Three wheeled scooters that lean have come back into vogue recently, with the Piaggio MP3, Gilera Fuoco, Peugeot Metrolpolis and the new Quadro range, but those with a good scooter knowledge or memory may recognise the concept as a British design from the 1960s that’s still seen on streets around the world today.
In the late 1960s, G L Wallis & Son of Surbiton, Surrey started looking at designing a three-wheeled vehicle that was better than a children’s tricycle – one that could lean around corners like a proper motorcycle (or scooter). The company was made up of three people: George Wallis, Tony and Stan Jackson, and they soon had a prototype up and running which unlike the modern leaning three-wheelers, the Wallis project kept the engine and two rear wheels firmly planted on the road while the front end leaned as you cornered.
The BSA motorcycle group were interested in their design and so a handful of prototypes were built around the Triumph Tina scooter (BSA the owners of the Triumph brand at the time).
So impressed were they that they licenced the design, but in true British style of the time, decided to cut corners before production. Instead of a robust, stylish 100cc scooter, they produced a flimsy, toy-like moped powered by a 50cc Anker engine from Holland.
The Ariel 3 flopped, not helped by journalists crashing at the product launch, and the market BSA aimed at of nurses and housewives were equally unimpressed.
Wallis however retained the rights to the design and their next step was to licence it to Japanese car manufacturer Daihatsu.
Their version of the leaning scooter trike was far more substantial, far less like a child’s bicycle, and as a result was far more successful in its native Japan, with an electric version apparently prototyped at the end of the Hallo’s run.
Japanese manufacturing giant Honda were next to licence this British design and produced a number of scooters based on the leaning three-wheeled concept, again adapting the technology to suit their needs and produce a successful vehicle.
First was the Honda Stream scooter in 1981, then came the Honda Gyro range which included the Canopy scooters in 1990 – a popular choice for delivery riders both in Japan thanks to the weather protective roof, and indeed elsewhere in the world.
So the next time you get a Sushi lunch delivered to your home or office, and if it arrives via a Honda Gyro Canopy scooter, just remember – that was designed in Great Britain!
(for more on leaning trike scooters, visit http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~pattle/nacc/arc0245.htm)