It is not difficult to see that the 'Motor-Wheel' of Edwin Perks and Harold Birch, patented in 1899 and here fitted to their preferred Singer chassis, was an astonishing set of motoring innovations. To begin with, they – not Bugatti – made the world's first cast-alloy vehicle wheel, an item now central to motoring, and a major design innovation from their tiny Eagle St. Coventry workshop.
Then there was their other original concept of containing the power unit within this wheel, again astonishing, given the lack of miniaturization in most Victorian engineering. The a.i.v., four-stroke engine, its low-tension, oscillating magneto, a spur-gear transmission and a combined carburettor and fuel reservoir giving a fifty-mile range, were, it must be admitted, rather inaccessible – remedied by Singer, who made the wheel single-sided after taking over production of the design in late 1902 – but worked and worked well. Customers reported and wrote about its good performance and reliability and the wheel was used in bicycles, tandems and tricycles until production ended in 1904. The price was £63-0-0, around £21,000 today.
This extremely rare survivor was first registered as WB 8952 by noted pioneer rider, Sheffield's Dan Bradbury, in 1927 and has had only four owners since. Restored in 1999, it is in excellent running order and completely original condition save for the mudguards to original specification, none perhaps having been fitted originally. Singer's supplementary tank is fitted and WB 8952 comes with a V5C for its Sheffield number, papers, a facsimile handbook and Pioneer Certificate No. 1542.
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