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A Trojan Mini-Motor Marathon
50 years ago

by Peter Redman

It has just been brought to my notice that come this June, the 24th to be precise, one of our two Vice Presidents took part in a Trojan publicity stunt on transport slightly different than we had come to expect: a Trojan Mini-Motor.  Nick Hands and two other Trojan employees, Harold Williams and Len Herford, rode bicycles propelled by these cycle attachments made in the Croydon factory, from there to Lands End to John O’Groats and back to Croydon, a distance of 1,860 miles.  An interesting point is that on doing a computer check of the same route today it is only two miles shorter.  Nick tells me that he has recently put the photographs in a new album and that things that happened to them came flooding back.  Such as the Saturday evening visit to a pub near Kendal because it was Len’s birthday. They were wearing some yellow ex-WD exposure suits and found themselves being bought drinks by the locals;  it appears they were mistaken for Donald Campbell’s back up crew who were testing on a nearby lake.  On one occasion, to show how simple the motor was, Len who was complaining about lack of power from his engine (he had fitted an experimental set of seals before leaving) took the engine off, split the crankcase, took out the bearings and changed the seals along the side of the road.  Then there was the episode of the herd of cows being led across the road just over the brow of a hill when it was raining (Mini-Motor engined bikes’ brakes don’t work in the rain).  Fortunately the herd separated at the last moment.

They passed Gretna Green without getting married, but they found Wick in Scotland on Sunday affernoon unusual because the entire population seemed to be standing around in little groups but a very large proportion were Indian or Sikh wearing turbans.  They found the few miles of road approaching John O’Groats was very similar to those at Lands End.  Unfortunately the weather in Scotland was not good: rain in June.  The trip took ten days, not fast but inexpensive, as a Mini-Motor would do about 80-90 miles to the gallon.  I suspect it could be hard on the rear end; the nurse at the factory had made up an embrocation for them but they managed to leave it at the first night’s stop.  Apparently they were so far ahead of time on the last leg that they had to sit on Mitcham common for about three hours in order to be at the factory to meet the press reception.

First published in 'Trojan', the newsletter of the Trojan Owners Club, June 2000

The start of the ride was reported in the Croydon Times and Surrey County Mail on June 4th 1950.  The report said:

Photograph from Croydon Times and Surrey County Mail
On bicycles equipped with "mini-motors" made by Trojan, Ltd., Croydon, these three adventurers left Croydon this week on a record-making run from Land’s End to John o’Groats and back again.  On the right is Alderman Basil Monk, managing director of Trojan, Ltd.

THREE local men, who are somewhere between Lancaster and Carlisle, have completed nearly half of their circular journey around England and Scotland on ordinary pedal cycles fitted with Mini-Motors.

The trip, covering 1,865 miles and intended as an endurance test ride for rider and engine, has been arranged by Trojan’s Ltd., the manufacturers.  The men are expected to reach Croydon on June 30.

8 a.m. START

The riders, all members of the staff, are Mr. H. Williams, of Croham Manor-road, South Croydon, Mr. N. Hands, Woodcote-road, Wallington, and Mr. L. Hurford of Brighton-road, South Croydon.  They left the factory at 8 a.m. on Monday heading foe Land’s End, Bristol, and the Midlands, until they reach John O’Groats, then turn their machines towards the south.

The cyclists report daily by telephone to the factory.

Postscript (November 2011)

Robin Williams has provided the following additional information:

The Mr H Williams refered to in the photo caption is my uncle Harold, although no one outside the family ever called him that, he was known to the rest of the world as Bill.  The un-named gentleman between him and Basil Monk is the designer of the Mini-Motor, Vincent Piatti, see:  You can see from the photo on this site that it is the same man.

My uncle kept an atlas with their route around Britian marked, and this was in my possession and may still be, I haven't seen it for a few years.  If I find it I have promised it to David Hambledon, trustee of The Trojan Museum.

My connection to this is that, besides my uncle working in Trojan sales at that time, his father, who was also my grandfather, was General Manager of Trojan from 1947 to 1956, and I was brought up by my grandparents, so involved in various events at Trojan from a young age.  For instance, I recall that Mr Piatti must have been in Croydon for some time as he and, presumably Mrs Piatti, visited us on several occasions and I was required to entertain their daughter, Francois, a typically pretty, dark and vivacious Italian girl, unfortunately I was too young to realise my good fortune.

I don't recall much else about the Mini-Motor so I will leave it there.

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