This history article is about another successful microcar manufacturer of the 1950s and 1960s – Bond Cars or Sharps Commercials as they were originally called. Lawrence Bond formed the company in 1948 in the north of England – a hotbed of microcars with Reliant and Peel amongst other manufacturers up in the same part of the world.
Bond formed the company because he wanted to create a shopping car – a car used to drive through small towns for errands. As the Second World War had ended, there was a growing demand for cheap personal transport and so the remit was to create a two seater that was affordable and practicable.
The first car in 1949 was the Model A, a trident-style three wheeler fitted with a single cylinder Villiers motorcycle engine of only 122cc. The motor was attached to the front wheel for power and the car had a cable based steering system that did the job, albeit not very well. Still, the car wasn’t particularly fast so that reduced the risk! The wheels were huge – just four inches in size!
The Model A had no doors but came with a Perspex windscreen, a canvas hood and no rear suspension – a real hard tail! By the end of 1949, the standard version was complemented by a Deluxe version with the engine replaced by a 200cc Villiers motor and other refinements. The final Model A in late 1950 replaced the Perspex windscreen with glass triplex and the cable steering was updated to a more traditional rack and pinion system.
This was followed by the Mark B in 1951 that was an updated A with a soft tail i.e. real suspension at the back and a hydraulic front shock absorber. The B also had the 200cc Villiers engine seen in the Deluxe A. Both the A and B have very long noses that were reminiscent of a 1950s tractor even though the engine was tiny. Alongside the B, Bond also made some commercial vehicles in 1952 called the Sharp Minitruck and the Minivan, which was an enclosed Minitruck. The Model C came along in 1952 as well, and this was a restyled B with the headlights flush with the body as opposed to being bolted on, as on the A and B. The C also had a better engine mounting system – still on the front wheel and all three wheels now had brakes. The C was in production for two years with a minor restyle around the front end in 1955, which then became the Model D.
The D had an electric starter and also replaced the 6v electrical system with a 12v version. Later models in its two year life also had a better gearbox with four forward gears. The E came out in 1957 that was a whole new modern looking microcar with the same 200cc Villiers motorcycle engine. This new model sported brake lights, a dashboard and turn indicators – they were getting advanced by now!
The following year the F appeared – basically the same as an E but now with a Villiers 250cc engine. A four seater saloon was also made available called the Family Saloon and joined the Tourer and Coupe versions. 1961 saw the last of the microcars – the Model G, still with the 250cc motor but now with a body influenced by the Ford Anglia and you could also buy the car with a twin cylinder 250cc motor as well. The G was heavier than the other models and had 10-inch wheels – the wheels had been getting bigger on the microcars over their first decade of production. The G lasted in production until 1966.
Joining the microcars in 1963 was the Equipe, basically a Triumph with extra bits. The Equipe started out as a rolling Triumph Herald chassis with bulkheads, doors and windscreen retained. An 1100cc Triumph Spitfire engine was added plus the remaining bodywork by Bond. The GT4S came along in 1964 with twin headlights also taken from the Herald and this was uprated in 1967 with the addition of the 1300cc Spitfire motor. Also in 1967 came the 2-litre GT version, based on a Triumph Vitesse chassis with the 2-litre six cylinder motor by Triumph. This model was joined a year later by the Mark 2 Saloon and convertible that continued the association with Triumph.
The microcar was replaced in 1966 by the 875, a car that looked similar to the Reliant Regal – i.e. a fibreglass three-wheeler with a similar shape and the 875 used an 850cc engine just like the Regal. The motor and various other parts came from the Rootes Group stable. The Mark 2 875 came out in 1968 with some restyling and that was about it. 1968 was a difficult year for Bond, their parent was bought by Dutton-Forshaw who ran a very successful dealer network and they didn’t want the manufacturer.
The management tried a buy-out but failed and so in early 1969, Reliant bought them. Reliant were the kings of three wheeler cars and the Bond 875 and Equipe vehicles overlapped with similar Reliant models, so the production was wound down in Preston and the facilities transferred to Reliant’s Tamworth factory. The 875 and the Reliant Regal/Robin were too close for comfort, and so the 875 bit the dust, only to be replaced by the funky Bond Bug 700E. This was a futuristic three wheeler based on the Regal chassis and used a 700cc Reliant motor. It was designed by the Ogle design house in the UK and had a canopy door – the roof was the door and it was a rear drive sporty coupe sitting on 10 inch wheels. They were available in one colour: Tangerine and there was also a “go faster” model called the 700ES which had a higher compression motor.
Production lasted from 1970 until 1974. The last versions from 1973 were fitted with the Reliant 750cc motor. When production stopped so too did the Bond name with the Reliant models taking precedence. Throughout its life Bond was an innovator – they manufactured scooters and watercraft – merging them to create one of the first jet-ski style craft called the Scooter Ski, but essentially the same concept as a Seadoo today. The oddest item they built was a unicycle. This was a Model C front end designed to be bolted to other things like trailers or carts. The idea was really quite clever: provide a self contained motorised unit that drives a single wheel which could be sold to other manufacturers for many uses. Good idea but no market!
Images from OldClassicCar.co.uk & Car-From-UK.com