Friday, January 17, 2020

Royal Enfield motor planned to power tiny race car

The miniature Frisky Sprint race car of 1959.
A Mark 2 version would have had a Royal Enfield motor.
Use a Royal Enfield motor to power an automobile? I recently received an email from a fellow who is building his own little car, and wondering if a Royal Enfield motor could power it.

The answer: it wouldn't be the first time.

The little Berkeley sports car of the 1950s was powered by a Royal Enfield 700cc twin.

But there was another effort, about the same time, to put a Royal Enfield engine into a car — a very, very small car.

In his book "Royal Enfield, The Postwar Models," author Roy Bacon writes that "the Frisky Sprint of 1959 also employed the Constellation engine."

The Frisky cars — mostly toy-like three-wheeled commuters — didn't sell well, but they are remembered well enough to feature on a number of websites.

These reveal that, in fact, no Royal Enfield motors were ever used in production Frisky cars.

But there was a plan to use the Royal Enfield 700cc twin in what would have been the ultimate Frisky, a teensy four-wheeled race car intended to go more than 100 mph. Here's the scoop, from the Frisky website.

"Following the successful launch of the FriskySport at the 1957 Earls Court Motor Show work began on a new and exciting project. A lightweight competition Frisky affordable to the enthusiast. The concept came from Gordon Bedson and utilized his experience of race car chassis design. Responsible for the Mackson 500cc racing car, he was with Kieft Cars Ltd. from 1951 to 1954, where he designed Stirling Moss's famous 500cc Formula Three car."

This race car was the Frisky Sprint. One was built.

"The Sprint had a glass-reinforced polyester resin body mounted on a parallel-sided ladder type 2 1/4-inch tubular chassis with independent suspension to all four wheels. It was powered by a specially modified three-cylinder air-cooled Excelsior 492cc two-stroke engine that developed 36 bhp at 5,600 rpm located at the rear.

"A second wider chassis was also built to accommodate a larger Royal Enfield engine but this was never completed...

"The car was of course intended for competition purposes and a Mark 2 Sprint was planned... to be powered by a Royal Enfield 700cc twin four-stroke engine developing 54 bhp to give a top speed in excess of 100 mph. Unfortunately a couple of events then unfolded that meant the Frisky Sprint never made production."

The events were that the Sprint's designers left the firm for greener pasture, and Frisky went into receivership.

(While the Royal Enfield motor would never make it into production Frisky cars, the Albion gearbox eventually did. Early Friskys relied on a Dynastart starter to restart their two-stroke motors backwards, thereby providing reverse! But after 1959 an Albion gearbox with proper reverse gear was utilized.)

In his book, Bacon laments that, together, the Berkeley and the Frisky did not survive long enough to have a positive influence on the fortunes of the Enfield company.

Both efforts had been, in part, an attempt to respond to the drastic shortage of petrol in Britain as a result of the Suez Crisis of 1956. What appeared to be genius and perfect timing was swept away by a different response to that same crisis: the BMC Mini.

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