Three-wheeler built in Leeds in 1950s is star of new exhibition

A QUIRKY three-wheeler built in Hunslet more than 60-years ago is set to be the star attraction in a new exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum.

Sunday, 29th September 2019, 6:00 pm
Gina Churchill-Straffon of Leeds Museums and Galleries with the Scootacar

Scootacars were originally built in the late 1950s by Scootacars Ltd, a division of railway locomotive builder the Hunslet Engine Company.

Their unusual design was said to be inspired by the wife of one of the company directors, who wanted a car that was easier to park than her Jaguar.

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Gina Churchill-Straffon of Leeds Museums and Galleries with the Scootacar

The company’s top minds started working on a design for an easy-to-park car with a high enough driving position to give the driver a good view of the road.

They asked a tall employee to sit on a box against a handy wall, set up dummy controls in front of him, and drew a chalk outline around him.

The result was a small but high car, nicknamed the telephone booth, which was produced between 1957 and 1964 with a sale price of around £275.

Only around 1,000 were ever made, making the one going on display in Leeds extremely rare and among an estimated 150 left in the world today.

Gina Churchill-Straffon of Leeds Museums and Galleries with the Scootacar

The Scootacar will be on show at an upcoming exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum in Armley called Leeds to Innovation, which will celebrate some of the city’s creative and scientific minds.

The model which will be part of the exhibition is an original mark one version, with a 197cc single cylinder engine.

It has been loaned by enthusiast Stephen Boyd, 65, from Norfolk, who bought his first Scootacar in 1997 and whose family now own seven.

Stephen Boyd pictured with his Scootacar

John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries curator of industrial history, said: “The Scootacar is an excellent example of how, over the years, the city’s scientists, designers and engineers have had their impressive talents brought to bear solving some very unusual problems.

“Fortunately they have almost invariably risen to the challenge, giving the city a global reputation as both a centre of engineering excellence and the birthplace of some truly remarkable inventions and advancements.

“Bringing some of those feats of creativity together for this exhibition will give us the chance to get a more detailed insight into how and why they were made, the people and personalities who made them and the many different ways that Leeds has changed the world.”

Although only a small number of Scootacars remain, owners can be found as far away as Australia, Canada and Japan and roadworthy examples in good condition can fetch up to £20,000

Gina Churchill-Straffon of Leeds Museums and Galleries with the Scootacar

Looking back at 300 years of history, Leeds to Innovation will also include famous names like John Smeaton, the ‘Father of Civil Engineering’ and designer of the Eddystone Lighthouse, Dr Brian Boffey, whose experiment with hot gelatine created the popular sweet Jelly Tots and Elizabeth Beecroft, who took over the running of Kirkstall Forge in the 18th Century.

Leeds to Innovation opens at Leeds Industrial Museum on Saturday, October 26.

For more details about the museum including admission times and charges go to https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/leeds-industrial-museum/

The interior of the Scootacar
The interior of the Scootacar
The Scootacar
Gina Churchill-Straffon of Leeds Museums and Galleries with the Scootacar
The Scootacar