Arcadian Times

 

The Utility Vehicle & Ham
 

Trojan 100th Anniversary

This year sees the 100th anniversary of the Trojan Prototype vehicle. To mark the occasion the Trojan Owners Club will be exhibiting a collection of vehicles at this year's Ham Fair (June 8th, 2013). The story of Trojan and the connection to Ham is told here.

Origins

The British motor manufacturer Trojan was founded by Leslie Hayward Hounsfield (1877–1957). Leslie Hounsfield was a general engineer who ran a small workshop called the Polygon Engineering works in Clapham, London. With the birth of the age of motoring underway Hounsfield saw the need for an efficient vehicle with mechanical simplicity, low running costs and at a price that would bring the vehicle to a wide market of potential motorists. He began work on his design in 1910.

The Trojan Prototype

Hounsfield’s design ambitions were realised in the Trojan Prototype that was ready in 1913.

'It had a two stroke engine with four cylinders arranged in pairs and each pair shared a common combustion chamber - essentially a doubled twingle 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.' (http://www.trojanownersclub.co.uk/page18.html).

The outbreak of war in 1914 meant that production of the vehicle could not take place though two Trojan Prototypes had been built.

After the war production could start and in 1920 six cars were built at a works in Vicarage Rd. Croydon, with the final production version exhibited at the 1922 London Motor Show.

Hounsfield entered one of these vehicles in War Office trials hoping this may lead to a manufacturing contract, but the authorities were not interested deeming the car to be too unorthodox.

Trojan comes to Ham

In June 1920 Leyland Motors Ltd. purchased the Sopwith factory in Ham. Leyland Motors showed an interest in the vehicles and after extensive tests Leyland and Trojan made an agreement to produce the cars. A 2 door 4 seat Utility design was to be built and part of the factory was turned over for production of the Trojan.

Leyland Motors Trojan Works in Ham 1928 - picture courtesy http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw022854

The Trojan Utility Car

The Trojan Utility Car went onto the market at the price of £230, later reduced to £125 in 1925, which made it commensurate to the Model T Ford. In the words of Leslie Hounsfield the designer of the car, 'it's weird, but it goes'. The car was quite unconventional in design as the car did not have what could be termed a conventional chassis but rather a punt shaped tray. This tray housed the engine and transmission under the seats. A chain from the transmission was used to drive the rear wheels which used a a solid tyre. The engine had a capacity of 1527cc, it started by pulling a lever to the driver's right and achieved a top speed of 38mph.

 


 

The car lived up to Hounsfield's concept of a cheap, reliable and easily maintainable vehicle illustrated in the cinema advertisement that promoted its economy with the slogan "Can you afford to walk?" The ingenious advertisement calculated that over 200 miles it would be cheaper to cover the distance in a Trojan than in shoes and socks. The car was guaranteed for 5,000 miles.

This review of the Trojan from a 1923 (July 26th) edition of 'The Auto Motor Journal' gives a very positive detailed analysis and road test of the vehicle.

The car was also a comedians delight as the solid tyres of the Trojan fitted the standard gauge of tram tracks perfectly, leading to the notion that once the Trojan was on the tram lines it was forced to go to the tram depot.

The Trojan Utility vehicle was produced and a 2 door 4 seat Coupe added to complement the Utilty vehicle and then in 1923 a 7 cwt van. These 3 models were produced until 1925. As time went on further variations and modifications were introduced to the range.

Development of the Trojan range

In 1925 modifications were made to the engine by fitting a new redesigned balanced crankshaft which reduced the stroke of the engine and the capacity to 1488cc.

The Coupe was dropped in 1926 and a 3 door Tourer was produced which was slightly larger than the Utility vehicle, though it had the same design chassis as the Utility, it had a longer body allowing more room for the passengers, a rear 3rd door on one side of the vehicle and was produced with a detachable hard roof.

A six wheeler also appeared in 1926 basically an extended chassis with various additions including front springs on the outside of the chassis to aid stability and was offered as the Colonial Utility

The Utility was discontinued in 1927 when a 4/5 seat fabric saloon was introduced and now all models were offered with pneumatic tyres as standard - the solid tyres now optional.

In 1928 the 'Achilles' was introduced, very similar to the Tourer but with a degree of luxury as it boasted a well furnished interior. The 'Apollo' a twin of the 'Achilles' was also introduced but with a folding centre panel to the roof.

Meanwhile the Trojan Utility van had been great a success making the Trojan a familiar sight on the roads. Main operators of the van were the GPO, David Greig, India Tyre Rubber, Shell - Mex, United Dairies, C.C. Wakefield and a major contract with The Brooke Bond Tea Company who had purchased nearly 2,000 vans.

Between 1922 and 1928, 11,000 cars and 6,700 vans were produced at the Leyland Motor Works.

In May 1928 it was announced that all Trojan production would cease at Ham due to Leyland needing the room for other projects. Trojan production returned to Croydon at a new factory in Purley Way.

Trojan Post 1928

In Croydon, cars and vans were still produced though car production ceased in 1937. In 1948 a new medium sized van was designed using a conventional chassis and driveshaft through a normal gearbox.

In 1959 the Trojan factory was purchased by Peter Agg and a new phase of Trojan began. This included distributing and manufacturing Lambretta scooters, the license to build Heinkel 'bubble' cars was obtained in 1962 and renamed the Trojan 200 and also in 1962, the Elva Sports car company was purchased which would lead the Trojan marque manufacturing racing chassis' for the newly formed Mclaren racing team. Trojan vehicle production finally ceased in the early 1970's.

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Sources: Trojan Owners Club; Trojan Museum Trust; The Vintage Commercial Vehicle Magazine; 1923 (July 26th) edition of 'The Auto Motor Journal'; Leyland Seventy years of progress; http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw022854; Trojan Motor Car Cinema Commercial 1920's - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dbFK2zOLHA

 


 Article: Arcadian Times