1960 BSA Ladybird, manufacturers serial No. 212, Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA)
The 1960 BSA Ladybird 3 wheeler was an original experimental idea by Edward Turner – Managing Director of BSA and is said to have been sketched on the back of a cigarette packet in June 1960 and produced in only 9 weeks by master craftsman Ben Johnston of Carbodies of Coventry which was part of the BSA group. The masterfully crafted rounded body shape was recognised early to resemble a Ladybird if spots were added and the designation stuck. Many microcars and bubble cars of the era were made of fibreglass on steel frames. Conversely, the 1960 BSA Ladybird is fully steel with skilled hand-beaten panels fitted over 10 gauge steel tubing, prepared to a high standard inside and out. The Ladybird was designed to take on other microcars at the time manufactured in the UK and Europe.
The car as a prototype weighed 422 lb (191.4 kg), had no windscreen wiper, indicators, heater or cover from the weather. It had all-round independent suspension, foot brake operating on all 3 wheels evenly with the assistance of a compensator, a bench seat and handlebar steering.
The Ladybird was designed to use BSA’s existing 249 CC, 4 stroke overhead-valve, Sunbeam / Triumph Tigress scooter engine and to relaunch their automotive division. The car used the transmission of the Tigress scooter, it’s rear arm suspension and was the source of its 2 front wheels. The small engine was noisy but the car was expected to achieve a top speed of 60 miles per hour. The vehicle had no reverse gear – not designating it a car – allowing it to be driven by people as young as 16 years with a motorcycle licence.
The 1960 BSA Ladybird was the first of 2 prototypes and the second was made in 1962 from a design by Jake Donaldson of Carbodies. It was built from a monocoque frame with more angular panels to facilitate mass production and a pressed body shell, something prohibited by the rounded body of the 1960 prototype.
The second prototype had the option of a hinged hardtop roof to enable easy access, whereas the 1960 BSA Ladybird was open.
Comparative records indicate the production car likely based on prototype 2 would have sold for £283 in 1962. However, by September 1962 the project was halted as the post-WWII microcar and bubble car era was at an end, coinciding with the BSA decision to phase out scooter production.
The 1960 BSA Ladybird eventually went to the USA for a time with an ex-BSA employee and was mostly restored by Vic Hyde before it was returned to the UK in 1991. Indicator lights were added later when the car was prepared for UK road registration or MOT.
The second prototype is believed to be in the UK, but it’s exact whereabouts and condition are unknown.
The BSA Ladybirds were experimental prototypes made with skill and craftsmanship, designed to utilise an existing BSA scooter and its motor, but were too late coming at the end of the 1950’s bubble car and microcar era.
- 3-wheelers.com, Viewed 21/8/2019. http://www.3wheelers.com/bsa.html
- Source: www.YouTube.com BSA Ladybird.wmv, viewed 21 August 2019, https://youtu.be/4Rysma9VxnI
- Front Wheels, ‘BSA trike with a difference’, UK, October 1994, pages 9 and 10.
- Stuart Lanning, 1992, ‘The Webster Collection – BSA Ladybird’, UK.
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