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Bond Minicar
Bond Minicars.jpg
Manufacturer Sharp's Commercials Limited
Production 1949–1966
Assembly Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Class Microcar
Layout FF layout

Bond Minicar is the name given to a series of economical three-wheeled cars manufactured by Sharp's Commercials Limited (The company was renamed Bond Cars Limited in 1964), in Preston, Lancashire between 1949 and 1966.[1]

The car was invented by Lawrence "Lawrie" Bond an engineer from Preston, Lancashire.[2] During the war, Bond had worked as an aeronautical designer for the Blackburn Aircraft Company[3] before setting up a small engineering business in Blackpool, manufacturing aircraft and vehicle components for the government. After the war he moved his company to Longridge where he built a series of small racing cars with a modest amount of success.[2] In the early part of 1948, he revealed what was described as a new minicar to the press.[4]

Described as a "short radius runabout, for the purpose of shopping and calls within a 20-30-mile radius", the prototype was demonstrated climbing a 25% gradient with driver and passenger on board. It was reported to have a 125 cc (8 cu in) Villiers two-stroke engine, a weight of under 200 pounds (91 kg) and a cruising speed of around 30 mph (48 km/h). At the time of the report (May 1948), production was described as "expected to start in three months' time".[5]

Sharp's Commercials were a company contracted by the Ministry of Supply to rebuild military vehicles.[6] Knowing that the Ministry were ending their contract in 1948, Bond approached the Managing Director of Sharp's, Lt Col C.R. Gray, to ask if he could rent the factory to build his car. Gray refused, but said that instead, Sharp's could manufacture the car for Bond and the two entered into an agreement on this basis.[7]

The car proved popular in the UK market where it's three-wheel configuration meant that it qualified for lower Purchase Tax, lower vehicle excise duty and lower insurance. The three-wheel configuration, low weight and lack of a reverse gear also meant that it could be driven on a motor cycle license.[8]

The engine bay of a 1959 Minicar. Note the kick start on the left of the engine. These were fitted for emergency use although all Minicars were started from the drivers seat.[9]

The prototype and early cars utilised stressed skin aluminium bodywork, though later models incorporated chassis members of steel.[9] The Minicar was amongst the first British cars to use fibreglass body panels.[10]

Though retaining much of Lawrie Bonds original concept of a simple, lightweight, economical vehicle, the Minicar was gradually developed by Sharps through several different incarnations, Convertibles were offered, as were van and estate versions. The cars were powered initially by a single-cylinder two-stroke Villiers engine of 122 cc (7 cu in): in 1950 the engine size was increased to 197 cc (12 cu in).[11] The engine was further upgraded in 1958, first to a single-cylinder 247 cc (15 cu in) and then to a 247 cc (15 cu in) twin-cylinder Villiers 4T. The engines were developed principally as motorcycle units and therefore had no reverse gear. However, this was a minimal inconvenience, because the engine, gearbox and front wheel were mounted as a single unit and could be turned by the steering wheel up to 90 degrees either side of the straight-ahead position, enabling the car to turn within its own length.

A way to reverse was offered on later models by stopping the engine and starting it backwards. This was done by reversing the Dynastart unit, which doubled as both starter motor and alternator via a built in reversing solenoid switch.[12]

In April 1962, the Purchase tax rate of 55% which had been applied to all four wheeled cars since the war was reduced to 45%.[13] In November 1962, it was reduced by another 20% to 25% - the same rate as three wheelers. This rapid change meant that some three wheelers became more expensive than four wheeled cars like the Mini. In response, Thomas Gratrix, head of Sharps sent a telegram to the Chancellor warning that unless a similar tax cut were given to three-wheelers, there would be 300 redundancies and possibly the closure of the Sharps factory.[14] Sales of Minicars declined rapidly from this point.[15]

At the end of production 24,482 had been made.[16]

Minicar Mark A 1949–1951

Bond Minicar
1951 Bond Minicar Mark A Tourer
Also called Bond Minicar Mark A
Production 1949–1951
Successor Bond Minicar Mark B
Body style(s) Convertible
Engine(s) Villiers 10D 122 cc (7 cu in) Single cylinder 2 stroke
Transmission(s) 3-speed manual
Wheelbase 5 ft 5 in ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)
Length 8 ft 10 in ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)
Width 4 ft 7 in ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)
Height 3 ft 6 in ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} m)
Kerb weight 310 lb (140 kg)

Sold as The Bond Minicar (the Mark A epithet being added only after the Mark B was introduced),[17] the car was advertised as the world's most economical car.[18] Austere and simple in design without luxuries.[9] Production began in January 1949,[19] although 90% of initial production was said to be allocated to the overseas market.[20]

As with the prototype, a large proportion of the Minicar is made from aluminium alloys. The main body is a very simple construction of 18SWG sheet with a 14SWG main bulkhead.[21] The integrity of the main stressed skin structure is enhanced by the absence of doors, the bodysides being deemed low enough to stepped over without major inconvenience unless you were wearing a skirt.[22] Most of the bodywork panels are flat or very simple curves and the compound curves of the bonnet and rear mudguard arches being pressed out as separate panels. The windscreen is made from Perspex.[19] The car was said to weigh only 308 pounds (140 kg) “all-in”[21] and it's light weight was regularly demonstrated by one person lifting the entire rear end of the car off the ground unaided.[23]

The car has a single bench seat with a small open compartment behind suitable for luggage. There is also a removable fold-down hood with detatchable sidescreens.[22] Headlights are separate units mounted on stalks at the side of the car,[24] whilst at the rear there is a tiny, single centrally mounted lamp.[13]

The air-cooled Villiers 10D 122 cc (7 cu in) engine has a unit three-speed manual gearbox without reverse.[19] The engine has a claimed output is 5 bhp (4 kW/5 PS) at 4,400 rpm which the manufacturers claimed gave a power to weight ratio of 49 bhp (37 kW/50 PS) per ton unladen.[13] The engine unit sits in an alloy cradle ahead of the front wheel, together forming part of its support. Both front wheel and engine are sprung as part of the trailing link front suspension system, which is fitted with a single coil spring and an Hartford friction shock absorber.[21] The rear wheels are rigidly mounted to the body on stub axles with all rear suspension provided by low pressure "balloon" type tyres.[9] The engine is started by a pull handle under the dash, connected by cable to a modified kick-start lever.[19] The steering system comprises a system of pulleys and a cable usually referred to as a "bobbin and cable"[9] system, connecting a conventional steering wheel to the front steering unit. The bobbin and cable steering system was replaced by a rack and pinion in October 1950.[19] Brakes are only provided on the rear wheels, these are conventional drum brakes operated by a system of cables and rods.[21] Early on, Sharps adopted a policy of continual gradual upgrading of the Minicars, either to simplify or reduce maintenance, to redress noted failings or to improve some aspect of performance. Such changes were usually made available as kits to enable existing owners to retrospectively upgrade their own cars.[13]

In December 1949, a De-luxe version was added to the range. This has a Villiers 6E 197 cc (12 cu in) engine along with a number of modest refinements including a spare wheel and a single wing mirror.[19] The manually operated windscreen wiper fitted on the standard car was upgraded to an electric one. This was found to damage the original perspex windscreen[13] and subsequently in October 1950 the perspex windscreen on the De-luxe models was replaced by a Triplex glass windscreen.[19]

A De-luxe version tested by The Motor magazine in 1949 and carrying only the driver had a top speed of 43.3 mph (69.7 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-30 mph (48 km/h) in 13.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 72 mpg-imp (3.9 L/100 km/60 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £262 including taxes.[22]

Towards the end of 1950 an optional mechanical device was introduced which comprised a long lever with a ratchet on the end which fitted onto the drivers side rear wheel hub. This device could be operated from the driving seat and allowed the car to be cranked backwards by hand by the driver to assist with maneuvering.[13]

Minicar Mark B 1951–1952

Progressive development of the Minicar and Minicar De-luxe continued until the more major introduction of coil sprung independent rear suspension for the car in the early part of 1951. This provided an ideal opportunity to relaunch the car as the Bond Minicar (Mark B). Externally, the difference between the Mark A and Mark B was very subtle, the rear mudguards were slightly wider to accommodate the wheel movement and the storage area behind the rear seats was enlarged, increasing the cars overall length slightly.[9] Beneath the bodywork, there were improvements to electrics, the front suspension and to the braking system. The hood was also redesigned. Also of note was the adoption of the Villiers 6E engine and triplex windscreen throughout the range.[25] As well as the open car, a commercial Minivan and Minitruck versions appeared in 1952.[24] The Sharps Minitruck had a further extension of the bodywork behind the rear wheel and replaced the bench seat with a single seat for the driver providing a claimed load capacity of 3 long cwt (150 kg) and 24 cu ft (0.68 m³). The hood had a roll-up flap at the back of the car to assist loading.[25]

Minicar Mark C 1952–1956

The Mark C saw a completely new body style. The headlights were now in the wings and a door was fitted but only on the passenger side of the car. An electric starter became an option on the 197 cc (12 cu in) villiers 8E engine.[16] The steering lock was increased and a worm and sector mechanism fitted replacing the rack and pinion and this allowed the engine to turn through 180 degrees allowing the car to turn in its own length so reducing the handicap of not having a reverse gear. These were the models best years, with production rising to 100 cars per week in 1955 and a total of 9,786 Mark A, Mark B and Mark C models produced by 1956.[11]

Minicar Mark D 1956–1958

1956 Bond Minicar Mark D Tourer Deluxe

The Mark D was an upgrade over the mark C, gaining a Villiers 9E 197 cc engine and a 12-volt electrical system.

The Family version had small hammock type rear seats.

Minicar Mark E 1957–1958

The final versions of the Minicar were a completely new design. The body, still in aluminium, was mounted onto a steel chassis. Doors were now fitted to both sides of the body and the gear box became a 4-speed.

The body was offered in 2/3 seater Saloon Coupe and Tourer (convertible) versions. The maximum speed was now around 50 mph (80 km/h).[24]

Minicar Mark F 1958–1963

A 1959 Bond Minicar Mark F Family Saloon

Similar to the Mark E, this model had an engine upgraded to 250 cc (15 cu in) and 55 mph (89 km/h) top speed and optional reverse gear.[24] Initially, three body options were available: 2 / 3 seater Saloon Coupe, 2 / 3 seater Tourer and a four seater Family Saloon. In March 1960, the Ranger Van version was introduced.

Minicar Mark G 1961–1966

The Mark G had a revised body with the windscreen moved forwards to give more interior room and a "reverse slope" rear window in the saloon models making the Minicar much more like a "proper car", there were even wind up windows and lockable doors. An estate car, Ranger van and a 2 / 3 seat tourer was added to the body line up and a choice of engines was offered on later mark G models – the 35A single cylinder unit (11.5 bhp) or the 4T twin cylinder unit (14 bhp). Semi hydraulic brakes replaced the old cable and rod operated system of the predecessors and the car was fitted with larger 10" wheels.


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See also


  1. "A brief history of the Bond Company". The Bond Owners Club. The Bond Owners Club (2001). Retrieved on 9 August 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Lawrence "Lawrie" Bond". Lancashire Lantern: Lancashire Pioneers. Lancashire County Council. Retrieved on 10 August 2011.
  3. Bobbitt, Malcolm (2003). "Post war Austerity", Three Wheelers. Veloce Publishing Ltd, 20. ISBN 1903706815. 
  4. "Produce Prototype Of New British "Minicar"", Automotive industries (Chilton Co) 99: 20. 1948. 
  5. "News: New Runabout At Under £200", The Motor (Temple Press Ltd) 93(2420): 418. May 26 1948. 
  6. Worthington-Williams, Michael (February 2008), "The Post-War Three Wheeler", The Automobile (Cranleigh: Enthusiast Publiching Ltd) 25(12): 50. ISSN 0955-1328. 
  7. "Small Wonders". Uden Associates (Production Company), Temple, Magnus(Producer), Gibbon, Johanna (Director) Peel, John(Narrator). Classic British Cars. 23/03/1999.
  8. Main-Smith, Bruce (October 1985), "Where did all the Three-Wheelers go?", The Classic Motor cycle (Peterborough: EMAP National Publications Ltd) 7(6): 46. ISSN 0263-0850. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Warring, R.H. (1961). The Book of the Bond Minicar, 1st, Pitman's Motorist's Library, London: Pitman & Sons. 
  10. Journal of the Society of Glass Technology (The Society) 39: 37. 1955. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Gloor, Roger (1. Auflage 2007). Alle Autos der 50er Jahre 1945 - 1960. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-02808-1. 
  12. (1965) "Siba Dyanstart maintenance and overhaul", Maintenance Manual - Norton Villiers Engines. Wolverhampton: Norton Villiers Ltd, 49 59. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Wotherspoon, Nick (1993). 'Lawrie' Bond The Man & The Marque, 1, Minister Lovell, Oxfordshire: Bookmarque Publishing, 92. ISBN 1870519167. 
  14. "Three wheeler Plea", The Times (London) (7 November 1962), p. 6. Retrieved on 15 August 2011. 
  15. "Production Statistics And Vehicle Modifications By Chassis Number". The Bond Owners Club. The Bond Owners Club (2001). Retrieved on 16 August 2011.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1. 
  17. Wotherspoon, Nick. "The Bond Minicar Mark A". The Bond Car Site. Retrieved on 12 August 2011.
  18. "Economy Plus (Sharps Commercials Ltd advertisement)", The Motor Cycle. 13 April 1950. "The World's Most Economical Car - The Bond Minicar De Luxe". 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 "Mark A - January 1949 to April 1951 Vehicle Modifications By Chassis Number". The Bond Owners Club. The Bond Owners Club (2001). Retrieved on 12 August 2011.
  20. "Small British Car", Mechanical engineering, (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) 71: 512. June 1949. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Read, C.P. (May 1949), "A Real Lightweight - Reviewing the Make-up and Performance of a New Small Car", Light metals (Temple Press Limited.) 12: 232–234. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "The BOND MINICAR De-luxe (197 cc)", The Motor (Specialist & Professional Press) 97(2525): 552. 31 May 1950. 
  23. Francis, Devon (July 1950). "What's different about British Cars". Popular Science. Retrieved on 12 August 2011.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Robson, Graham (2000). A to Z of British Cars 1945-1980. Devon, UK: Herridge. ISBN 0-9541063-9-3. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Mark B - April 1951 to November 1952 Vehicle Modifications By Chassis Number". The Bond Owners Club. The Bond Owners Club (2001). Retrieved on 11 September 2011.

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