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September 11, 2020

Amazing Photos of Raleigh Safety Seven, a Largely Forgotten Product of the 1930s British Motoring Industry

The famous bicycle manufacturer Raleigh was founded in Nottingham in 1887 by Frank Bowden. In 1899 they made their first motorcycle, basically a bicycle with a 2hp Geman ‘Schwan’ engine mounted to the frame and driving the rear wheel by a belt. In 1903 they created their first tricar called the Raleighette. This had a 3.5hp water cooled engine and a chain drive with a large wicker chair over the front wheels to allow room for a passenger. This was never a great sales success and by 1908 they had reverted back to bicycles only.

In response to the economic climate of the late 1920s Raleigh again turned their hand to manufacturing three-wheelers, which enjoyed considerable tax and licensing advantages. The first of these was the Karryall parcel van of 1929, more or less a 500cc motorcycle that was enclosed into a 5cwt van body with the addition of a third wheel. The front wheel of the van was exposed giving away its motorcycle origins, and steering was via handlebars inside the van. In 1931 the engine was uprated to 600cc and in 1933 a two passenger version was also available.

In the same year Raleigh also introduced their first three-wheeler car, the Raleigh Safety Seven. Powered by a twin-cylinder 742cc engine, the Safety Seven featured an aluminium body fastened onto an ash framework and was available either as a four-seater saloon or open tourer. With a top speed of around 55mph and a fuel consumption of 60mpg the Safety Seven sold very well, but production petered out in 1935 when Raleigh decided to concentrate once again on bicycles.

This particular model dates from 1935 and has been in the current ownership for over 40 years. The engine turns and has been fired up in recent years but will need attention to the wiring. It is now in need of a fair amount of restoration to get it back on the road. It still has its original Nottingham registration number (ATO 248) and several old tax discs from the 1940s.


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