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My First Car: BSA three-wheeler’s hairy handling all part of fun

PUBLISHED: 11:24 20 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:24 20 June 2018

Alan Eggleton's 1935 BSA three-wheeler could be a bit of handful in crosswinds. Picture: Alan Eggleton

Alan Eggleton's 1935 BSA three-wheeler could be a bit of handful in crosswinds. Picture: Alan Eggleton

Alan Eggleton

Alan Eggleton tells of his 1935 BSA three-wheeler – great fun to drive, with some real character, and a slap-happy tail in crosswinds.

This 1935 BSA three-wheeler, my first car, had a reverse gear but, by blocking off the reverse with a small plate, I was legally able to drive it unaccompanied as a learner.

When reverse was required it was a simple matter, if nobody was looking, to raise the bonnet and slide the plate to one side then reverse using the gearbox. Most times though it was quicker to push the car – it only weighed eight hundredweight, and its narrow wheels and tyres made it easy to push.

I bought it for £37 in 1957 and drove it on and off for about three years. More off than on I now think as its oil-filled cork clutch would seize solid in the engaged position and the only way to release it was by removing the gearbox, after dismantling bits of the front-wheel drive. Another quirk was a habit the worm drive differential had of leaking oil on to the solitary inboard front open drum brake. Dangerous? Indeed it was!

Due to its age, and without a cooling fan, the engine would boil regularly in warm weather. The fuel tank was across the scuttle, feeding the engine by gravity as no fuel pump was fitted. This meant that unless the tank was half full, which was almost never due to my impecunious position, the car would suffer from fuel starvation and stall going up steep hills.

Like many pre-Second World War cars, the accelerator pedal was between clutch and brake pedals while the long gear lever was located such that it sat between one’s knees.

It was great fun to drive, with some real character – I loved it. It had quite good acceleration to about 25mph, with a dubious maximum speed of 55mph. The high-geared steering and worn steering box meant that, at anything over 35mph in crosswinds, the single-wheeled tail would slide sideways – all part of the fun.

Alas, my pride and joy had to be scrapped by the next owner after he overturned it.

Tell people about your first set of wheels – email your memories with a picture to or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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