PAG logo


Three wheeels or four?

The limper has now been on the road for 3 months and I have covered 1500+ miles in the machine and people keep asking which one I prefer. I don't really know the answer to this one so I'll try to lay out the various points each model has to offer.

When I first hit the road in a Pembleton in 2008 I was so pleased with the car (and myself) that miles flew by in a stream of emotions and excitement. It was like a four-wheeled motorcycle, it held the road as if it was on rails and had a reasonable luggage space. As it was the first car I'd built I was a little cautious about long trips but gradually the radius from home that I was prepared to risk grew.

Invariably, as with any project like this, there are minor points and problems to be dealt with which are part of the fun and pleasure to be had from building your own car. The first major expedition was a run to the Pyrenees Rally in 2009, incorporating a visit to the Milau Viaduct, the Tarne Gorge and a cross-country lope via Clermont Ferand to le Mans. Apart from a problem with overheating condensers (see Troubles Abroad and Troubles Abroad - Part II) this trip went extremely well and my confidence in the car grew in leaps and bounds. There was enough space for spare clothing, camping gear and a camp kitchen, the rear-top rails with their removable cross-members provided enough carrying capacity for a couple of cases of wine and a wine-box to bring home.

An engine rebuild showed that the BMW had taken the car more than 6000 miles with a well worn-out engine and given little trouble. The timing chain tensioner was worn to nothing and the chain bowed almost to a semi-circle in the wrong plane! The Brooklands has now covered 24000 miles and is still going strong, its last major expedition was Tom's Highland Fling where it performed well and up to my expectations.

The Super Sport (Silver Surfer II) is still in the final stages of the shakedown process but, touch wood, it seems to be smoothing out fairly successfully. I'm continually impressed by the acceleration. This seems to be far greater than the Brooklands despite having 200cc lower capacity. I assume that most of the advantage in this department comes from the considerable weight reduction, in the order of 75 kg (I can't find the weighbridge ticket for SS I).

From an aesthetic point of view the limper seems to give a very pleasing line aft of the cockpit. The lack of spare wheel finishes the tail off neatly, and it is slightly more streamlined in appearance. Many local car buffs say they prefer the look of the three-wheeler to that of the four, perhaps because the lines are not interrupted by the mudguards.

The handling of the Super Sport is very impressive in the dry, I haven't really tried it in the wet, and the front-wheel drive has the advantage of acting as an automatic traction control. Too fast in a corner and the inboard wheel lifts, the engine speed climbs as the car slows and the tyre returns to earth with a squeal! I've found that if you keep your foot down it tends to pull away from the gutter side with a little twitch that was at first disconcerting but is now a rare occurrence as I think I have the measure of it. One slight drawback of a single rear wheel is that if you hit a bump or a pothole with it while cornering, the rear end twitches outwards a little. Another is that it's difficult to avoid potholes and bumps. If you miss it with the front, you're likely to catch it with the rear. Obviously more practice is required. A passenger helps in holding it down and stabilising the handling. I may try the BSA three-wheeler trick of carrying a sack of tatties.

It cruises comfortably at 70mph/4300 rpm and will run along quite happily at 85mph/5500rpm. At this speed it still feels stable and planted and less 'busy' than the Brooklands which shows signs of running out of steam.

Storage space in the limper is much larger, as yet I haven't packed it to capacity but I think it has enough space for camping gear and spare clothing for two. However, as Pam does not do camping, there may be more than enough. Having put in a rear boot-lid to give access to the fuel filler, I can't put a rear carrier onto the car which may curtail my wine importing activities.

From a constructor's point of view the standard three-wheeler as described by PMC is probably less taxing than the Brooklands. When building a trike, an upper floor and mudguard to take advantage of the space above the rear wheel seems a sensible option although this adds to the weight and construction time. MSVA is easier to achieve than the new IVA. I was lucky enough to be able to get through SVA not long before the introduction of IVA but the heavy quadri-cycle exception seems to be the obvious way to follow for a Brooklands.

Which do I prefer? They each have their good points and it's difficult to compare apples and oranges. I think Pam prefers the Brooklands as it is a lot more solid in its road behaviour and like an early Mini when it comes to cornering. This is more familiar than a three-wheeler which does roll a little. I find the limper interesting but whether this is because it's a new toy remains to be seen. It is certainly more sporty. Overtakes are easily achieved in shorter distances. On side roads I find myself doing 60mph in very short order.

Perhaps the best answer to the question is a compromise, the Brooklands is an apple, a nice crisp fruit, enough to chew on and very satisfying. However, the Super Sport is an orange, a little sharp, tasty and with considerably more juice.


Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!