Building an 1896 Quadricycle

I have met a lot of people who have built from a kit, a cobra fiberglass replica of Shelby’s original aluminum cobra, as did Rick Eggers. In fact this is how I met Rick Eggers in the first place; he would join the Deep South Cobra Club and come on local cobra cruises with us, with his home built cobra kit. What I did not know was his interest in scratch building and the project he chose was the 1896 Quadricycle, which was Henry Ford’s first attempt at building a car.

Scratch building is a little harder than building a car from a kit where everything comes in a big box and you get to assemble it. Scratch building means having pictures or diagrams of every part needed, and then wind up building an exact replica of the original 1896 Quadricycle so it looks like the one Henry Ford built, which today resides in the Henry Ford Museum.

Rick bought a combo lathe, mill, and drill press to help make the many parts needed to build this project. The real hard part was making all the parts to come up with an original looking and operating, water-cooled engine to propel the Quadricycle down the road. The unit was originally air-cooled, but it ran too hot and Ford had to add water jackets to the twin-cylinder four-stroke engine. One thing that had to be farmed out by Rick was the large aluminum flywheel as its diameter was just too large to fit in Rick’s new lathe. He did make the 2 smaller wooden drive pulleys. The Quadricycle has the large aluminum flywheel with the wooden drive pulleys with leather made drive belt and also a chain driven rear bicycle wheel with a differential to move the Quadricycle down the road. With all its moving parts it can be seen in great detail, with all its spectacular mechanical operation of flywheel, rods, crankshaft, rocker arms, valves, and the transmission, pulley, tensioner, belts, and differential all re-created by Rick.

The whole of the various components and mechanisms makes it a sight to actually see with the engine running. The name ‘Quadricycle’ was appropriate, as all four wheels are bicycle wheels. The oilers- spherical glass cylinders, which he made from light bulbs, maintain its look of originality. The water tank and gasoline tank are made of copper, the soldering of the seams left pin-hole leaks and after each attempt to repair, remained, so he final poured in a gas tank sealer which repaired the pin-holes. He even became a seamstress as he made the button tufted velour seat covers for the bench seat. 

In the simplest form of steering, both front wheels point in the same direction. When the steering tiller is turned, both wheels point the same way and around the corner you go. Except that by doing this, the tires end up scrubbing, resulting in a loss of grip and a vehicle that ‘crabs’ around the corner, and this is the way the Quadricycle runs. So why is this? Well, it’s the same thing that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at transmissions. When a car goes around a corner, the outside wheel travels further than the inside wheel. In the case of a transmission, it’s why a differential is needed, but in the case of steering, it’s why the front wheels need to actually point in different directions. In order for that to happen without causing undue stress to the front wheels and tires, they must point at slightly different angles to the centerline of the car. It’s all to do with the geometry of circles. This difference of angle is achieved with a relatively simple arrangement of steering components to create a trapezoid geometry (a parallelogram with one of the parallel sides shorter than the other). Once this is achieved, the wheels point at different angles as the steering geometry is moved. Most vehicles now don’t use ‘pure’ Ackermann steering geometry because it doesn’t take some of the dynamic and compliant effects of steering and suspension into account, but some derivative of this is used in almost all steering systems today.

The best part is when Rick turned on the pet cock from the copper gas tank, and then hand cranked the aluminum pulley to start the engine then putt,putt,putt,putt, it sounded great. 

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