By Motoring Editor Chris Dugdale
The G.W.K. Cyclecar was made in Datchet, Buckinghamshire from 1911
to 1914 and then subsequently at Maidenhead in Berkshire, U.K. Production
came to an end in 1926 and the make finally ceased to exist in 1931.
The G.W.K. was notable in that it successfully employed a friction
drive. Initially motive power was supplied by a vertical twin cylinder
side valve Coventry-Simplex engine located at the rear of the vehicle,
which gave a top speed in the vicinity of 35 m.p.h. with good fuel economy.
In 1921 the size of the engine was increased to four cylinders giving
a cubic capacity of 1368, also a self-starter was added. For the 1924
season front wheel brakes were added and another increase in engine
size to 1.5 litres.
The make faced stiff competition from the new Austin 7 which was faster,
more economical and cheaper to purchase. Production ceased in 1926.
A new rear engined model with friction drive was introduced in 1930
but the proposed production came to nothing.
G.W.K. claimed that their patented disc drive provided a transmission
for light cars that was superior to, and marked a great advance on,
the usual clutch and gearbox. That it provided an equally positive drive,
it eliminated the difficulties of gear changing, obviated any noise
from the lower gears, required no lubrication, provided smooth clutch
action and was so simple that the non-technical mind could easily understand
One disc, the driving, is connected by a shaft to the engine. The other,
the driven disc is mounted at right angles so as to be rotated by the
former and this in turn rotates the rear road wheels. The two are held
in contact by a spring, which ensures the absence of any slip. By moving
the driven disc nearer to the center of the driven disc the ratio of
the gear is lowered, by moving further from the center the ratio is
increased. Moving across the center gives reverse.
The driving disc was of smooth metal and the driven disc was a wheel
with a rim, or tread of adhesive material (in early years, of compressed
paper, later cork) alternating with rings of aluminum. The clutch pedal
held one disc out of contact with the other and an additional pedal
was provided so that extra pressure could be provided to increase grip
in an emergency.
The makers claimed a unique proof of the reliability of the system,
G.W.K. entered the majority of Open Reliability Trials and in every
case won either a Gold Medal or Premier award in their first 11 years
of production. Up to 1922 this came to a total of seventy Gold Medals,
fourteen Silver Cups and numerous other awards!
A extract from "The Light Car and Cycle Car" of September
9th 1922 is as follows:-
'The "Colonial Conditions" dearly
beloved and generally introduced by the keen competition organizer, fade into insignificance beside the test - bordering on destruction - which was carried out to prove the efficiency of the system of friction drive fitted to the G.W.K.
It should strengthen the faith of the disc drive enthusiasts and
confound their critics'
The 'Motor' of September 30th 1922 stated:-
'Every proof had been given that the disc
transmission as fitted to the G.W.K. had that day demonstrated that it was capable of doing anything that a car with a gear box could do, if not more'.
The pictures below shows a 1922 model breasting a steep ridge of an
un-metalled surface at Frensham Common. The same day it also climbed
a soft grassy surfaced hill with a gradient estimated at 1 in 3. The
other picture shows the car making circles in a lake with the running
boards awash and the disc drive churning up in a cascade.
Many satisfied owners wrote to the company praising the car and to
quote just one of April 1922:-
"Having completed 30,000 on my 1920 four seater tourer it gives
me great pleasure to write telling you of its splendid behavior. Tyre
economy I attribute to the smooth drive of the friction gear and absence
of gear changing. As a disabled owner driver I do with confidence recommend
my car as being the most suitable for those who require simplicity of
control, accessibility, economy and efficiency". F.H.
I do not know if any of these little cars are still in existence. If
any reader of this article knows the whereabouts of one, then please
do let me know.