Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Skinny on Cyclecars

Have you ever seen a cuter rear view of a car than this (and can you name the make and model?)
You're looking at the back end of a cyclecar, which in America was defined as a vehicle with four wheels, a narrow tread (distance between the left and right wheels), and an engine no bigger than 71 cubic inches. These skinny, lightweight cars were little more than a motorcycle with four wheels and a chain drive. Wheelbases rarely exceeded 100", and the bodies were so narrow that the passengers usually sat in tandem, rather than side-by-side.

The first cyclecar was likely the 1910 French Bedelia, made by the Bourbeau et Devaux Co. of Paris. While they became hugely popular in Europe, the cyclecar boom didn't last long in America (roughly 1913-1915). Cyclecars were an inexpensive and efficient alternative to the typical autos of the day, but they had few features and were often poorly constructed, flimsy machines. They also couldn't compete with the inexpensive Model T in price, comfort and reliability.

Most American cyclecars had whimsical names, including Dudley Bug, Zip, Imp, Cricket and my favorite, Oh-We-Go. The Woods Mobilette was touted as America's first cyclecar, and we are delighted to have this 1914 Woods Mobilette Model 3 tandem roadster on display. It has a 69 cu. in. 4-cylinder engine, gets an incredible 35 miles to the gallon and can allegedly go 35 mph. I think pieces would bounce off if we went that fast, however. I also wouldn't want to go faster than 15 mph around a corner on its 36" tread, as it felt very tippy the one time I drove it. Still, I love this car and it's one of the favorites of many museum visitors. Everyone chuckles when they learn that brakes were optional on the Woods Mobilette, costing $10 more if you wanted them added!

You can see the Woods Mobilette in action in this video.

Nancy

P.S. If you know of an Imp cyclecar for sale, let us know!

1 comment:

  1. I should have included the tacky advertising slogan the Woods Mobilette Company once used to promote their $380 cyclecar: "Built like a watch, and ownership will not cause Tuberculosis of one's wallet." Ugh. - Nancy

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