley
  • Simplic
  • Skeoch
  • Speedy
  • Sterling
  • Stoneleigh
  • Swift
  • Tamplin
  • T.B.
  • Tiny
  • Turner
  • Unique
  • VAL
  • Vee Gee
  • Victor
  • Warne
  • Warren-Lambert
  • Westall
  • Wherwell
  • Whitgift
  • Wilbrook
  • Willis
  • Winson
  • Wooler
  • Wrigley
  • WSC
  • Winter
  • Woodrow
  • Xtra
  • Zendik

United States

  • American
  • Argo
  • Arrow
  • Asheville
  • Buick prototype built by Walter Lorenzo Marr
  • Briggs & Stratton Flyer
    see Smith Flyer
  • Bull Moose-Cutting Automobile Company
    Baby Moose
  • Burrows
    (1914 Ripley NY)
  • Car-Nation
  • Ceco
    (Continental Engineering Company)
  • Coey
  • Comet
  • Continental Engine Manufacturing Company
  • Corbin Motors
  • Cycle-Car
  • Cyclops
  • Dayton
  • De La Vergne
  • Delco
  • Dodo
  • Dudly Bug
  • Economy car
  • EIM
  • Engler
  • Falcon
  • Fenton
  • Geneva
  • Greyhound
  • Hall
  • Hanover
  • Hawk
  • Hawkins
  • Hoosier Scout
  • IMP
  • JPL
  • Kearns LuLu
  • Keller
  • La Vigne
  • Limit
  • Logan
  • Malcolm Jones
  • Merz
  • Michaelson
  • Mecca
  • Mercury
  • Motor Bob
  • O-We-Go
  • Pacific
  • Pioneer
  • Portland
  • Post
  • Prigg
  • Puritan
  • Real
  • Rex
  • Saginaw
  • Scripps-Booth
  • Smith Flyer
  • Trumbull
  • Twombly
  • Vixen
  • Winthur
  • Wizzard
  • Woods
  • Xenia
  • Yankee
 

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