The Stinkwheel Saga
The Stinkwheel Saga, Episode 1 v2 by David Beare
Stinkwheel Publishing, ISBN 0-9547363-0-3, A4 format, paperback, 230 pages, revised 2nd edition with many colour images and revised text.
David wrote this book in association with two fellow members of the British National Autocycle & Cyclemotor Club, as a result of a lifetime’s fascination with minimalist two-wheel transport, stemming from his formative teenage years at Ecolint in the early to mid-1960s.
Mobility for young people normally involved bicycles, trolleybuses, trams, parents with cars or friend’s parents with cars, none of which allowed total freedom of choice as to where or when one travelled. Swiss legislation permitted sub-50cc cyclomoteurs to be ridden from age 14 without need of licences, tests or even helmets (ah, the good old days!) so the freedom (not to mention an enhanced image with girls and the new-found ability to visit many over a wide geographic area) bestowed by ownership and use of a cyclomoteur was a complete revelation to this naïve teenager. The original thrill of independent travel was never totally forgotten.
“Stinkwheel” was a derogatory term coined in the 1930s to describe small-capacity smelly and smoky 2-stroke powered motorcycles; The Stinkwheel Saga book is a part-technical, part-sociological and part-historical survey of the nine most successful clip-on cyclemotor engines (which were fitted to an ordinary pedal-cycle) sold in Britain from 1945 to 1959. A huge need post-WW2 for affordable personal transport resulted in a plethora of more-or-less successful designs, many created by aeronautical engineers and made by industrial concerns desperate for work after military contracts had ceased. Most were unreliable, noisy and oily; the gulf between advertised dream and daily reality of use was seldom bridged.
This A4-format 245-page book took five years to research; many archives, books and magazines were plundered for arcane facts, figures, reports and adverts to describe the problems and advantages of cyclemotoring. Stinkwheel is not a boring recitation of statistics however; there is a leavening of dry humour throughout which makes this book different from many others on similar themes, reading it is enjoyable, even for a non-enthusiast. Illustrations throughout are all period though because of poor-quality originals many are not as clear as modern printing techniques allow. They do however give a flavour of the period.
The Stinkwheel Saga, Episode 2 by David Beare & Philippa Wheeler
Stinkwheel Publishing, ISBN 0-9547363-1-1 A4 format, 246 pages, 300+ b/w images
This is the second of two volumes, studying the commercially unsuccessful makes and makers of clip-on cyclemotor engines. It follows the pattern of Episode 1, being illustrated with all-period photographs and drawings, adverts and extracts from contemporary magazine road-tests. These cyclemotors were manufactured in many different European countries; Holland, Germany, France and Italy- all facing the same desperate shortage of economical personal transport after the end of WWII. Design parameters were hence very similar and almost all countries listed legislated to allow a maximum engine capacity of 50cc for a cyclemotor, which could be ridden without need for taking a motorcycle riding test and obtaining a licence.
A number of unusually-engineered prototypes which never went into production are looked at in detail- mainly because the production costs of these complex “engineers dreams” would have rendered them far too expensive to buy for the avarage bicycle owner who just wanted to put a bit less effort into pedalling and go faster.
Some cyclemotors dealt with in Episode 2 were home-built specials, made by engineering hobbyists or model engineers drawing on knowledge of model aeroplane engines, or buying castings and assembly plans from a magazine advert. One was designed and built by Ettore Bugatti of Bugatti cars fame, another was based on a piece of agricultural equipment.
Others failed because the prospective manufacturer left it too late to join the clip-on cyclemotor market, which reached it’s peak in the mid-1950s, before declining to oblivion. It was taken down by the onslaught of cheap European mopeds, designed from scratch as a unit and which were far better suited to their task than a bicycle with an attached engine. Increasing prosperity ten years after the end of WWII was also a major factor; people could afford better transport and were not prepared to put up with the compromised performance of a cyclemotor.
Panhard, the flat-twin cars 1945-1967 and their origins by David Beare
Stinkwheel Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9547363-2-3, A4 format, 334 pages, 700+ colour & b/w images
The first comprehensive work on Panhard’s post-WWII economy cars to be written in English. A brief history of the Panhard & Levassor company begins the book, from its foundation in 1891as the first company to build and sell automobiles commercially, though a period of extraordinary motor-racing successes to the advent of sleeve-valve engines in 1910. Panhard became a successful manufacturer of high-specification luxury cars in the 1920s and 30s, many using advanced technologies, but the company was virtually closed down by the Nazi invasion of France in 1940.
Post-war France was broke, disorganised, imposed rationing of all basics and endured economic and political upheavals which did for many previously successful motor manufacturers. Some survived, including Panhard, by designing economical, affordable small cars. Panhard built ultra-lightweight all-aluminium cars with air-cooled flat-twin engines from designs conceived during the dark days of WWII. The revolutionary all-aluminium Dyna Z1 of 1954; a bare bodyshell with all closures weighed just 100kgs. It was a six-seater with the performance of a bigger car and economy of a smaller car. It was a huge gamble and almost brought down Panhard, which was forced to seek financial assistance from Citroën in order to survive.
Lack of funding and investment meant the old Dyna Z had just a make-over to become the PL17, though Panhard then surprised everybody in 1963 by launching a very modern 2+2 coupé, the 24CT. It could have had a much brigher future had Citroën funded development of a planned four-door long-wheelbase version and an estate, but Panhard ran out of money and road in 1967, when Citroën closed Panhard’s factory, taking it over to produce Citroën 2CV vans and Ami 6 cars. A sad and unneccessary end for the one-time leader in automobile technology and creator of the world’s first commercially-sold automobiles.
The Wilfred Saga- Autocycle Adventures by David Beare & Ian McGregor
Stinkwheel Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9547363-3-0, A4 format, 140 pages, 300+ colour and b/w images
The book covers the story of the British ‘autocycle’, a lightweight motorcycle brought into being in 1930 by a concession from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Snowden, which allowed people to ride them without having a motorcycle licence. Engine capacity was limited to under 100cc’s and bicycle-type pedals had to be fitted. Such machines became very popular as a means of cheap, economical, light powered transport, particularly for men or women whose professions (midwife, district nurse) required them to travel a lot. Autocycles were a step up from cyclemotors but not as powerful or heavy as a conventional motorcycle and running costs were thus minimised.
The name “Wilfred” comes from a comic strip devised in 1919 for a popular newpaper which featured Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a dog, a penguin and a small rabbit respectively, an orphaned family of animals who embarked on numerous adventures together. Most combatants in WWI were given three medals to commemorate the successful conclusion of the Great War, which some wag soon renamed as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Because Wilfred was very little his name was used to denote small things, and was soon applied in a derogatory fashion to small motorcycles such as autocycles.
The Wilfred Saga covers Villiers Engineering engines which were used in the majority of autocycles, plus all the different British manufacturers (most also made conventional motorcycles too) who from 1934 served the autocycle market until it disappeared in the late 1950s, a victim of rising prosperity and a flood of far more modern European mopeds.
Hispano-Suiza and Pegaso, Birkigt and Ricart, two men, two marques made in Spain by David Beare
Stinkwheel Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9547363-4-7, A4 format, 146 pages, 300+ colour and b/w images.
Until the 1960s Spain was not normally thought of as an automobile manufacturing nation, no indigenous maker had survived very long as they were largely artesans. In 1904 a young Swiss engineer, Marc Birkigt, established a new Spanish automobile manufacturing business in Barcelona; Hispano-Suiza. The company made its fortune during the 1914-18 war by producing aero-engines designed by Birkigt and by establishing a French affiliate which became an automobile manufacturer in its own right, a company justly renowned for some of the most exotic cars of the 1920s-30s, many designed by Birkigt. The Barcelona company was overshadowed by the more glamorous French Hispano-Suiza products, but continued to make much-needed vehicles, including trucks and buses, in Spain.
This book is about the Barcelona Hispano-Suiza company and uses Spanish sources to tell the story of cars, racing-cars, aero-engines, trucks, buses, military vehicles, guns and aircraft made in Cataluña. The first chapter is a brief political, social and economic history of Spain up to and including the 1936-39 Spanish civil war, which shaped the country politically and economically for forty years under Franco’s dictatorship.
Hispano-Suiza in Barcelona was swallowed up by a new government department, Empresa Nacional de Autocamiones S.A. in 1945 and given the job of making desperately-needed trucks, to the designs of Wifredo Ricart, a Catalan engineer who had worked pre-WWII for Alfa Romeo in Italy. The truck company was named Pegaso, the history of this company and its vehicles is the subject of the second volume.
Pegaso and Ricart; trucks, buses and sportscars by David Beare
Stinkwheel Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9547363-5-4. A4 format, 117 pages 200+ colour and b/w images.
Due for publication 4th December 2017
This second volume traces the career of Wifredo Ricart in the 1920s and early 1930s, when he made several attempts at setting up as a car manufacturer but failed, followed by a move to Alfa Romeo in Milan, where he headed a design team responsible for racing cars and aero-engines. Ricart survived WWII in Italy but left in 1945, being accused by partisans of collaboration with the Nazis. He returned to Barcelona and was appointed by the Spanish government department INI to establish a national truck manufacturing base, ENASA/Pegaso. In 1951 Ricart astonished car makers worldwide by introducing a highly-advanced sportscar, the Pegaso Z102 - which would be made by the new Pegaso truck company.
Pegaso sports-car design was ambitious and the technology cutting-edge; its creation stemmed from the requirement to train and give hands-on experience of advanced designs and materials to a new, young generation of Spanish engineers and mechanics so desperately needed after the destruction caused by the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939.
Panhard & Levassor; Pioneers in Automobile Excellence by David Beare
Amberley Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4456-7141-3, A5 format, 128 pages, 200+ b/w images.
Publication date 1st March 2018
A full history of the Panhard & Levassor company from foundation in 1891, when the first commercial sales of automobiles were made, through the era of monster racing cars to the ruins of WWI. From the 1920s through to 1939 Panhard made expensive, glamorous cars for the wealthy as well as trucks and military vehicles, mostly with advanced technologies for the time. After a second war the company struggled to survive but came up with revolutionary designs for light, economical all-aluminium cars which broke with car engineering traditions but also broke the bank, forcing Panhard into the arms of Citroën for financial support. No such support was given and sales of old-fashioned Panhard models plummeted, resulting in a complete takeover and close-down of Panhard in 1967.
Ordering information can be found at stinkwheel.co.uk