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 1914 - 1974

Leslie Hounsfield

'Can You Afford To Walk?' asked the advertising of the Trojan, which was possibly the most successful utility car of the time. In fact, the company even put out a hilarious advertising film which purported to show that the operating costs of the Trojan were substantially less than the cost of repairs to the shoes of a keen walker. It was a little unconvincing and left the British public with the impression that the person who bought a Trojan did so because they could not afford to buy a car.

The Trojan was the brainchild of Leslie Hounsfield, who had begun his engineering career as a Whitworth scholar assisting the steam traction pioneer, Colonel R. E. B. Crompton develop a steam wagon for gun haulage in the Boer War. The engine developed by the two men followed internal combustion wagon lines and was very different from the normal pattern of traction engine. The engine was built by Ransomes of Ipswich, and tested at Aldershot, but found to be too heavy to satisfy either the designers or the War Office committee appointed to further the development of mechanical transport for military purposes.

Trojan Limited

In 1904 Hounsfield began work on his own on the development of a really cheap and economical motor car. A prototype was built in the period 1910-12 which had its curious duplex two-stroke engine mounted vertically between the seats. Mounted on solid tires, the snub-nosed prototype embodied most of the unorthodoxy’s which were to appear on production cars, though at that time Hounsfield did not have the financial backing to begin quantity production. In 1914 he registered the company of Trojan Limited, precision engineers, of Croydon; five pre-production cars were built when the company's normal business programme allowed, but the real break-through came in 1922 when Hounsfield sold the licence to manufacture to Leyland Motors, the firm of truck builders who had just entered the car market with the Parry Thomas-designed Leyland Eight, the most expensive luxury car on the British market.

The Trojan 10hp two-Stroke Utility Car

This attempt to rival Rolls-Royce was doomed to failure, so Leyland was now aiming at the other end of the market. In June 1922 Trojan released the 10 hp two-stroke Small Utility Car, incorporating a novel two-stroke engine, epicyclic gear and solid tires. Leyland Motors were attempting to create a simple utility vehicle, easy to build and maintain, and more essentially, cheap to own and operate. At the time there was nothing new in designing for production at a low cost, but the Trojan went a step further, breaking away from tradition, as evidenced by practically every component in the chassis.

It's Wierd, But It Goes

The chassis was best described as a shallow metal box, or tray, in and across which was mounted a novel two-stroke power unit and epicyclic gear, and at the corners of which were attached long semi-elliptic cantilever springs supported at their free ends on tubular 'axles.' The most unusual feature of an already unorthodox design - 'It's wierd, but it goes,' joked Hounsfield was the engine, which was substantially that developed for the prototype but now mounted horizontally beneath the floor, leaving the cavernous interior of the bonnet almost empty save for the petrol tank, the steering column, and the carburetter, which lived in splendid isolation four feet away from the power unit.

The layout of the engine was unique: the four cylinders were arranged in a square, each pair of cylinders being united by a common combustion chamber incorporating a single spark plug. The pistons were carried on a long V-shaped connecting rod, which, by virtue of its one piece of construction, varied the timing of the individual cylinders, of which the upper were the inlet and the lower the exhaust cylinders. But this posed further mechanical problems, as it was impossible for the rod to travel its pre-destined path without bending; so Hounsfield made the connecting rods thin enough to flex slightly as they went about their business. He claimed that this equalised side thrust on the cylinder walls, minimising engine wear, and further pointed out that a single big-end bearing was far more mechanically correct than the articulated pattern normally used with V-shaped connecting rods.

1924 Trojan PB 10 hp
1924 Trojan PB 10 hp, powered by a four-cylinder two-stroke 1529cc engine.

1924 Trojan PB 10 hp
1924 Trojan PB 10 hp, powered by a four-cylinder two-stroke engine driving through a 2 speed epicyclic transmission.

1931 Trojan RE Model performing in a hill-climb
1931 Trojan RE Model performing in a hill-climb.

1962 Trojan 200, made under licence from Heinkel
1962 Trojan 200, made under licence from Heinkel.

Trojan F1 Car
Designed by former Brabham engineer Ron Tauranac and driven by Tim Schenken of Australia, the Trojan Formula One Cosworth lacked sufficient funds to enable it to be successful.

Petroil Lubrication

Nevertheless, some trouble was experienced with the plain-bearing big-ends used on early production models, and so roller-bearing big-ends, more amenable to petroil-lubrication, were standardised in 1923. The petroil mixture followed a tortuous path through the engine, having first to navigate a long inlet pipe, which was fitted with a 'small cylindrical chamber' to silence the carburetor hiss and, more importantly, to catch any blow-back of fuel when the engine, in its unhurried two-stroking, suffered the hiccups, as it was apt to do at certain speeds within its somewhat limited compass of some 1500 rpm. Then the petroil was sucked into the inlet cylinder below the piston, passed round the crankcase, where the compression stroke took place, separating oil from the fuel, was forced out through the transfer port into the upper cylinder, ignited and exhausted by the lower piston.

The separated oil was caught in special chambers containing tiny plunger pumps actuated by the varying pressure in the crankcase and by a pipe linked to the exhaust, and thus fed to the engine bearings. The system was novel and ingenious.' Despite all the oil mist floating about in its interior, the engine was claimed never to need decarbonising or reboring; some owners claimed 100,000 miles between overhauls, which was very likely true as it seemed for a time that Trojans were almost unbreakable. But as the average 1920s four-stroke light car engine needed decoking every 3000 miles or so, the performance of the Trojan on this count was not to be scorned.

As a speed car, however, it was a different story. The two-speed epicyclical transmission was chosen for simplicity and the fact that the most idiotically unskilled driver could not fail to make a noiseless gear-change. This emphasis was bound to have some inhibiting effect on progression: the maximum power output of the 1529cc engine was only 11 bhp, limiting the top speed to a little over 30 mph. The saving grace of the power unit, though, was the fact that it had a very flat power curve, developing 10 bhp at 400 rpm, 11 bhp at 900 rpm, and falling back to 10 bhp at 1200 rpm. Thus the Trojan could climb almost anything - albeit at a crawling pace - on its lowest speed, accompanied by an animal moaning from the bottom gear pinions and double-chain final drive.

Ideal for Clergymen

The stolid respectability of its performance and its total lack of ostentation made the Trojan an ideal vehicle for clergymen - indeed the marque was the only one to advertise in the Church Times. Economical running costs were another plus-factor in the Trojan's favour. There was a story at the time that the Trojan suffered a very strange problem, the ride on the solid tires being really hard - and if your tires went down the tramlines, you had to drive all the way to the depot to get out again. This story was far from true, as the tires were too wide; and the track was too narrow. In 1925 three Oriental gentlemen drove a second hand Trojan from Singapore to London without once getting stuck in tramlines - further proof that the story was ficticious.

Braking was another curious feature of the Trojan: there was only one brake drum on the differential-less rear axle, and the handbrake (operated by a pull-up 'umbrella' handle) acted on a band wrapped round the bottom gear shaft, and was generally inoperative by virtue of being soaked with oil. The reverse gear was employed as the second, or emergency brake. The crowning eccentricity of the Trojan was its coachwork. On the original model this was a chummy four-seater - an occasional four-seater capable of carrying four adults with ease, but the limitations imposed by wheelbase, and the special design of the chassis as regards springing, rendered the leg-room hardly sufficient for a long journey.

Upholstery was deliberately kept to a minimum in anticipation of the unwholesome loads which might be carried in the vehicle. There were only two doors to the bodywork, with no apparent access to the rear seats. In fact, the front seat cushions were detachable, and the rear of the passenger's seat swivelled so that those short-limbed unfortunates destined to occupy the rear of the car could clamber through. Should the owner wish to carry pigs, poultry or garden produce in the rear of their vehicle, the rear seat cushions could be completely removed, and a special pattern of back panel which let down into a tail gate could be specified.

Tool lockers were arranged under both the front seats, and under the rear seat was another large locker and two smaller lockers, while a large cupboard was formed in the instrument board and served to house the side curtains, and at the same time provide room for small parcels. Another unique feature was the rear number plate, made of a translucent material on which the registration was painted to allow the electric bulb of the rear lamp to also light up the numerals; 'pinholes in the fabric which covers the tail lamp recess, on the inside of the car, show the driver that the rear light is functioning properly.'

Brooke Bond Tea

Shortly after the car's introduction, a 'detachable coupe top' became available at an extra cost of UK£40 (a not inconsiderable proportion of the original cost of £230 for the complete vehicle). By 1925 the price of the Trojan had fallen to £125, placing it on a par with the British-built Model T Ford which looked positively luxurious by comparison (but paid £23 in road tax each year against the £10 of the Trojan). The economic virtues of the Trojan were not lost on the business community, who were keen. users of Trojans for delivery purposes, perhaps the most famous being Brooke Bond Tea who had nearly 2000 Trojans on the road in 1927. The Royal Air Force was another enthusiastic Trojan operator.

The Trojan Achilles

The success of the Trojan was greatly to the benefit of the Trojan Company who were still operating as precision engineers while receiving a royalty on each Trojan constructed by Leyland: peak output was 85 Trojans a week. In 1926 Trojan Limited became sole concessionaires for the marque they had created and a couple of years later took over manufacture. By this time some civilising refinements had been made to the Trojan, such as the optional availability of pneumatic tires; and the 1928 Trojan Achilles fabric saloon was little uglier than other enclosed light cars of the period. And, at £189, it was decidedly good value, despite its continued lack of front wheel brakes.

At the 1929 Motor Show a new Trojan, the RE Type made its debut, with the engine carried in what appeared to be a luggage boot at the rear of the car. It retained the four-cylinder duplex engine of its predecessor, but had a three-speed epicyclic gearbox with gate gear change; the rigid rear axle had disappeared, to be replaced by a unit with a lockable differential. The standard tourer and saloon on this chassis both cost £179, while there was a deluxe model for £198 which had such un-Trojan features as an electric starter motor, wire wheels and an electric screen wiper; but there were still no front wheel brakes.

Trojan Mastra

The original pattern of Trojan, mostly in light van form, continued in production alongside the RE Type, which had now lost all its old price advantage compared with more orthodox vehicles. It took a further five years for Trojan to make any attempt at a more modern design, which appeared on the eve of the 1935 Motor Show. This was the Mastra, which had a six-cylinder duplex two-stroke engine at the rear of the chassis driving through a conventional three-speed synchromesh gearbox. It was cloaked in up-to-the-minute streamlined coachwork by Ranelagh, which gave it an external appearance of conventionality, though on one prototype the effect was somewhat marred by the use of solid tyred disc wheels obviously borrowed from a superannuated 10 hp car. Advanced features of the specification included - at last - four-wheel-brakes, built-in hydraulic jacks and a heater. But at a price approaching £400, the Mastra was both too expensive and too unorthodox to appeal to the car buying public, and it never reached the production stage.

Trojan Trobike

The Trobike was one of the early makes of mini-bike and also one of the earliest to be sold in kit form to avoid purchase tax. The Trojan Lambretta group was founded in 1959 when Lambretta Concessioinaires Ltd took over Trojan Ltd, one of the oldest firms in the British motor industry. At about the time the group owned the Clinton Engine Corporation of Maquoketa, Iowa, USA. Clinton were world famous for their engines used in lawnmowers and chainsaws. At this time many were supplied for use in portable generators, paint sprayers etc. During the late 1950s the British public were becoming aware of the craze sweeping teenage America – karting (or go-karting). The sport arrived in Britain with US servicemen bringing outfits over and even making their own.

At first, the most popular engine was the 2.5 HP 95 cc Clinton engine – being both readily available and cheap. By 1959 Trojan began making the Trokart using this engine and sold as a kit to avoid purchase tax, it sold for only £25. By 1963 it was estimated that 250,000 engines in the US and 10,000 in Britain had been sold; all for karting. The first printed mention of the Trobike is June 1960 and the first road test published on Thursday 22 December 1960 in Motor Cycling with Scooter Weekly. The price then quoted was £35 in kit form although two adverts in 1962 quoted £29. By November 1961 the factory, also producing the Lambretta scooters, had also tooled up to produce the Heinkel three-wheeled bubble car, then known as the Trojan 200 or Trojan Cabin Cruiser. The Trobike was a limited success with perhaps only 500-600 being sold over the two-year period – the last confirmed despatch being 6 March 1962. Known frame numbers range from TB501 to TB1148.

The very last machines were sold to a farmer and known as the Sussex Miniscooter. Later still, a variant known as the Lowline Chimp appeared using a very similar frame and again a Clinton engine. Originally, machines had black handlebar rubbers but some later models were fitted with buff-coloured rubbers. The twistgrip on early machines (as appear on factory literature) was manufactured by Amal with the cable entering parallel to the handlebars. Later bikes had the more typical Amal twistgrip with the cable entering from below.

Later models were fitted with a bashplate between the lower frame downtubes (by frame number TB879). The bashplate was dual purpose: to stop dirt entering the air filter, and also to protect the carburetor from damage. Even later models (by frame number TB1029) were fitted with a further small light steel plate shielding the carburetor float bowl and fitted under the heads of the front two engine mounting bolts. Elva were also produced by Trojan, who absorbed the company in 1964. For a time Trojan were involved with motor racing, first building McLaren cars and later their own, short-lived, GP car.
1912 Trojan two-seater runabout prototype
1912 Trojan two-seater runabout prototype.
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