Despite the demonstrable advantages of hub-center steering and the fact that the system has appeared at regular intervals since motorcycling's earliest days, there had only ever been one machine - before the advent of Yamaha's 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 thanks to financial assistance from razor millionaire, King C Gillette. 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 Neracher's invention enjoyed considerably greater success in Europe.
The machine was imported into the UK for a short time before a manufacturing license 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-center 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.
This particular Ner-a-Car was restored at Indian between 1940 and 1947, though since then has lost its exhaust. No other information is known.
- Please note that this bike is sold in a bill of sale.
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