Tally Ho! - BRA
Three-wheelers are weird arenít they? Even within a niche market such as the kitcar industry they are very much seen as oddballs. They are similar to Marmite in many ways Ė you either love them or hate them, and there simply isnít any middle ground. Sure there are some pig horrible ones such as the Reliant Robin, which probably single-handedly made the three-wheeler about as popular as Chicken Pox and within the kitcar game too, there have been some abominations with some manufacturers thinking it compulsory that a man from an asylum had to design their car.
If traditional roadsters conjure up thoughts of 1940 Britain and Spitfire pilots, then the classically styled three-wheeler evokes bi-planes, Biggles and other such 'Boys Own' romanticism, with many drivers inspired by Morgan books of Gregory Houston-Bowden. A little bit dangerous, a little sexy and certainly bringing out the bounder in you!
Three-wheelers fall into two main categories - from the sublime to the ridiculous, and leaving the real ĎWacky Racersí alone, the top quality ones are really very good, with the Leighton CV2 and Pembleton Supersports, the best of the affordable bunch, with the feisty Grinnall Scorpion and truly revered Triking up at the top end. Make no mistake a well-sorted trike can hustle with the best four-wheelers.
That leaves a wide middle ground inhabited by the beautiful Blackjack Avion and the CX3. The car was created back in 1990 by Beribo Replica Automobiles and joined their 289 Cobra replica and the very pretty P-Type traditional roadster. The CX part of the name refers to the power plant taken from the Honda CX 500 and the Ď3í stands for three wheels. Before long Beribo sold out to the James Mather & David Wiles partnership who were based in Flintshire, North Wales and this incarnation of BRA was pretty active on the show scene and a popular pair of lads to boot. The CX3 took a bit of a backseat due to demand for their Citroen 2CV based CV2, which was a more affordable version of the CX3 and kept the company more than busy. The CV2 is now made in Kent by Leighton Cars while the CX3 has ended up with Arthur Rayner based in the pretty Sussex village of Ditchling.
Arthur has an interesting background covering all manner of jobs, but until seven years ago had been running a pretty successful international removals firm, but when he sold the company he decided to turn one of his hobbies into a business and so started his Spitfire Art company, who are one of the countryís most popular suppliers and leading authorities on aviation paintings, with a speciality as the name suggests for Battle of Britain & Spitfire related work. Arthur has also had a long-term fascination for three wheelers too, and a few years ago was thinking of buying a Triking but ended up with a JZR, and from there his interest turned into a passion, culminating with him purchasing the CX3 project from David Wiles in September 2002.
The CX3 is a diminutive Morgan-esque trike and an achingly pretty one at that, and I canít help thinking that it should have sold in larger numbers than the 99 thus far produced. Arthur agrees and has some pretty promising sounding plans for the future, some concerned with marketing the product more aggressively and others to do with improving the car and simplifying the build. He sees the CX3 as appealing to those who perhaps hanker after a Triking but canít stretch to the price tag or donít want to wait two years for one. Heís already decided not to offer basic kits and has settled on a comprehensive package at £4,995 all-in.
The demonstrator looks very good in the warm spring sunshine and is the first CX3 that Iíve seen in black, with most seemingly always in red, and it really does look good with the polished aluminium contrasting very well with the dark GRP. Arthur searched for the best pre-built car he could find, for use as a 'fast-track' demonstrator and found this three-year old example at Donnington last year. Itís been built to a very high standard and fits well with his intentions to move the car slightly upmarket.
The Honda CX cackles into life and although only packing 500cc and 50bhp the aluminium water-cooled 496cc Vee Twin unit is a gem and adequately does the job, especially with a car weighing only 395kg, although the 65bhp CX650 is a livewire alternative, as are most Moto Guzziís and interestingly a Harley Davidson engine, which is Arthurís intention in the none to distant future.
The interior is
trimmed tastefully and thankfully bereft of the seemingly compulsory hideous
appendages that some owners insist on bastardising their cars with. Donít get me
wrong, a sideboard was a good piece of furniture - in the seventies, but why
people insist on using them for kitcar building beats me. Iíve lost count of the
nice cars Iíve seen with planks nailed to their interiors. The dashboard here is
contoured to match the car and beautifully veneered adding s a touch of real
quality. The bench type seats are fine and even for bigger bears pretty
comfortable, although thereís a Lotus Seven-inspired type bucket seat in the
pipeline as an option. While not my choice it will mean that taller drivers will
be able to drive the car with ease.
The legroom is superb and I struggle to reach the bulkhead and find the pedals evenly spaced, although perhaps I could do with more space in the footwell, but Arthur has this job on his list and will be relocating the driveshaft, which will sort this out nicely. I settle in and quickly find myself a suitable driving position. I notice that you sit Ďiní this car rather than Ďoní it, due to the lowered floor panels and is a nice touch adding to the overall experience. The Mota-Lita wheel feels nice in the hand and the sequential gearchange is also convenient for the quick 'pings' needed to rifle through the five gears. The car sounds and feels more powerful than 50bhp and 500cc and revs to over 10,000rpm while accelerating all the way to the redline in each cog, but is equally happy to sit at 70mph, and would make a superb touring machine at that speed. Steering is nice and neutral, giving positive feedback through the wheel, which is important with a three-wheeler and means that you can be confident in the car when pushing on. Instrumentation is not overdone and features the essential gauges and switchgear and no more, which in my view is ideal for this type of car.
Iíve always found the CX3 chassis to be a thing of beauty and the MIG-welded spaceframe made from 25mm 16swg tube is complimented by more humble Cortina Mk5 brakes at the front, with double wishbones and coil-spring dampers. The rear wheel consists of the Honda CX bike swinging arm with twin-coil dampers. This is possibly the area where the biggest changes will be made, as Arthur plans to make the chassis lighter, while another new option will be the use of Caterham Seven front hubs, carriers, discs and callipers along with steering rack and adjustable column. These parts are to be officially supplied by the countryís leading kit manufacturer and will not only look good but theyíll make a big difference to the CX3 in action too.
Ride quality is very good though the intention is to stiffen up the rear spring and also offer 18Ē wire wheels alongside the standard 15Ē items. This will obviously make a difference visually to the CX3, as well as help ground clearance and enhance further the quality of ride. The performance is really quite sparkling and the little Honda twin is such a willing performer I found that I could carry a serious amount of speed into a corner, and although a little body roll was evident, it was better than most trikes Iíve sampled. Overall the level of roadholding was very pleasing. This car would be a proper terrier over a long and winding A-road and I reckon a surprisingly high average speed could be maintained over an
Practicality is average with space alongside the rear wheel for squashy type bags, but Arthur plans to improve this further with an interior glovebox and also by utilising the area upfront behind the engine where there is a fair bit of room to play with.
As most regular readers will know Motorcycle SVA is coming soon, and MCSVA as itís become abbreviated to, will certainly shake things up for some three-wheeler manufacturers, with many needing to almost redesign their whole kit package if they are to make them compliant. The luckiest are those using an unmodified donor chassis such as the Citroen 2CV for example. Arthur has got off pretty lightly really with mostly just cosmetic changes required for the CX3 to pass. These include the addition of a hydraulic rear brake, as well as the adoption of primary and secondary braking systems, checking the seatbelt anchorage point and also addressing exterior projection issues. Certainly Arthur didnít seem that perturbed, and what was especially encouraging was his acknowledgement that MCSVA will be a good thing for his customers and the fact that safety is a massive issue that he is not willing to compromise on.
So, with the comprehensive kit costing £4,995 what will a CX3 cost to build? Expect to pay around £500 for a suitable Honda donor bike, and the advice from Arthur would be to budget for getting it overhauled rather than take a chance. A figure of around £6,500 should see you on the road, while another £1200 should bag you the Caterham upgrades and the 18Ē wire wheels, which are definitely an extra expense worth saving up for in my opinion. Fully built CX3ís are available from £9,750, with a Quaife reversing box being an £895 option.
Itís refreshing and reassuring to see the CX3 in such safe hands and I like the way Arthur has planned the cars future and I have no doubts that the product will flourish under his control. I just wish heíd make his mind up about the name of the company! Initially he was going to trade as Vee Twin Trikes, (which will remain as the domain name for his forthcoming website (http://www.veetwintrikes.com), then he became BRA Merlin Cars, now heís toying with the moniker - Biggles Racing Autos! Whichever he decides on is actually irrelevant as all you need to know is that it is safe to buy a car from this man.
Roger and out!
More details from 01273 843 749
Words by Steve Hole
Photos by Carol Hardy
courtesy of www.totalkitcar.com
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