Chassis no. 5020
Conçue en 1919 aux Etats-Unis par Carl A. Neracher, la Ner-a-Car, véritable cyclecar entre auto et moto, fut produite à partir de 1921. La firme Sheffield Simplex en acquit la licence de production et monta des moteurs anglais.
Cet exemplaire de fabrication américaine est donc équipé de son moteur deux temps de 211 cm3, dun unique frein arrière et dun seul phare. Accompagné dune carte grise française, ce véhicule fut exposé dans un musée jusquà la fermeture de celui-ci en 1994 et vendu. Le compteur de vitesse et son avertisseur (non présente sur les photos ont été retrouve), le moteur a été refait il y a quelques années. Rare et unique en son genre, la Ner-a-Car suscite toujours un grand intérêt de la part des amateurs de motos.
Despite the demonstrable advantages of hub-centre steering and the fact that the system has appeared at regular intervals since motorcyclings earliest days, there had only ever been one machine - before the advent of Yamahas GTS - that made it into volume production - the Ner-a-Car. Invented by American Carl A Neracher in 1919, the Ner-a-Car commenced production two years later in Syracuse, New York State thanks to financial assistance from razor millionaire, King C Gilette. The design met with some resistance in the USA, where larger machines were generally preferred, despite its practicality being demonstrated by Cannonball Baker, who rode one coast-to-coast from New York to Los Angeles, taking only eight days. US production lasted for only a few years, but Nerachers invention enjoyed considerably greater success in Europe.
The machine was imported into the UK for a short time before a manufacturing licence was acquired by Sheffield Simplex, a firm better known as maker of fine, and very expensive, luxury motor cars. Although Sheffield Simplex was based in the eponymous Yorkshire city, Ner-a-Car production began in part of what had been the Sopwith Aviation works in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey. The basic design remained unaltered: pressed-steel chassis, voluminous front mudguard, hub-centre steering and friction drive transmission, the latter being infinitely variable in theory but in practice five ratios were selected by a lever. Whereas US-built models were powered by a two-stroke engine of 221cc, Sheffield Simplex chose to fit their own 285cc unit. Four-stroke sidevalve and (later) overhead-valve 350cc Blackburne-engined versions equipped with conventional three-speed gearboxes followed.
Endowed with excellent stability and good weather protection, the Ner-a-Car was a great success, its ease of ingress/egress particularly commending it to priests and lady riders. Sheffield Simplex advertised its products in the high-quality journals of the day and was able to claim numerous members of the nobility among its satisfied clients. Indeed, production only ceased in 1926 because of problems within other parts of the Sheffield Simplex group, and the Ner-a-Car works was taken over by the newly formed Hawker Engineering, which need the space to expand its aircraft manufacturing activities. It is estimated that some 10,000 were produced in the USA and a further 6,500 or so in the UK.
The US-built example offered here features the American models 211cc two-stroke engine, single rear brake and twin headlamps (UK-built machines have two rear brakes and a single headlamp). Offered with French Carte Grise, it was the property of a French museum until the latters closure in 1994, when it was sold. We are advised that some original parts were missing at this time and that the engine was overhauled a few years ago. A rare sight today, the innovative Ner-a-Car never fails to inspire awe and admiration among motorcycling enthusiasts everywhere.