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The Butler Car

Edward Butler first began designing this tri-car when he was only 18 years old. Three years later in 1884 he took out a provisional patent on his invention which specified – “A petroleum tricycle or small automobile carriage since it is not provided with auxiliary pedalling gear and was fitted with a comfortable seat and footboard“. That same year he announced the arrival of his tricycle, now called the Velocycle and amazingly a full year before Gottleib Daimler patented his now famous invention. In 1887, a still young Butler formed a syndicate to further it’s development and apply for another patent for the improved tri-car, by now named the Petrocycle. The following year he tested the car on the streets of London but further modifications were needed including the ignition system and a jet carburetor {by Butler} called the Inspirator. Unfortunately, Butler’s hopes of further development ended due to a lack of financial backing and the wonderful piece of engineering was scrapped. What a shame.

2 responses to “The Butler Car

  1. Now this IS impressive! I need some help, though. I believe I get the steering/braking concept, more or less. It appears to be a backwards engine, possibly with combustion on both sides of the piston (ala locomotives), but how in the world are they applying power to the chain(s)? Would the connecting rod be machined like a rack, engaging a spur gear on a fixed shaft? It looks like they pulled off motive power without the use of a crankshaft. Are those vintage sparkplugs/ignitors of antiquity on top of the cylinder?
    Wonderful picture, thank you!

  2. Perry, the rear wheel is the crankshaft. The connecting rods act directly onto the rear hub, which has epicyclic gear reduction. The first builds of the machine were direct drive, but Butler had trouble getting the motor to run at the low speed, so he added the gearing. (he eventually tried a few different gear ratios to get it right). There is a primitive free engine device, in that the foot pedal operates a linkage that lifts the rear wheel off the ground! The little wheels can be seen ahead of the rear wheel, which attach to that ‘free engine’ linkage. Both front wheels had contracting band brakes, operated by the other foot pedal.

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