1951 Sharp's Commercial 3 cwt
This was a very basic and simple utility three-wheeler which shared several common features which were already being developed for the Mark C. The broad outline of the design specification was to meet two criteria: The first was to build a service vehicle that could either be used to transport dry goods around at docks and development sites or to pull luggage trains at railway stations and airports. The second was for an invalid carriage capable of carrying a regulation-size wheelchair that would comply with the regulations set out by the Ministry of Pensions.
As with the Mark C, the main centre section of the stressed skin aluminium body obviously had its origins with the Mark B. The curved Triplex glass windscreen sat on a full width dash incorporating the cubby hole and the curved bulkhead extended towards the bonnet. Moving forwards, the front end also bore more than a passing resemblance to a Mark A or B although the styling changes were more radical. The externally hinged bonnet was the same depth but a much squarer, flatter front end replaced the rounded type. The vertical body sides followed the bonnet profile and then turned a corner to present a flat vertical front. In the centre was set a square grille divided down the middle with more upright slats on either side. Underneath the grille was a full width bumper which also carried the number plate.
Although not shown in the picture on the sales brochure cover (above right), a pair of 'Butler' or 'Lucas' type headlamps at the front corners were mounted on a sort of vertical tube arrangement which went through the front bumpers and was then secured at the bottom. Behind these mounting tubes was a feature definitely unlike any Mark A or B. Between the rear of the front bumper and a point in line with the back of the bonnet and extending upwards nearly to the bonnet was a large rectangular bulge - one on each side of the body. The need for these unusual bumps becomes apparent when it is realised that the Sharp's Commercial had the same newly designed worm and sector steering arrangement as the Mark C. Without these, the front of the engine when using the 180 degree steering lock obviously fouled the two body sides. (Of course, the Mark C overcame the same problem by the introduction of the front wings on either side of the bonnet.)
The rear body contrasted to the Mark A or B, although it did use a pair of the smaller Mark B type rear wings to cover the wheels. Moving rearwards from the base of the windscreen, BOTH sides of the body had large square cut-outs (but no doors) for gaining access to the interior. These did not extend completely down to floor level, but stopped approximately 6" short. The rest of the body continued to just behind the-rear wings where it then turned the corner, but instead of sloping inwards like the Mark A or B it remained vertical. This gave the boot area behind the driver an enormous 25 cu. ft. carrying capacity. (Having a vertical rear boot panel was exactly the same idea that was used on the later Minitrucks, but the Sharp's Commercial 3 cwt pre-dates the earliest Minitruck by approximately six to nine months.)
Because of the two large cut-outs in the body sides, to stop the vehicle folding in half required a large amount of strengthening. Under the floor, a steel girder backbone and a steel crossmember between the rear wheels formed a "T" shape to look after the main body bracing. Internally, the floor was further braced in the rear by a triangular box member whilst at the front - below the windscreen and at the front corner of the "door" aperture - triangular gussets between the sides and the floor helped to prevent the body twisting.
The interior, by the very nature of the work that it was intended to be used for, was very spartan. Bodysides and the front floor were covered with "Hardura" plastic coated felt, whilst the rear boot floor comprised nothing more than wooden slats. A centrally positioned front seat consisting of a single pressing covered with foam rubber was mounted on short coil springs to give the driver a small degree of comfort! All the pedal controls were conventionally laid out and starting was by the usual manual operation. It was the steering wheel and gearchange lever that departed from the normal Minicar position. Both of these were mounted centrally on the dash with the gear lever positioned, unusually, to the right hand side. The speedometer was set in the dash opposite the cubby hole and rear vision was by a single mirror fixed vertically on the outside of the bulkhead, also offset to the right.
Mechanically, the Sharp's Commercial was almost identical to the Mark C. It too had three-wheel braking but used the same adjustable coil spring rear suspension as that already fitted to the Mark B. The front bulkhead, 180 degree worm, sector and downtube arrangement was exactly the same as the Mark C Minicar but there were a few notable differences elsewhere:
The motive power came not from the familiar Wolverhampton-made Villiers two stroke unit but from a 250 cc side-valve four stroke engine made by Brockhouse Engineering of Southport. Because the motor output from this was on the right-hand side, the Albion gearbox was similarly matched, providing three forward speeds and a reverse. As the drive from the Villiers gearbox was always on the left, the tubular trailing arm and front hub mounting was reversed to that of the Mark C, i.e. the trailing arm pivoted on the right-hand side. (Notice the 3 cwt picture is almost identical to the Motorised Unicycle - shown elsewhere - with the exception of not having the fuel tank mounted above the cylinder head.) The Brockhouse and Albion combination was claimed to give the Sharp's Commercial a top speed of 40 to 50 m.p.h. even when fully loaded, whilst still returning 70 to 80 m.p.g.