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SNAPSHOT 307: 1921 Tamplin

The cyclecar boom started around 1912; nearly 40 different makes were exhibited at the Motor Cycle Show of that year. The boom survived World War I but could not overcome the introduction of the Austin Seven in 1922. By around 1925 the cyclecar was all but dead.

One of the more popular of these machines was the Tamplin, manufactured from 1919 to 1923 in Staines, Middlesex and from 1924 to 1925 in Cheam. Edward Alfred Tamplin was a member of the Sussex brewing family, but not connected with that business. His father, W. F. Tamplin, owned a cycle business in Twickenham and the young Edward was often sent to school on a de Dion tricycle. Edward was firstly apprenticed to the Enfield Autocar Co. in Redditch and then went to Milnes-Daimler-Mercedes. He overhauled two Mercédès cars that were in the personal ownership of King Edward VII.

In 1907 Tamplin opened a motor business in Twickenham and just before the war moved to a garage in Staines. During the hostilities he was in charge of transport maintenance at the Ministry of Munitions National Shell-Filling Station No. 7 at Hayes in Middlesex, where he showed his inventiveness and skill by developing a method of replacing bearings without scraping – important in a time when skilled fitters were in short supply – and designing a carburettor that enabled the lorries to be run on coal gas or petrol.

Returning to his Staines works, he held the agency for the Carden cyclecar and in 1919 bought the rights to manufacture it (some sources state that Tamplin designed the new Tamplin car himself.) The Tamplin was powered by an air-cooled 980 cc JAP V-twin controlled by hand throttle and mounted on the side of the body, with chain drive to a Sturmey-Archer three-speed-and-reverse gearbox and then exposed belt drive to the rear wheels. Only the nearside rear wheel was driven, but the car’s very narrow track made a differential less essential. Suspension was independent by coil springs at the front and quarter-elliptics on the rigid rear axle.

The body was made from fibreboard soaked in linseed oil to waterproof it, supplied by Sundeala of Sunbury; it also served as the chassis. The petrol tank sat on top of the engine, and the curved top decking, held down by straps, could be removed for good access to the ‘rude mechanicals’. Horizontal mudguards on either side were convenient locations for such accessories as headlamps and horns, as seen here. Two people could be carried in tandem, but the car was really a 1½-seater, with the passenger’s legs alongside the driver. Bill Boddy of Motor Sport tried out the passenger seat of the Tamplin in the 1950s and “didn’t find it very comfortable”.

The Tamplin’s simplicity and lightness gave it excellent performance. Tamplin won at least 18 gold medals with standard models in M.C.C. Trials, sprints and speed hill-climbs. On one occasion Tamplin was allocated a very heavy observer but still won a fuel consumption contest with a figure of 102 mpg.

A few Tamplins had Blackburne and M.A.G. engines but the former lacked speed and the latter was badly balanced. Tamplin had a staff of about 20, who assembled between 6 and 12 Tamplins a week.

This eccentric machine was replaced in 1924 by a more conventional version with a separate chassis, front-mounted engine, a centrally-mounted chain drive and a much wider body that gave side-by-side seating, but by 1925 the demise of the cyclecar market forced production to cease. Tamplin returned to his garage business and became a dealer in Chevrolet and then Bedford trucks.

Photo courtesy of Peter McFadyen. See his website:

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