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The Bond Minicar Mk A

 

Towneley Works Longridge Lancs

The story of the Bond Minicar begins here at Lawrence "Lawrie" Bond's workshop at Longridge in Lancashire (Left), the prototype vehicle actually being constructed on the first floor & lowered through a trap-door to the workshop below. Clearly putting the Minicar into production on these premises was not a serious option! Especially in light of the fact that at this time the tiny workshop would have also been home to several other projects, not to mention providing living accommodation for himself & his wife Pauline. He in fact hoped to lease space in nearby Preston and this led him to make contact with Lt.-Col. C.R. Gray, managing director of Sharp's

Commercials who had spare factory space in the town. The prototype for Lawrie's "shopping car" concept had been announced in May of 1948 and had led to considerable interest. No doubt due to the economic conditions
prevalent in Britain at that time. The tiny prototype vehicle (right) utilised an all-aluminium semi- monocoque bodyshell and was powered by a 122cc Villiers Mk 10D motorcycle engine, mounted on a centrally positioned single front steering fork attached via the steering head to the front bulkhead. Without doubt it was a crude vehicle, with non existent rear suspension save for the cushioning effect of the 8" low pressure tyres and somewhat less than reliable "cable & bobbin" steering arrangement. 

Prototype Bond "shopping car"

However with a claimed fuel consumption of 104 mpg and a top speed of 30 mph it was not long before Lawrie began to receive serious inquiries with regard to sales and Col. Gray realised that with a little more 

1951 MkA Bond Minicar front view

development, here was a potential winner. A deal was struck and with Lawrie now employed as a consultant, Sharp's began to plan for production, resulting in the announcement in November 1948 of a substantially different vehicle - the "Bond Minicar" later given the retrospective designation of the "Mk A Minicar" (left). The vehicle was launched with a vigorous publicity campaign with a series of endurance runs which served to iron out a few of the "teething" troubles and establish an independently recorded fuel consumption figure of almost 100 mpg.
"Full" production commenced in early 1949 at Sharp's Ribbleton Lane premises in Preston - the former rope works providing the ideal building for housing a production line (right). Initially only some 15 vehicles a week were built - somewhat less than the 50 a week figure quoted by the company at the models launch. But Sharp's were obviously convinced that the little vehicles had potential and now acquired the full design and manufacturing rights. This giving them a free-hand to develop the concept and gave Lawrie Bond the cash he needed to progress with the other projects he had by now already moved onto.

Early Bond Minicar production at Ribbleton Lane Preston

1951 MkA Bond Minicar rear view The considerably remodeled production version of the Minicar still adhered to the lightweight aluminium monocoque construction concept of the prototype. It took the form of an open two-seat Tourer with limited luggage space behind the seats. There were no doors, in order to retain the shell's rigidity, but simply a slight curved cut-out to the cockpit side. This made entry and exit something of a feat when the hood was raised! Power was still provided by the 122cc Villiers Mk10D engine mounted on an improved front steering fork of cast aluminium, with suspension achieved using a single coil spring and friction type shock absorber. Though the latter was soon to be replaced by a much improved 
hydraulic type shock absorber. Rear suspension still relied on the cushioning effect of the low-pressure tyres and brakes were cable and rod operated and provided on the rear wheels only. Surprisingly the new vehicle also 
retained the crude "cable & bobbin" steering system which had already proved problematical. However it was not long before the company set to work to solve this problem and came up with a new and much more reliable, simple rack and pinion system.

Finally, Sharp's Commercials Ltd also retained the Bond name for their vehicle, no doubt in order to capitalise on the favourable press attention it had already received. Although this no doubt made good sense from a marketing point of view, it was to lead to much confusion over the years - the company finally changed its name to Bond Cars Ltd as late as 1964!

1951 MkA Bond Minicar engine view
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For more information on the history of the Bond marque click on the book cover for details 

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