Simanaitis Says

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SO IT’S 1923 AND you’re considering a motoring tour of Normandy and Brittany. Today in Part 2 you might choose to do it in a light car or cyclecar. Here are several options.

A.B.C. Georgano’s Encyclopedia notes, “The A.B.C. was one of the longest-lived post-war light cars, owing its relative success to the fact that it retained and improved upon the sporting characteristics of the cyclecar and did not try to ape the heavier, if more comfortable, small family car.”

Some 8000 A.B.C.s were manufactured between 1920 and 1929. Cook’s lists its Dover/Calais transit charge at £4, about $9.60 at the time, perhaps $165 in today’s dollar. 

1926 A.B.C. 12/40hp sports car. This and the following images from Georgano’s Encyclopedia.

The A.B.C.’s powerplant was air-cooled. However, because the fuel tank filler was atop a mock “radiator,” it was liable to be topped up with water by those not recognizing the A.B.C.’s air-cooled nature. 

Bleriot-Whippet. The Bleriot-Whippet was built by Air Navigation & Engineering Co. Ltd. of Addlestone Surrey, not to be confused with the French-built Blériot cyclecar (which, Georgano says, “had little save size in common with its English namesake”).

1921 Bleriot-Whippet 8.9hp two-seater. 

The Bleriot-Whippet was unusual in that its transmission was an infinitely variable design along Zenith-Gradua lines. A driver-actuated lever varied the diameter of a crankshaft belt-drive pulley to alter the drive ratio, the rear wheels moving forward or back to maintain belt tension.

The Bleriot-Whippet’s 6 cwt. and 6 ft. 9 in. wheelbase gave it a Cook’s-listed transit charge of £3.

Morgan Tri-Car. Cook’s lists the trike’s 6 1/2 cwt., but no specified wheelbase (likely because Morgan models varied in this regard). As noted here at SimanaitisSays, “To the Inland Revenue, they were motorcycles—and road-taxed as such.” Also, driver licensing reflected their “motorcycles” class as well. Cook’s cites a Dover-to-Calais cost of £3.

1928 Morgan Aero 9hp 3-wheeler

Georgano notes, “The Morgan was the best-known, and best, of the British 3-wheelers that were popular while the horsepower tax gave them an advantage.”

Morgan didn’t get around to building four-wheeled sports cars until 1935. Indeed, the last F-Type trike left the Malvern Link works in 1952. And new trikes have returned as part of Morgan’s current planning.

Today’s Chunnel. Modern motorcars, as well as these classics, can perform the transit via Le Shuttle, the Chunnel’s railway link. Cost for any vehicle and up to nine passengers is as low as £50 (currently $62.50) each way (Day Trip & Overnight rate) up to £269 ($336.25) each way (Flexiplus complete flexibility). 

Nothing is saved if you take something as tidy as a 1928 Morgan Aero 9hp. I’d bet you’d meet lots of people, though. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022     

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