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The Bond Minicar, Preston’s post-war winner

Posted on - 20th March, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Longridge, Nostalgia, Preston News, Ribble Valley News
The Bond Minicar factory in 1951 in Gosford Street Preston Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Bond Minicar factory in 1951 in Gosford Street, Preston Pic: Preston Digital Archive

From 1949 until 1966 Preston boasted its own car manufacturing company. The Bond Minicar proved popular in the era of post-war austerity, but rapidly went out of favour due to tax changes in the 1960s.

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With a top speed of 30mph and no reverse gear, it was only ever intended for shopping trips and short journeys. After the war any car was better than no car and sales reached 26,500 by the end of production. Various models came out and the speed was raised to 50mph.

Bond Minicar Mark G Tourer from 1964 Pic: Mighty Antar
Bond Minicar Mark G Tourer from 1964 Pic: Mighty Antar

Sharp’s Commercials

The origins of the Minicar begin shortly after the war when ex-aircraft engineer Lawrence ‘Laurie’ Bond had an idea for a small car. Using his knowledge of aircraft construction, the body was to be made of aluminium. It utilised a 122cc motorcycle engine and needed a minimum of materials.

1950s Bond Minicar advert Pic: HobbyDB
This is what safe looked like in the 1950s; no seatbelts at 50mph Pic: HobbyDB

The factory in Longridge, where he made aircraft parts, was too small for car production so he made an arrangement with Sharp’s Commercials and moved to Preston.

The original car was crude, with the engine mounted on the single front wheel steering fork. The back wheels were only 8 inches in diameter. The concept was announced in 1948 and considerable interest was shown. This led Sharp’s to develop the car and go into production, with Lawrence as consultant.

Bond Minicar advert from 1957 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Bond Minicar advert from 1957 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Production began in 1949, with 15 cars a week. The early car was an open two-seat tourer with a small amount of luggage space behind the seats. There were no doors. This made entry and exit a bit of a feat, with the hood up.

Bond Minicar engine and steering arrangement Pic: Wikimedia
The tiny engine and steering arrangement Pic: Wikimedia

Tax and fuel advantages

Endurance runs were used to promote the vehicle and 100mpg was achieved. The three wheeled nature of the vehicle meant that it had lower purchase tax, vehicle excise duty and insurance than four wheeled cars. Also with no reverse gear it could be driven on a motorcycle licence. 

However, tax changes in 1962 lowered purchase tax on four wheeled vehicles to the same as three wheelers and this made the Minicar more expensive. As a result, by 1966 they were out of production.

Rival mini cars and bubble cars

Post-war recovery meant exports and some German ex-aircraft factory cars arrived over here in the 1950s. One was the Messerschmitt KR200. This was produced at about the same time as the Bond Minicar and 40,000 were made, up to 1964.

The Messerschmitt KR200 Pic: Wikimedia
The Messerschmitt KR200 Pic: Wikimedia

The main rival to the Bond Minicar was the Reliant Regal. This model was produced from 1952 to 1973.

1952 Reliant Regal Pic: Wikimedia
A 1952 Reliant Regal Pic: Wikimedia

The Regal had a front mounted engine with rear wheel drive and a fuel consumption of over 80mpg.

It was also more powerful with a 700cc engine.

New developments and the end of the road

Front page of Evening Standard in 1956 Pic: Evening Standard
Front page of Evening Standard in 1956 Pic: Evening Standard

In 1956, the Suez Crisis raised fuel prices and sales of the Minicar Mark D car boomed. The ‘family’ model of the Mark D had two child seats in the rear. By this time the original owners were starting families. Other improvements included the Dynastart unit, which had reversing capability.

However, in 1959 the Morris Mini-Minor came on to the market. The Mini looked more modern and had far more power. Consequently, By 1966 flagging sales of the Bond Minicar led to production shutting down.

Original 1959 Mini
Original 1959 Mini



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