Fancy missing this!

The Internet has had a mild buzz recently over the latest venture by James May of “Top Gear” and “Man Lab” fame. He has already fronted up a BBC TV series looking at extreme uses for classic children’s toys such as Lego, Plasticine, Scalextrix, and of course Meccano. It looks like he has decided to go back to the best of the lot for a Christmas 2013 special. This time the challenge was to produce a full-sized Meccano motorbike which could trundle round the Isle of Man TT course!

I have seen various bike models, large and small, but I would have said this ambition couldn’t have been achieved without recourse to lots of non-Meccano parts – but it was! I take my hat off to Simeon, James’ sidekick and the designer and engineer.

Geoff Brown, chairman of NMMG, was down at the annual Gathering at Henley-on-Thames on the usual Saturday following the August Bank Holiday. But for a family wedding, so would I have been! And the bike duly appeared at the Gathering to the surprise and delight of all.Geoff reported: “This really eclipsed everything in the Meccano World this p.m. Just got back from the pub to find that Simeon and his mate were motoring down the M6 on their way back from the island when Sim’s mother phoned to say there was a Meccano show at Henley and why didn’t they call in! Sim lives in Watlington and his mate in Reading so it was handy enough! We had the time of our lives with the cameras, the bike and these two most obliging of guys!”

The "James May Meccano Motorbike"

The “James May Meccano Motorbike” – photo – Ralph Laughton

Peter Finney records the details: “I discussed (construction) with the builders. There were no large-axle parts used. The bearings were built up using standard Meccano parts – ball bearings using standard Meccano balls. The wheel hubs are built up using multiple Meccano (or perhaps 4mm) screwed rods. The most impressive facts abut this model (IMHO) are:

  • As far as I could determine (other may be able to add to this list) the only non-Meccano parts used are: a. Batteries (lead acid accumulators). b. Electronic control unit/invertor (from electric golf buggy) and sundry switches and gauges. c. Auxiliary motor (3Kw) – used only when going uphill! d. One bicycle disc brake with dual calipers (this enabled the trike to be licenced to run on I.O.M. roads – it is not street-legal in UK). When originally built there was a disc brake on the front wheel – when applied this caused the entire front end (forks and wheel) to collapse – surprise! e. Tyres f. Final drive sprockets g. 4mm stainless steel rod used instead of standard Meccano axle rods.
  • It has completed a full lap of the IOM TT circuit under its own power with human cargo.
  • The primary drive is from 96 (yes ninety-six!) standard Meccano MO motors!! These are grouped into sub-units – each with 6 motors – each motor has a part no 26 19 tooth pinion, and the six pinions in each group then mesh with a single part no 27b 133-tooth gear wheel. The drive from the six groups is then combined onto a layshaft using standard Meccano chain and sprockets. The final drive uses a 1/2″ pitch roller chain built up from Meccano bolts, collars and 1/2″ narrow strips. This arrangement can propel the vehicle at 10mph on the flat! At list prices there are about £5,000 worth of Meccano parts – supplied by Meccano free of charge. However, I was told that Meccano want it back to go into their Museum (negotiations continuing I believe). IMHO this a fantastic example of what you can do with Meccano – given the parts; as has already been said – there must be several groups of Meccano engineers who could have done it – but all credit to the two guys who actually pulled it off.

About Philip Webb

Chairman of the International Society of Meccanomen
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