The company was founded by Leslie Hayward Hounsfield (1877–1957) who went into business as a general engineer in a small workshop called the Polygon Engineering Works in Clapham, South London. He got the idea to make a simple, economical car that would be easy to drive and started design work in 1910.
In 1913 the prototype was ready. It had a two-stroke engine with four cylinders arranged in pairs, and each pair shared a common combustion chamber - a doubled-up version of what would later be called the "split-single" engine. The pistons in each pair drove the crankshaft together as they were coupled to it by a V-shaped connecting rod. For this arrangement to work, it is necessary for the connecting rod to flex slightly, which goes completely against normal practice. The claim was that each engine had only seven moving parts, four pistons, two connecting rods and a crankshaft. This was connected to a two-speed epicyclic gearbox, to simplify gear changing, and a chain to the rear wheels. Solid tyres were used, even though these were antiquated for car use, to prevent punctures and very long springs used to give some comfort.
Before production could start war broke out and from 1914 to 1918, Trojan Ltd, as the company had become in 1914, made production tools and gauges. In 1920 the first series of six cars were made from a works in Croydon and the final production version was shown at the 1922 London Motor Show. An agreement was reached with Leyland Motors to produce the cars at their Kingston upon Thames factory where work on reconditioning ex RAF wartime trucks was running down. This arrangement would continue until 1928 when Leyland wanted factory space for truck production. During the nearly seven years of the agreement 11,000 cars and 6700 vans were made.
Trojan Utility Car
The car known as the Trojan Utility Car went onto the market at £230, reducing to £125 in 1925, the same as a Model T Ford. Nothing was conventional. Rather than a chassis the car had a punt shaped tray which housed the engine and transmission below the seats. The transmission used a chain to drive the solid tyre shod wheels. The 1527-cc engine to the ingenious Hounsfield design was started by pulling a lever on the right of the driver. To prove how economical the car was to run, the company ran the slogan "Can you afford to walk?" and calculated that over 200 miles (320 km) it would cost more in shoes and socks than to cover the distance by Trojan car.
A modified car was released in 1920 with a smaller 1488-cc engine to bring it into the sub-1.5-litre class and with pneumatic tyres available as an option. The car was guaranteed for 5,000 miles. A major contract was agreed with Brooke Bond tea for delivery vans making the car familiar all over Britain and with a top speed of 38 mph (61 km/h), not causing too much worry over speeding drivers.
The RE Trojan and the 1930s
With the ending of the Leyland partnership, Leslie Hounsfield took over production himself back in Croydon but at new premises with Leyland continuing to supply some parts until the early 1930s. In spite of new body styles, sales of the cars were falling and so a new model, the RE, or Rear Engine capable of 45 mph (72 km/h) was announced in 1931. It still did without electric starter and had only rear-wheel braking, and was beginning to look very old fashioned, and although new modern bodies were fitted, only about 250 were sold. A final attempt was the Wayfarer of 1934 with the engine back in the middle, but now with three-speed gearbox and shaft drive, but only three were sold, and the 6-cylinder Mastra did no better, with only two produced. The original van continued to sell well, however, and the Utility car could still be ordered; the last one was delivered in 1937.
Trojan Ltd continued to make vans until war broke out and during hostilities made bomb racks and parachute containers. With peace, van production restarted still with the original engine until 1952 when it was replaced by a Perkins diesel.
Bubble and sports cars
In 1959 the company was bought by Peter Agg and from 1960 to 1965 he built under licence Heinkel bubble cars selling them as the Trojan 200, the last vehicle to bear the Trojan name. The company acquired the rights to build the Elva Courier sports car in 1962, producing 210 cars between 1962 and 1965 when production switched from road cars to the Mclaren-Elva racing car.
The company existed as Trojan Limited (Company No 134254 having been incorporated on 27/02/1914) until 19/03/2013, though no longer operating from the Croydon factory which has been sold, on which latter date it was dissolved via "Voluntary Strike-off".
Trobike was one of the early makes of mini-bike and also one of the earliest to be sold in kit form to avoid purchase tax. The Trojan Lambretta group was founded in 1959 when Lambretta Concessionaires Ltd took over Trojan Ltd, one of the oldest firms in the British motor industry. At about the time the group owned the Clinton Engine Corporation of Maquoketa, Iowa, USA.
During the late 1950s the British public were becoming aware of the craze sweeping teenage America – karting (or go-karting). The sport arrived in Britain with US servicemen bringing outfits over and even making their own.
At first, the most popular engine was the 2.5 hp 95 cc Clinton engine – being both readily available and cheap. By 1959 Trojan began making the Trokart using this engine and sold as a kit to avoid purchase tax; it sold for only £25. By 1963 it was estimated that 250,000 engines in the US and 10,000 in Britain had been sold, all for karting.
The first printed mention of the Trobike is June 1960 and the first road test published on Thursday 22 December 1960 in Motor Cycling with Scooter Weekly. The price then quoted was £35 in kit form although two adverts in 1962 quoted £29. This may account for the fact that it was made for road use with front and rear brakes, and also for off road use with a rear brake only.
By November 1961 the factory, also producing the Lambretta scooters, had also tooled up to produce the Heinkel three-wheeled bubble car, then known as the Trojan Cabin Cruiser. It seems that the Trobike was a limited success, with perhaps only 500–600 being sold over the two-year period – the last confirmed despatch being 6 March 1962. Known frame numbers range from TB501 to TB1148.
The very last machines were sold to a farmer and known as the Sussex Miniscooter. Later still, a variant known as the Lowline Chimp appeared, using a very similar frame and again a Clinton engine.
Originally, machines had black handlebar rubbers but some later models were fitted with buff-coloured rubbers. The twist grip on early machines (as appear on factory literature) was manufactured by Amal with the cable entering parallel to the handlebars. Later bikes had the more typical Amal twist grip with the cable entering from below. Later models were fitted with a bashplate between the lower frame downtubes (by frame number TB879). The bashplate was dual purpose: to stop dirt entering the air filter, and also to protect the carburettor from damage. Even later models (by frame number TB1029) were fitted with a further small light steel plate shielding the carburettor float bowl and fitted under the heads of the front two engine mounting bolts.
- Manufacturer: Trojan Ltd, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey
- Model: Trobike
- Wheels: Trojan pressed steel 5-inch (130 mm) split rim with tapered roller bearings
- Tyres: Front 3.00 x 5 Dunlop, Rear 3.50 x 5 Dunlop
- Tyre pressures: 20 pounds per square inch
- Accelerator and Brake linkage: Enclosed cable
- Brakes: two 5-inch (130 mm) drums
- Chassis: ⅞ inch tubular steel, duplex
- Colour: White frame, red mudguards, black seat, yellow engine
- Chain: 3/8-inch pitch x 7/32-inch wide. 105 links
- Engine sprocket: 12 tooth
- Rear sprocket: 64 tooth
- Starter: Recoil
- Cut-out switch: Push button
- Engine: Clinton A490 Panther 2-stroke (de-governed for Trobike application)
- Lubrication: Petroil, 16:1 ratio
- Cylinder size: Bore 2 1⁄8 inches (54 mm), Stroke 1 5⁄8 inches (41 mm)
- Capacity: 95 cc
- Fuel tank: All-welded ⅜ gall tank mounted on engine
- Transmission: Single speed via Clinton centrifugal clutch
- Electrical: Flywheel magneto
- Suspension: None
Dimensions and weight
- Overall length: 48 in (1,219 mm)
- Width over handlebars: 21 in (533 mm)
- Wheelbase: 37 in (940 mm)
- Height over top of handlebars: 28.5 in (724 mm)
- Seat height: 23 in (584 mm)
- Weight: 60 lb (27 kg)
- Power: 2.5 b.h.p. at 3800 R.P.M.
- Max speed: 32 mph (51 km/h)
- 0-30 mph: 21 seconds
- Braking distance: 28 ft (8.5 m) @ 30 mph (48 km/h)
Frame. The frame is manufactured from high-quality steel tube which is electrically welded to resist shock and impact. The steering head is mounted on ball bearings to provide ease and smoothness of movement. The front mudguard and the integral rear chain and mudguard are built of resin reinforced glass fibre and finished in red to contrast with the white enamel finish of the frame assembly.
Engine. The Clinton A490 Panther 2-stroke engine is centrally mounted to ensure perfect balance at all speeds. The engine position is adjustable to suit chain tension. The starting is by recoil starter, power being delivered to the rear wheel through an automatic centrifugal clutch which comes into effect upon opening of the throttle.
Models. Two models – the Garden Model and Road Model – are basically similar, with the difference that the Garden Model does not include number plates, front wheel brake and brake lever, hooter or tax disc. Trobikes have an eye-catching colour scheme – white frames, forks, handlebars, and wheels – yellow engines – red chain/mudguards. A foam rubber saddle covered with black plastic leather cloth is fitted to each machine.
Wheels. Wheels are made from extremely strong pressed steel and are of the split rim type for easy tyre removal. Both front and rear wheels run on opposed high-grade taper roller bearings on an alloy steel spindle, which is designed for easy wheel removal. Highly efficient car type internal expanding brakes are used.
- G.N. Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1.
- Baldwin, N. (1994). A-Z of Cars of the 1920s. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-53-2.
- Culshaw; Horrobin (1974). Complete Catalogue of British Cars. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-16689-2.
- Sedgwick, M. (1989). A-Z of Cars of the 1930s. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-38-9.
- "Trojan Lambretta expansion", Automobile engineer, 1962: 135
- Stein, Jonathan A., ed. (1993), British Sports Cars in America 1946–1981, Automobile Heritage Publishing & Co, p. 41, ISBN 0-911968-98-9
- Trojan Owners Club http://www.trojanownersclub.co.uk/index.html
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