GWK Cyclecar

GWK LogoThe G.W.K. Cyclecar was made in Datchet, Buckinghamshire from 1911 to 1914 and then subsequently at Maidenhead in Berkshire, U.K. Production came to an end in 1926 and the make finally ceased to exist in 1931.

The G.W.K. was notable in that it successfully employed a friction drive. Initially motive power was supplied by a vertical twin cylinder side valve Coventry-Simplex engine located at the rear of the vehicle, which gave a top speed in the vicinity of 35 m.p.h. with good fuel economy. In 1921 the size of the engine was increased to four cylinders giving a cubic capacity of 1368, also a self-starter was added. For the 1924 season front wheel brakes were added and another increase in engine size to 1.5 litres.

The make faced stiff competition from the new Austin 7 which was faster, more economical and cheaper to purchase. Production ceased in 1926. A new rear engined model with friction drive was introduced in 1930 but the proposed production came to nothing.

G.W.K. claimed that their patented disc drive provided a transmission for light cars that was superior to, and marked a great advance on, the usual clutch and gearbox. That it provided an equally positive drive, it eliminated the difficulties of gear changing, obviated any noise from the lower gears, required no lubrication, provided smooth clutch action and was so simple that the non-technical mind could easily understand its workings.

Gwk 003 GWK tranmission system


One disc, the driving, is connected by a shaft to the engine. The other, the driven disc is mounted at right angles so as to be rotated by the former and this in turn rotates the rear road wheels. The two are held in contact by a spring, which ensures the absence of any slip. By moving the driven disc nearer to the center of the driven disc the ratio of the gear is lowered, by moving further from the center the ratio is increased. Moving across the center gives reverse.

The driving disc was of smooth metal and the driven disc was a wheel with a rim, or tread of adhesive material (in early years, of compressed paper, later cork) alternating with rings of aluminum. The clutch pedal held one disc out of contact with the other and an additional pedal was provided so that extra pressure could be provided to increase grip in an emergency.

The makers claimed a unique proof of the reliability of the system, G.W.K. entered the majority of Open Reliability Trials and in every case won either a Gold Medal or Premier award in their first 11 years of production. Up to 1922 this came to a total of seventy Gold Medals, fourteen Silver Cups and numerous other awards!

A extract from "The Light Car and Cycle Car" of September 9th 1922 is as follows:-

1922 Demonstrations'The "Colonial Conditions" dearly beloved and generally introduced by the keen competition organizer, fade into insignificance beside the test - bordering on destruction - which was carried out to prove the efficiency of the system of friction drive fitted to the G.W.K. car… It should strengthen the faith of the disc drive enthusiasts and confound their critics'

The 'Motor' of September 30th 1922 stated:-

'Every proof had been given that the disc transmission as fitted to the G.W.K. had that day demonstrated that it was capable of doing anything that a car with a gear box could do, if not more'.

The pictures below shows a 1922 model breasting a steep ridge of an un-metalled surface at Frensham Common. The same day it also climbed a soft grassy surfaced hill with a gradient estimated at 1 in 3. The other picture shows the car making circles in a lake with the running boards awash and the disc drive churning up in a cascade.

Many satisfied owners wrote to the company praising the car and to quote just one of April 1922:-

GWK Sidecar"Having completed 30,000 on my 1920 four seater tourer it gives me great pleasure to write telling you of its splendid behavior. Tyre economy I attribute to the smooth drive of the friction gear and absence of gear changing. As a disabled owner driver I do with confidence recommend my car as being the most suitable for those who require simplicity of control, accessibility, economy and efficiency". F.H.

I do not know if any of these little cars are still in existence. If any reader of this article knows the whereabouts of one, then please do let me know.


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