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The Bantamoto, the British cyclemotor with the Japanese-sounding name, was almost certainly the least successful of the ready-made cyclemotors built in this country in the 50s. They are now so rare that many enthusiasts have never seen one; indeed, only two are recorded on the Club's register. Despite being described as '100% British' in a rather sparse sales leaflet, it was, like so many British cyclemotors of the post-war years, built to a foreign design. The designer was Gerd Seifert of Burscheid, a town south of Solingen in the German Rhineland. Seifert claimed that his design minimised the stresses to the bicycle frame by placing the crankshaft and the drive gear to the bicycle on either side of the wheel axle. Immediately after the war, German industrial designs were made freely available to manufacturers in the western Allied countries and Seifert's design was taken up by Richard Küchen of Ingoldstadt in the American Occupation Zone of Germany. He marketed it as the 'Küchen 38s' while in Britain the design was acquired by the Lettington Engineering Co Ltd of 16 Brunel Road, London W3. This company was apparently associated with or a subsidiary of Cyc-Auto Works Ltd, which had become a part of the Scott Motor Cycle Co's interests in 1938.
As most readers will know, the Bantamoto is a 38cc, two-stroke with a rotary induction valve to the crankcase. The engine fits to the nearside of the rear wheel spindle and drives the wheel by gear to an internally toothed gear clamped to the spokes of the wheel. On most Bantamotos a decompressor was fitted to the cylinder head. A two-speed model, the Mark II, was later made available. It had a "Clutch Operated Two Speed Gear Box and Neutral" with a claimed top gear speed of 24mph and 8mph in bottom. Moreover, "The change speed is effected and designed on Epicyclic principles embodying 'Sun and Planet' Gears. This system has been employed in the Engineering Industry for many years with great success" as the copy-writer quaintly put it in the leaflet.
Accompanied by a gent in a long tweed coat, 'pork pie' trilby and bow-tie, a Bantamoto took part in the fabled 'Buzz around Box Hill' in February 1951, fitted to an apparently unregistered and unlicensed sports cycle (how did the Argus-eyed traffic police of the time miss that juicy prize?) Harry Louis, editor of the 'Motor Cycle', is shown riding it and obviously enjoying himself. Two Bantamotos won awards in the ACU's first Motor Assisted Cycle Demonstration Trail on 4th May 1952, fitted to cycles ridden by F G Cosson and P Longmore.
So, why was the Bantamoto a failure? It was obviously a feasible design as testified by its successes in the ACU trial and the fact that it was manufactured in a German version. Certainly it received very little advertising, if any, in the periodicals of the time. Perhaps poor quality control in the factory may have been a reason; the only example seen by this writer was described by its owner as being very poorly assembled and finished. He said that he had to do quite a bit of machining and fitting of the innards to get it to run at all and his son had to LPA it almost all the way round a VMCC Cyclemotor Run in the early 80s. Alternatively, given that Lettington and Cyc-Auto were associated (the sales leaflet states that Lettington was the maker but the periodical press stated that it was Cyc-Auto; which was it?), it may have been the turmoil in the Scott Motor Cycle Co at the time - mentioned by Jeff Clew in his Scott history: Scott motor cycles passed to Aerco Jig and Tool Co; Cyc-Auto autocycles eventually passed to Winsmiths (Finchley) Ltd - that led to the manufacturer abandoning the Bantamoto.
First published - December 1995
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