1903 four cylinder motorcycle. The first transverse four
While researching the series of articles about motorcycle passenger vehicles of 1900 (forecars, sidecars, etc.),I found an interesting photo of an early 4 cylinder bike. I posted it on the OcchioLungo Facebook page. Pavel Malanik, the builder of that fabulous 1909 Torpedo V 4 cylinder asked for more info. Knowing that he built that Torpedo from scratch from a single drawing of the 1909 bike, I decided to look into things a bit further for him…
This image of the Evart-Hall is from The Veterans by Lord Montagu
The bike is a very clean looking 4, with an elegant simplicity. And what an advanced design! A clutch was essentially unheard of on motorbikes in 1903, not to mention the 4 cylinders. The crankshaft and camshaft were mounted on ball bearings, and mechanically operated inlet valves! The typical bike of the day had steel or bronze bushings and an automatic suction valve for the intake. But the real eye opener was that it was also offered as a transversely mounted 4 cylinder. This predates the 1960’s Hondas, the pre WWII Italian race bikes, and all the other transverse fours that have become so ubiquitous today. So I think that we may be looking for the very first transverse 4 cylinder bike ever. [As a side note, this is not the first 4 cylinder bike, but it might be the first in-line 4. Colonel Holden designed and sold several of his 4 cylinder bikes starting in 1897 with two pairs of opposed cylinders. Other 4 cylinders came out in 1905 such as the FN and the Lauren & Klement, but without ball bearings and clutches]
But Pavel asked a great question: did the bike exist in metal, or only in a sketch? Time for further research. The name Evart-Hall didn’t ring any bells when I saw it in the Montagu book, so I dug around a bit more. Grabbing another good book from the shelf, The British Motorcycle Directory by Roy Bacon and Kevin Hallworth, their listing showed only that the Evart-Hall was the name applied to the Binks motorcycle of 1904-05. So looking up Binks I found this:
So Binks designed a four, but eventually moved on to make the Binks carbs which are much better known nowadays. Binks was amalgamated into the AMAL carb company at the same time as Brown & Barlow and AMAC.
Sir Max Pemberton wrote a book called The Amateur Motorist in 1907, and it had a very short reference to the Binks, but didn’t provide much info. But he did state a few points about the complexities of a four vs a single.
During late 1903 and early 1904 Binks and the writer “Petrolia” wrote letters to the editor of The Motor magazine, back and forth, discussing the merits and disadvantages of a 4 cylinder motor. Binks claimed his design had equal cooling to all four cylinders, while Petrolia argued that the front cylinder blocked the cooling air to the rear 3 cylinders. Binks added that his bike was easy to start, Petrolia argued that anybody could start a one cylinder! He added that there were now four times the parts to fail and that he didn’t think a four cylinder design was needed. They were both somewhat correct, but it took a long time for 4s to really catch on.
Binks entered one of his bikes in the 1904 races at Blackpool, but didn’t show much speed according to the periodicals. But there is a photo of him and the bike. So it was built and ridden, but I haven’t yet found out how many bikes he built, nor how the company Evart-Hall did with his design over the next two years.