Tag Archives: cyclecars

Principles of Cycle Car Construction- Part II

A Falcon cyclecar, about to depart on a successful reliabilty run from Cleveland, Ohio to Staunton, Virginia, a distance of more than 400 miles.

Today, we have the second installment in our series about cyclecars. In the United States, these diminutive devices enjoyed a brief period of popularity from about 1912 to 1915, a time in which Ford had not quite yet cemented the reputation of their Model “T” as “The Universal Car.” Dozens of car builders set up shop all across the country and began cranking out vehicles that they hoped would appeal to both economy minded and sporting buyers.

The company that produced the little Falcon pictured and seen above was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1913 but moved to Staunton, Virginia after only six months. No doubt this epic drive co-incided with their relocation. Powered by an air-cooled two cylinder engine rated at 10 horsepower, front suspension was by twin parallel transverse leaf springs that also served as suspension control arms. Steering was cable operated and of the center pivot (non-Ackermann) type as seen in fourth drawing in the center thumbnail (below) from the January 15, 1914 issue of  The Automobile magazine. There you can read more about the many other different types of steering, seating and suspension systems used by other builders in this 1st part of the article, which will be continued soon.

              

The Falcon sold for $385. When the price of Ford’s basic roadster dropped from $525 in 1913 to $440 in 1914, the cyclecar’s fate in this country was effectively sealed. The company that produced the Falcon was one that could not compete, closing their doors in 1914.

Cyclecars enjoyed greater success and a longer heyday in Europe where they were the choice for inexpensive and exciting transportation before and after the war. In the three thumbnails below from the  National Library of France archives, the only car we’re able to positively identify is the first one, a Bedalia. In the center image, we see a very limber and courageous co-driver demonstrating the “body English” cornering technique necessary in voiturette racing.  And on the right, these two gentlemen are looking thoroughly Gallic in their expression and with their moustaches, cigarettes and chapeaux. Look back to Part I of our series about cyclecars and see Part III here.

              

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Italian Cyclecar Racing Poster

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The First Cyclecar

Built in Paris by Bourbeau & Devaux, the Bedelia was an interesting car whereby the passenger and driver sat in a for and aft position and both were required to operate it. Initially powered by single cylinder Aster engines the company later installed their own belt driven v-twin units. In 1920 the partner’s sold the manufacturing rights to another firm who changed the seating to the more conventional side by side position but by 1926 the marque ceased to exist.

The first photo above shows Mr. Henri Bourbeau in the ‘tourisme’ and in the second he is pictured in the ‘sport’ model where he finished 11th in the 1913 Grand Prix de l’U.M.F. at Le Mans.

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Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920, Auto photos 1921 - 1942, Auto Racing 1894 - 1942 | Tagged , , |