1934 BSA Three Wheeler

1934 BSA 3 wheeler

When you think of early three wheelers around the era of the 1930s, I'm guessing most of us think of the Morgan. It's pretty widely known, it has been replicated by a number of kit car companies and Morgan itself has recently brought it back into production. There were others, however, and this 1934 BSA, currently for sale on eBay, is a fine example. I don't recall seeing one of these for sale before and looking closer, there are some interesting points.

Among the items they produced, BSA made a wide range of motorcycles over the many years they were in business, and also a range of both 3 and 4 wheel cars. The three wheelers were produced between 1929 and 1936, the end came as a result of changes to the way vehicles were taxed evidently taking away any advantage 3 wheelers had.

1934 BSA 3 wheeler

The BSA three wheelers were powered by a Hotchkiss 90 degree V-Twin engine, a name which meant nothing to me, at least in terms of engines, so I went digging and came across a rather long story of how they came about. The engine has one piece cast iron cylinders and barrels with inclined valves in a hemispherical combustion chamber, which is pretty fancy compared to the other early motorcycle and car engines. It drives the front wheels through a 3 speed transmission. The seller of this particular car says it's an 1100cc engine, though the article linked above says they were 900cc, perhaps they increased displacement in later years.

1934 BSA 3 wheeler Hotchkiss V-Twin engine

The BSA included items the Morgan offered as options, electric start, though there seems to be a spot for a hand crank, and extra weather protection, plus 3 speeds compared to 2 in the Morgan. Another claim in the article is that the BSA outsold the Morgan by a wide margin, something I wasn't aware of. It's interesting the Morgan is better known today, perhaps they developed a more devoted following in later years.

I think the Morgan had better looks, the BSA seems rather plain, the Morgan a bit more sporty, but I have a hunch buyers in those years were more interested in how well the car met their needs as opposed to the envious glances it would draw parked in their driveway.

Whatever the case, the BSA is another example of the 3 wheelers of the day and this one looks like it's in very good condition. It would be a nice addition to someone's British vehicle collection. Neat!

Link: BSA 3 wheeler on eBay

Comments

  1. Wave says

    A very interesting and nice looking little car. I’d never heard of these before. In 1930s Britain, this might not have only been intended as a sports car. Because the tax on motorcycles was so much cheaper than cars, a lot of families used to have a motorcycle and sidecar instead of a car. I can imagine that this might have been seen as a slightly more civilised version of a sidecar hack if the price was right. It would have been a fair bit quicker than an Austin 7 as well! An Austin 7 wouldn’t even do 50mph, whereas the source in the engine link above is quoting a top speed of 60mph for this, or 85mph with twin carburettors fitted! I can only imagine how terrifying that would have been.

    • Wave says

      On the sidecar thing, even in the 1950s my grandparents couldn’t afford a car in England and used to have a motorcycle and sidecar.

      • john says

        A panther M100 bolted to a large fully enclosed watsonian side hack would carry twice as many people as the above tri-car.

  2. Hawk says

    You mention that it has an electric starter but also a hole for a crank?

    But, of course …. it used Lucas bits, eh?

    • BigHank53 says

      In 1930, nobody had reliable electronics. It took the British traditionalists a few decades longer than everyone else to determine that this was a sub-optimal situation, particularly if they wished to participate in the world economy.

      • Paul Crowe - "The Kneeslider" says

        It’s why the British were taught to believe their beer was best consumed at warmer temperatures, … Lucas refrigerators

        • Hawk says

          I was at a recent Show ‘n Shine when a fellow kickstarted his classic old Triumph Trophy.

          It brought back memories when he automatically put his hand in front of the headlamp …. just checking.

    • Wave says

      The Morris Minor Traveller still came with a crank handle into the 1970s. I actually think it’s quite nice to have the option of crank-starting if you get a flat battery.

  3. Carolynne says

    I love it! I wish I could afford to put that in my British Car collection. Alas, my collection currently only consists of Hotwheels. Oh but one can dream

  4. says

    Joe Lucas–Prince of Darkness
    I will attest to that after my 1967 Triumph GT6 had incessant electrical problems. I eventually tore all Lucas bits and rewired the car with AC/Delco parts with a chassis negative ground. I know the purists are freaking out about that statement, but it ran much better, and I could find my way home after dark. It was my daily driver after that.

    • Paulinator says

      I remember driving lazily down a winding road one evening in my GT6 and thinking how strange it was that it suddenly got so foggy outside…then my throat slammed shut, eyes started blistering and I realized that the blue-green fog was rolling up from under the dash.

      • Jim Kunselman says

        –Paulinator
        Same thing happened to a friend with a Triumph Stag, he gave me the idea of switching over to AC/Delco parts.

        If you ever happen to find yourself in the UK Cotwolds district, go visit the Cotswold Motoring Museum (http://www.cotswoldmotoringmuseum.co.uk) in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
        A nice collection of cars, bikes, motorcycles and caravans (camping trailers). The website doesn’t do it justice and the building is a bit small for the collection, but my son and I really enjoyed our visit there.

  5. Andy Evans says

    Just to correct the idea about 3 wheelers in the UK. You could drive any 3 wheeled car with a motorcycle license, this existed up until the 80’s (it may still be law) this created a range of 3 wheeled cars, Isetta, Trojan, Bond, Reliant, Meschersmitt and many more…interesting that the bubble cars had a specially modified 3 wells version as the European versions had 2 narrow wheels at the rear.nOf course this law also applied to Motorbikes with sidecars.
    BTW…juts for the record Brits do not, or ever have liked warm beer, this come s from US troops staged in the countryside before D Day, country pubs then the beer was usually as warm as the air, as the barrels we just sat there.

  6. Mark James says

    I had a Morris Minor woodie back in the 70’s that was a most days driver. It had a crank as well, thank goodness. I seldom drove it on weekends as that was when I had the generator, voltage regulator, or starter apart.

    The entire electrical system consisted of headlights, taillights, turn signals, four instrument bulbs, and a fan for the heater. I had four electrical fires in that car.

  7. Phil Swain says

    I think the Morris Minor is getting a bad press here,I took my driving test in one in the RAF in 1974 and can honestly say we never had any electrical problems,,I think it was one of the better british designs post war period cars..Regarding the BSA car I believe they also did a range of commercial vehicles,with a motorcycle front end with a van body at the back..Probably with a 500cc m20 engine,,,all the best

  8. Phil Swain says

    I just remembered Hotchkiss made some kind of jet engine starter when I was in the RAF in the 70s,,its kind of interesting what companys where up to in the 20s and 30s,all kinds of outfits where making engines for motorcycles and cars..

  9. Hooligan says

    Birmingham Small Arms made everything. A original global company, supplying the globe or rather the bits we had control over. I think the Morris Minor IS getting bad press. English vehicle electrics used to be a joke, but at least you could fix them at the side of the road with a bit of barbed wire and a leaf for insulation. And that aluminum foil you used to get in cigarette packets to wrap round the blown fuse.
    Unlike a over engineered Citroen I hired recently in Majorca. It drove me crazy. It seemed to have sensors in the wing mirrors that screamed at you when I got too close to walls. On those tiny mountain roads and terraces, when you had to pull in to let a car coming the other way to get by. I ended up shouting at it saying “yes I know I’m only 6 inches away from the rock wall but I deliberately put the car there”
    Shouting at cars -not good. And all those millions of buttons and things will go wrong and big red deaths head will appear on the display. In my cars case the display was in German. Took me a day to work out how the boot (trunk) opened. Before you say look at the handbook. Being a Spanish hire car there is no handbook.
    Hated it. Swopped it for a basic 1000cc Toyota Yaris – loved it, drove it like a bike, rarely got it out of 2nd gear. The Na10 from Soller to Lluc is one of the great motorcycling roads. Twist, twist and twist again, with a great smooth surface, beautiful cambers and dangerous curves.
    This Yaris was such a basic car they don’t even sell it in England. But it is the modern equivalent of a Morris Minor.

  10. rafe03 says

    To see what one of these 1000cc BSA V-twins could be squeezed up to, go have a look & see the Special that Ralph Watson built in New Zealand in the early 90’s
    http://ralphwatson.scienceontheweb.net/rotary.html

    Apparently, Riley & Wolsley also built similar cars with similar engines. Some were stuffed into “CycleCars” such as GN’s & may be still seen doing vintage class on the hillclimb series in UK.
    Good series of pics at – Shelsley Special’s photostream –
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29043759@N03/

    Those Brits sure had some fun!

    • Hooligan says

      We still try and have fun. Despite all the elf and snafty rubbish these days.
      The Hill climbs are still popular not only with the vintage people but also the kit car fraternity. Like all the Lotus 7 clones – the Caterhams and Westerhams etc. There is even a race series for people who want to run a bike engined car, usually a Hyabusa in either a Lotus style chassis or another one of their choice – sometimes home made.
      I love the vintage grass trials cars where the passenger sits back and bounces over the rear axle to get some grip out of the thin tyres.
      I like to think we still have some of the backyard bodger’s can do attitude left.