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Wolseley: Cars: Gyrocar

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Note: This is a sub-section of Wolseley: Cars

1912 The first prototype Gyrocar, the Schilowsky Gyrocar, was commissioned by the Russian Count Pierre Schilowsky, a lawyer and member of the Russian royal family. It was manufactured to his design by the Wolseley in 1914 and demonstrated in London the same year.

The gyrocar was powered by a modified Wolseley C5 engine of 16–20 hp, with a bore of 90 mm and a stroke of 121 mm. It was mounted ahead of the radiator, driving the rear wheel through a conventional clutch and gear box. A transmission brake was fitted after the gearbox – there were no brakes on the wheels themselves. The weight of the vehicle was 2.75 tons and it had a very large turning radius.


Report by H. Massac Buist[1]

In one sense there is nothing new in the idea of applying a motor to the scheme of a bicycle. But whereas the motor bicycle rarely weighs more than 150 pounds, this new design weighs several tons. Indeed, it is heavier than is necessary for a road vehicle, but the inventor has had this first full-scale example fashioned so that it can also be run on a single rail. Of course, it would be impossible for the rider of any machine of this size and weight to undertake the work of balancing it by hand control of the steering wheel. Apart from the risks of side-slip and so forth, such a large and weighty machine would be impossible to bring to a stand on the road, or, again, to start. There is therefore, introduced to the construction the well-known principle of the gyroscope.

The point about Dr. Schilowsky’s system is that the gyroscope absorbs an estimated maximum of only 1.25 horse power, and turns on ball bearings at comparatively slow revolutions — 1,200 to 1,500 a minute — while twin pendulums engage automatically with ratchets, and, at need, hurry the action of each gyro, a spring releasing such action at the right moment There is no hand control of the apparatus, save in cases of emergency. The action of the gyroscope enables this single-track huge motor-bicycle to stand upright when stationary, just as though it were a three or four wheeled machine. The advantage claimed for the single-track motor car as against the ordinary four-wheeled vehicle is that by employing a single track only the same amount of power will do much more work; also that, power for power and speed for speed, it will be possible to employ a lighter form of body-work than is needed for the four-wheeled car of the same rating. The single-track car also traverses narrower ways than the ordinary three or four wheeled varieties, an advantage which is more apparent in service in new and undeveloped countries, and which is countered by the width of way needed being determined by the breadth of the body of the carriage.

Other points claimed are that fuel consumption can be reduced for the same amount of work done; that the gyroscope control is conducive to additional safety when running at high speeds on horizontal curves, and that there is a vast gain in smoothness of riding through absolute absence of lateral oscillation. The single track motor vehicles hitherto produced have been made to run on rails, whereas the novelty of the machine introduced to the London streets yesterday, which has seating accommodation for half a dozen persons, is that it is fitted with large solid rubber tires, wire wheels, a cantilever form of springing aft, change speed gear-box, four cylinder water-cooled engine, and is so built that it can run on ordinary roads without the provision of any special tracks.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon the long car with the single steering wheel set bicycle fashion in front of the shoe-shaped bonnet that covers the 16 to 20 horse power engine, with a dashboard form of cooler behind it and two electrical fans to induce an additional draught of air to the radiators, came into Portman Square at a walking pace. The inventor sat beside the driver while the car made several circuits of the square, sometimes at slower than a walking pace, the curves being negotiated without difficulty at that rate, and, of course, always with the vehicle on an even keel, as distinct from inclining it in the manner in which a cyclist rides around a curve. Then the car was brought to a stand, but as the gyroscope was kept in action it stood upright and was unaffected by men stepping on to or off it or leaning against it.

On the other hand, when the revolutions of the gyroscope dropped below the critical speed, the lever operated hinged skids, with little rollers on their tips, were placed on the ground to illustrate the manner in which the vehicle is kept in the normal position while its mechanism is at rest. The gyro-car was then driven at the same speed up Baker Street, through Clarence Gate, into Regent's Park. Dr. Schilowsky invited me to be one of his passengers on a tour around the outer circle of Regent's Park, the half dozen on board including the inventor, Mr. Louis Brennan, and Prof. C. Vernon Boyes. To turn the gyro-car in small compass it was backed to and fro like an ordinary car and it was always as stable in the intervals between changing from one direction of progression to this other as when travelling.

Certainly, had there been any fault with the efficiency of the device we should have found ourselves in embarrassing circumstances, because there rode close on either side of us and immediately behind us for a considerable part of the way cyclists, motorists, and people in carriages in the park. The action of the vehicle was absolutely silent, so that the horses appeared quite heedless of its presence, but throughout our progress — and we took something like half an hour for the circuit — it was amusing to see the manifestations of astonishment and curiosity which the presence and performance of this novel machine aroused. For ourselves, our experimental journeying was of the most luxurious and uneventful character. The vehicle travelled no less smoothly than slowly and silently, there being absolutely no lateral oscillation. In the back seats we were also unconscious of any vibration from the working of the gyro mechanism."


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. London Morning Post May 17, 1914