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Microcars at the NEC - 2013

The NMCR regularly organises a display of Microcars at the Classic Motor Show,
held in November each year at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

The 2013 Show
- yes, we were there again!

This was the 30th Classic Motor Show and broke records with eleven halls and 65,000 people attending.  The NMCR stand this time was set out near the Isetta and Heinkel Trojan Clubs, in a thin line along one wall - it's a good job microcars are ... well ... micro!

The "thin line" did have its advantages, though, as visitors could get close up to each of the cars on display.  Through the three days, we had many thousands of people stop by for a look and a chat - and of course many, many photographs.

Yet again, we were well supported, and send our thanks to:
  •  all those who lent their vehicles for display, and brought them along to the NEC
  •  everyone who helped out manning the  stand for the three days, and who answered so many (usually sensible!) questions from visitors
  •  all the microcar clubs who gave us magazines and literature to hand out

We had a great time.


The Cars on the Stand
(With a big 'thank you' to all those whose pictures we're showing here)

This year we had carefully chosen some of the smallest microcars we could get.  From left to right along the stand, we had:

1960 Scootacar Mk 1

This is a Scootacar Mk1, built by Hunslet Engineering in Leeds, better known for their locomotives.  It is powered by a Villiers 197cc single-cylinder 2-stroke.  A MkII version was launched 1961 with a redesigned body (known as 'low line'), incorporating a more conventional seating arrangemnet for the driver, followed by a MkIII in 1961, essentially a MkII with a Villiers 324cc twin engine.

Just under 1000 Scootacars were produced between 1958 and 1965, and just over 200 survive today.

The Scootacar is always thought to be top-heavy, but is actually very stable, with a clever low centre of gravity design by Henry Brown, making it a very nippy and manoeuvrable car around town and on the open road.  It can carry two people at speeds up to 50 miles an hour.

Cost new was £236 10s 3d, plus purchase tax £60 19s 9d.  Reverse gear was £10 extra including purchase tax, and a spare wheel was a further £4 15s including purchase tax.

The car has been driven to a number of rallies in Germany, Holland and the UK since its restoration back in 1978.

Vespa 400

The Vespa 400 is a rear-engined microcar, produced from 1957 to 1961 by ACMA (Ateliers de construction de motocycles et d'automobiles) in Fourchambault, France, to the designs of the Italian Piaggio company.

The car made its public debut on 26 September 1957 at a press presentation staged in Monaco.

The 400 was a two-seater with room behind the seats to accommodate luggage or two small children on an optional cushion. The front seats were simple tubular metal frames with cloth upholstery on elastic "springs" and between the seats were the handbrake, starter and choke. The gear change was centrally floor mounted. The rear hinged doors were coated on the inside with only a thin plastic lining attached to the metal door panel skin allowing valuable extra internal space. On the early cars the main door windows did not open which attracted criticism, but increased the usable width for the driver and passenger. Instrumentation was very basic with only a speedometer and warning lights for low fuel, main beam, dynamo charging and indicators. The cabriolet fabric roof could be rolled back from the windscreen header rail to the top of the rear engine cover leaving conventional metal sides above the doors. The 12 volt battery was located at the front of the car, behind the dummy front grill, on a shelf that could be slid out. The spare wheel was stowed in a well under the passenger seat.

Engine: Two cylinder, two-stroke, air cooled. Bore, stroke: 63 mm x 63 mm (393 cc). Motorcyclists at the time were used to mixing oil into their fuel, but the manufacturer belatedly realised that this might compromise the 400's standing as a "car", and from the summer of 1958 "two stroke oil" was held in a separate reservoir with a semi-automatic dispenser on the right side of the engine bay.

Performance: With only 18 hp (13 kW), top speed is 50 to 55 mph (80 to 90 km/h), depending on road grade, wind conditions, etc. Achieving top speed takes a leisurely 25 seconds. Fuel economy is about 5L/100km.

1962 Messerschmitt KR200

Owned by Mrs Yvonne Jaques, who tells us:

"This car was first registered in London 1962, and I am the third owner from new.  It was stored off the road for nearly 20 years and so has a relatively low mileage for its age.  It has been restored twice since 1962 and I still have the original log book.

The car was manufactured at the Messerschmitt factory in Regensburg (Southern Germany) before being shipped in a crate to ports like Tilbury in Essex in early 1962.  It was one of about 8000 KR200 models shipped here between 1955 and 1964.

The bodywork, seating, engine and all the running gear are original to the car, and you will note that unlike the earlier models which have the Messerschmitt company's eagle badge on the nose cone, this one has an FMR badge.  This was the later company formed by Fritz Fend and Valentin Knott called Fahrzeug-und Machinenbau Regensburg (vehicle and machine builders, Regensburg), which manufactured the cars until August 17 1964, when the factory closed after a disastrous fire.

It has a 191cc two-stroke Sachs engine with Bosch electric start and 10bhp.  It has 4 forward gears and 4 reversing gears.  The engine is actually reversed and can be driven backwards through all 4 gears at up to 45 mph - a fantastic innovation, invented in 1955.  Mileage is about 55 mpg and top speed has been 70 mph, but it runs well at 55 mph and with a 3-gallon petrol tank.  It is used regularly around Essex.

The car has featured on Facebook, on the Flickr website twice - once in the London to Brighton run - has been a show winner, been to lots of exhibitions, and featured on the BBC radio 4 website of media journalist Andy Kershaw.

1965 Peel Trident

This is a Peel Trident built by Peel Engineering on the Isle of Man in 1965, following the success of the single-seater Peel P50.  There were approximately 80 cars built in this 2-seater format with a 49cc DKW 2-stroke engine with 3-speed gearbox.

There were also one-off variations such as a 125cc Triumph Tina engine version; a single-seater version with a shopping "bucket" like a washing-up bowl, fitted in the passenger space; and a 4-wheeled electric version.

This particular example has been on many "expeditions", including a trip form Purley, South London, to Bergambacht in the middle of Holland.  A round trip of 400 miles, with two people and full camping gear for the weekend!

It has completed a circuit of the IOM TT course, again 2-up, even over the mountain section.  It has been driven around Brands Hatch and Goodwood, probably setting the slowest lap but wth a great deal of enjoyment.

1968 Goggomobil T250

Developed by Hans Glas and named after the pet name of his young nephew Goggi.

It sold more than a quarter of a million during its 13 year production span from 1955 until 1968.  It was even in production when BMW was already the owner of the Glas Company.

Propulsion was by a two-stroke two cylinder engine, with 250, 300 and 400 cc displacement, the latter meant for the American export market.

The 250 engine produced 13.5 bhp, 1.5 less than the 300, while the 400 had a whopping 20 bhp!!

It can take four small people.  Kerb weight was just over 400kg, and top speed under favorable circumstances was 100 kph

Purchased in early 2007. Stripped, rebuilt and repainted over a period of 18 months, with all parts shipped in from Germany. (Uwe Staufenberg)

1958 FriskySport

Built at Henry Meadows Ltd Wolverhampton, who were better known for their engines that powered such famous cars as Lagonda, Invicta, Frazer Nash, HRG, Lea Francis etc. and later on power boats, trains, and commercial vehicles throughout the world (not forgetting heavy artillery in the war).

The original Gullwing Frisky was unveiled at the 1957 Geneva Motor show, designed by Giovanni Michelotti with coachwork by Vignale of Turin.

The FriskySport made a huge impact at the 1957 Earls Court Motor Show and barriers had to be erected to protect the car from the crowds.

This car was purchased in 1978 by John Meadows (grandson of Henry Meadows), as a "pile of bits" in two tea chests, minus its engine. The original engine was traced, rebuilt, refitted and the car restored over the next 20 years!

This year (2013) it has undergone further work to bring it closer to original.

1959 Berkeley T60

Engine:  328cc, 2-cyl, 2-stroke
Power:   18bhp @ 5000 rpm
Gearbox: 4-speed manual
Top Speed: 55mph
Length:  10ft 6inch (3.20 m)
Weight:  700 lb (317 kg)
Cost New:  £399
Cost Now:  £800-£3000

The BerkeleyT60 was designed by Lawrie Bond and Charles Panter.  The pair got their heads together in 1956 after Bond already achieved success with the three-wheeled Minicar and Panter with his company making the Berkeley Caravan.  Berkeley's initial range of 4-wheeled cars was a success, but it was with the launch of the 3-wheeled T60 in 1959 that the company really found its niche.

The Berkeley T60 is a truly respectable sports car that can be driven on a motorbike licence.  It features a single wheel perched on a swing-arm suspension and a GRP body reinforced with sections of aluminium.  Power comes from an Excelsior Talisman 2-stroke twin, feeding a vaguely adequate 18bhp through a wet clutch to a crash 'box of similar 2-wheeled origin.

In less than 2 years, Berkeley produced over 1700 T60s and T60/4s.  However, production ceased in 1961 when the bank that was funding the company rudely called in a loan.  Berkeley folded and took with them their engine producer Excelsior.

NEC Shows in Other Years

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Last updated 21-December-2015