Happy Pi Day Everyone!
I SAID PI NOT PIE
Today (14th March) is the date of Albert Einstein’s Birthday, and it is also “Pi Day” being the 14th day of the 3rd month (Pi = 3.14 roughly) so that’s a bit clever to kick off with.
If you don’t know, Pi (Greek letter “p”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant number equal to the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter and is approximately 3.14159 – although it has been calculated by someone with time on their hands and a hankering to be in the Guinness Book of World Records to over one trillion digits past the decimal. Why? According to the website www.piday.org it’s because it is FUN to memorise, but I can think of over one trillion more fun things to do if I am honest!
Whether it was the mathematician Archimedes, someone called William Jones in 1706 or Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737 who popularized it is up for discussion (but not in the pub please) and now we are here celebrating the day.
I say ‘celebrating’ but what I really mean is using the day to look at the fact that tyres are round, and Pi is used to calculate their circumference and area and a car uses tyres and Pi is near enough to 3 to enable me to write an article on three wheeled cars.
And, although we see less and less of them about, there is something inherently quirky and British about them, especially when you consider that the most famous three-wheeled car in the world is the one featured in the much-loved TV Comedy “Only Fools and Horses” and owned by Derek Trotter of Trotter Independent Trading of New York, Paris and Peckham.
However it is important to remember, whether you love them or loath them, the 3-wheeler, Cycle-car or even Tri-car, has played quite an important part in the development of the present day motor car. Some say that it was Leonardo da Vinci in 1478 who drew up plans for a self powered (3 wheeled) automobile that used a modified clockwork mechanism, but whether it was him or not, I can remember my uncle having a Reliant Robin (pale blue) that he used to drive it round to my nan’s flats when he visited. And because he had a limp (from a football injury I found out later) I always thought the three-wheeler cars were for disabled people.
How wrong I was. They were right there at the birth of motoring right up to the present day (although that statement is pushing the truth a little!)Way back in 1784, William Murdock built a model steam three-wheeler right here in the UK, although it wasn’t until the very early years of the 1900’s that a few bicycle companies started to produce 3-wheeled ‘forecars’ which worked at the time as the national speed limit was 12mph – not that many cars could go faster than that anyway!
Morgan were the first company to embrace the three-wheeler and a Morgan 3-wheeler entered the first ever London to Exeter 2 Day Trial and won a gold medal, but with the arrival of World War I the three-wheel industry vanished until pretty much until after World War II when the world’s largest production 3-wheeler, The Davis, which could carry seven adults, was powered by a 2,600cc engine and was 14 feet long.
With the advent of the Suez Crisis, and fears for oil prices (Sound familiar?), demand for three wheelers soared and the Reliant got their iconic Reliant into the public’s consciousness particularly in the early 60s. Reliant had actually produced 3-Wheelers since their founding in 1935, and continued to do so for 65 years until 2001 when it sold out to B & N Plastics who made them only for one more year.
The smallest 3-wheeler produced for commercial purposes was the 1964 Peel P50. Manufactured in the Isle on Man it had a 49cc engine, was 4 foot 5 inches long, 3 foot 3 inches wide and 53 inches high. Unsurprisingly, as it was about the size of my grandson’s toy car, and similar in shape, it could only carry one adult.
So you could say really that Derek Trotter was the last of a long line of pioneers, a trailblazer, a hero hanging on to the last vestige of a bygone golden age of motoring with his Robin Reliant – or he could just be a dipstick!