Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Royal Enfield in Top Gear

The BBC car show "Top Gear" sets out to answer the question: which was the first vehicle that drove like a modern car in the sense of controls, steering, etc. They start with the first "car" a three wheeled Benz. The segment is rather inaccurate historically, it claims the Benz Motowagen is from 1896, whereas in reality it appeared a decade before in 1885. Perhaps they were referring to the specific model they were riding. Or perhaps the discussion is UK-centric, one has to recall that thanks to the Locomotive Acts of 1861-1896, progress in motor vehicles in Britain was delayed for at least ten years with respect to the rest of Europe. The act set a maximum speed limit of 2mph in towns and required a person carrying a red flag to walk 60ft ahead of the cars. Most automobiles appeared in the mid 1880's and could not be practically operated in the UK until the repeal of the acts in 1896. The segment then moves on to the Royal Enfield quadricycle of 1898. It is surprising that they would choose that vehicle, perhaps it was indeed the second "car" to be sold in the UK, or perhaps it was simply the next one they had access to. They claim its controls were "hideously complicated", but it had twice! the power of the Benz, 2hp (it really had a 2.75hp 244cc De Dion-Bouton engine) instead of 1hp and it had... four wheels! The Royal Enfield is featured at approximately 2:00 into the video,

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