The 1972 Bi-Car Saturn Model claims to be the product of eight years of development. Regardless of the odd choice of name, the concept of a two wheeled car with retractable training wheels was anything bu new, having been “invented” numerous times.
Here’s a few of the more memorable ones:
I’m not sure it was the first, but probably the most ambitious and memorable one was the 11908 Scripps-Booth Autogo. Among its other unique features, it had the first V8 built in Detroit, and those handsome curved copper cooling pipes that looked a bit like exhaust pipes from a tiny V36 or so. Just one was built, and it’s in the Detroit Historical Society.
The Morgan Monotrace was not an effort by the British firm to remove one more wheel from their venerable three-wheeler. This was built by the French company Monotrace, between 1924 and 1930. Or perhaps Morgan was taking a look at it and considering it, because all the rest of these are just called Monotrace.
Here’s one at speed in a sporting event.
And it was hardly original, being heavily based on the 1923 German Einspurauto.
The reality is that there were dozens of two-wheeled cars built, either as one-offs or in small numbers. This is the Douglas. Great Britain seems to have hosted an outsized share of them. Maybe it’s something to do with their narrow lanes. Maybe not.
Note that so far whe have just touched on conventional two-wheeled “cars”. There’s an important subcategory, the Gyrocar, which employs one or more gyroscopes to assist in its stability They still had lowering side wheels for stopping and parking, but were quickly raised once it was under way and the gyros were spinning.
The granddaddy of the genre is The Shilovski Gyrocar, was commissioned in 1912 by the Russian Count Pyotr Shilovsky, a lawyer and member of the Russian royal family. It was manufactured to his design by the Wolseley Tool and Motorcar Company in England in 1914 and demonstrated in London the same year.[ The gyrocar was powered by a modified Wolseley C5 engine of 16–20 hp, with a bore of 90 mm and a stroke of 121 mm. It was mounted ahead of the radiator, driving the rear wheel through a conventional clutch and gear box. A transmission brake was fitted after the gearbox – there were no brakes on the wheels themselves. The weight of the vehicle was 2.75 tons and it had a very large turning radius.
The same basic approach was used for Ford’s Gyron concept, and there has been a stream of others ever since. It’s an enduring idea, apparently.
I don’t know anything more about the Bi-Car except what’s in these ads. The name is of course a bit unfortunate, and it’s not like “bi” was not a common term at the time. “Traditionalists may flinch”.