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March 12, 2012

At the turn of the century, passenger seating was still to be determined.  Motorcycle trailers worked somewhat, as described in our earlier article with some faults. But a very comfortable seat could be had in a forecar.  With supple leaf springs, as well as some give from the wicker chair and the padded upholstery, it was easy to coerce a beautiful maiden into a Sunday drive through the countryside.   She was able to breathe the fresh air and see the sights, which were two things that a trailer passenger had trouble doing.  With a wool blanket on her lap, she may even keep warm during the colder months. 


But where are these forecars today?  Surely there was a downside to all this beauty, otherwise the forecar would have become the standard method of carrying a passenger…  The added weight and dubious handling of the three wheeler was certainly not appreciated by the motorbike, nor by the pilot.  But I think that the real Achilles heel of the forecar was that the missus doubled as the impact zone of the vehicle.  And that dubious handling meant that forecars saw more than their share of road accidents and spills.  And after a crash, surely the lady wouldn’t be apt to give it another go. 


Illustration from The Motor magazine, circa 1904.1904 styles


From Ixion.Ixion forecar_thumb[1]

An early  Reading Standard twin cylinder, with a very light weight wicker chair.

forecar reading standard


A drawing showing the basic steering linkages of a forecar. Even more complicated versions also existed.forecar chassis


This Quadrant shows some details of the front end of a three wheeler.  A special feature of this bike is the tilting and steering front wheels.  No other examples of this design remain today.  Photo taken on the Pioneer Run a few years ago.Quadrant tilt steering


Phoenix Trimo, again from the Pioneer Run.  This is a relatively big setup.  Note the front brakes and the fan to cool the cylinder head.  And the big cover on the front to keep the passenger warm and dry.England_Paris 027


Another Phoenix Trimo, and with a two speed rear hub!  In 1904, that predates the use of multiple speeds in a motorcycle by a few years.  This photo and the next are from the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu:



rex tricar


1904 forecar and girls 


There weren’t many methods to carry three people on a ‘bike. But this one from Mills and Fulford featured two saddles on the frame in addition to the seat in the front…. Milford, 1904


This a photo of an old Indian and forecar that I found on ebay.



This image of the Coventry Eagle and the next few of the Phoenix, Humber, Rex and Ormonde are all from the book The Veterans with a forward by Lord Montagu. They show some of the typical design details of the frames, seats and suspensions.  If you don’t have a copy, it can be found via the link. It is basically a reprint of advertisements circa 1903, with a few details.1903 Coventry Eagle

1903 Phoenix Trimo

1903 Humber

 1903 Rex1903 Ormonde


A Riley at Christmas, 1907Riley 1907

We’ll finish with an odd one, the Century Forecar.  Featuring a driver’s seat, not a bicycle saddle.  And an interesting frame for the passenger seat that wraps all the way around.  From the Beaulieu museum.

century forecar

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Gilfoyle permalink
    March 12, 2012 9:33 am

    Pete, your blog is awesome. Always an interesting read. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  2. March 12, 2012 9:34 pm

    Howz the Excelsior doing? I am waiting for my gear coming still. Soon I think. Other problems keeping me from wrenching tho. You first! Thanks, Paul Venne

    • March 13, 2012 7:34 am

      hola Paul. The X is still patiently waiting for me. I have the rods and big end bearing done, but now I need to make up a new mainshaft. The old one was OK, but the centerdrill in the end was buggered up sometime in the last 90+ years. So when I put it between centers to align the flywheels, that one shaft is already .003 out before I even start! dang it. There is always something…

  3. Chas Moody permalink
    August 20, 2022 12:47 pm

    Do you know the make of motorcycle that Master Arden is riding? and can you confirm the registration. Is it EE 9?

    • August 22, 2022 1:59 pm

      Darn, that photo is tough to see! Sorry, my copy of the image is the same size and I cannot read the reg number.

      • Chas Moody permalink
        August 27, 2022 1:44 am

        Hello Pete, I was sent the same picture for identification by the webmaster and president of Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society for their Help pages as follows:-
        I think the EE-9 registration has been enhanced however.
        Apparently the Vehicle registration records for Grimsby are held by North East Lincolnshire Archives but start from EE-12 for some reason. You will see that SVVS receive vehicle I.D. enquiries worldwide.

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