In 1894, Henry Ford was 31 years old and spent his spare time building a car in the storage room of his home. He finished his Quadricycle in 1896, seven years before creating the car company that bears his last name.
Now, the Spanish Antonio Pérez manufactures a high fidelity Quadricycle replica in small series, which he sells both to museums and to enthusiasts of the oval brand and fans in general.
The idea came about a decade ago, when Antonio Pérez learned about the Quadricycle prototype online, which can be seen at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, in the North American state of Michigan and near Detroit. Of that distant and unique specimen, what most caught Antonio's attention was that in that car invented by Henry Ford it was possible to contemplate, with the engine running, how some of its parts moved.
Given that through the internet, just by typing quadricycle it is easy to find abundant information about Henry Ford's car, from now on we will focus on the vehicle made by Antonio Pérez in his workshop-warehouse in Burgos.
Seen from the front, only two elements stand out in the elm wood table, which are the electric bell that acts as a horn and the acetylene lamp. in charge of facilitating night vision and ensuring that the Quadricycle is seen in the dark. The funny thing is that both the Solar brand lighthouse, as well as the bell, are the same as the original Quadricycle, located through antique dealers and online sales portals.
The management referrals also stand out below, demonstrating the technical quality of the work carried out in his spare time by Henry Ford. Well seated on its four 28-inch white wheels and undoubtedly cyclist origin, the Quadricycle invites us to move to its rear area, which is where its twin-cylinder engine and a good part of its mechanical implantation are located.
Under the back of the only seat, two copper tanks can be seen, in whose caps the words PETROL and WATER appear in red letters. And further down, in two glass spheres the oil that lubricates each cylinder by depression is housed. Following the path of the copper tube that descends by gravity from the fuel tank, we reach the carburetor, which looks like a simple tube but is effective and is located next to the automatic intake valves.
The spark plugs are close together, with their cables coming from the coil, while both cylinder heads are grouped behind, the ingenious mechanism that opens and closes the exhaust valves and the no less brilliant system that distributes the ignition. Still motionless and silent, the engine is one that invites you to pay attention to every detail, until you reach the conclusion that Henry Ford not only worked hard to create it, but also had a prodigious mechanical intuition.
Of course, the show will begin as soon as Antonio opens the gas tap and activates the electrical circuit, looks for the point where one of the two cylinders begins to compress and gives the enormous flywheel with one hand. Instantly and at sight, the valve springs, their pushers or the rocker that directs the ignition start their repetitive and automatic movement. And if we look ahead, how the connecting rods and crankshaft move while the flywheel rotates.
All this without great rumbles, since with a compression ratio of 3: 1 you only hear the metallic clicks of the ignition, the intake snorts and the rhythmic explosions muffled by the exhaust silencer. When the 1.050cc twin is at operating temperature, the idle is left at an incredible 50 rpm, ideal for watching and listening to every stroke of an engine that has a 63mm bore and 152 stroke.
Now it is time to access the upholstered seat, where Antonio accommodates himself on the right side. From there, he controls the fixed throttle control with his right hand, located below and to the right of the seat, and accelerates to a medium speed. The lever for the two-speed gearbox is also on the right-hand side and just push it back to start the Quadricycle moving forward. It's that simple, without the need for a clutch and with the floor free of any pedal.
Again, Henry Ford's technical ability to devise a transmission using leather belts and tensioners. Thanks to her, he obtained a change that is easy for anyone to handle and that is completely free of harshness and discomfort. With the left hand gripping the knob of the "cow's tail" that commands the steering, where the bell button also goes, the operation of the Quadricycle is simple and does not require excessive concentration ... except if we suddenly have to brake.
To stop completely and with a certain effectiveness, we have to forget our routines, because in this vehicle you have to pull a flange, while leaving the throttle control to a minimum. Curiously, Henry Ford wanted to move and did not think about the possibility of having to stop urgently, so he left this function only under the control of his foot against the ground.
Once the march has started again, the smoothness of the steering and its small turning radius are striking in this car of exactly two meters in length and 227 kg of empty weight, which sufficiently compensates for the absence of reverse gear. On the other hand, the lightness of the vehicle makes the lack of rear suspension go unnoticed, compensated by the use of reinforced tires by Henry Ford himself and by the generous softness of the two-seater bench.
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After some trial and error, to become familiar with this car designed at the end of the 15th century, it is finally time to take a journey of several kilometers, in which the personality of our peculiar stroller comes out. We started the march on an asphalt section closed to traffic, where the Quadricycle moves smoothly. At the beginning in a first speed with plenty of strength, in which you can reach just over XNUMX km / h.
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To shift into second gear, you just have to move the gear lever forward, which immediately causes the logical downshift. From then on, driving is reduced to regulating the throttle and governing the “cowtail”. At a cruise of 25-30 km / h, the journey on asphalt runs with unexpected ride comfort and without more care than controlling the direction, since the engine has enough power to keep up on the slight slopes.
The route continues along a wide path and nothing seems to stop the Quadricycle, whose large diameter wheels make the locomotion bearable. Of course, we are raising dust, there is no air filter and we choose to continue cross country. On a meadow yellowed by the summer, our friendly car keeps its march with total naturalness, with the precaution of slowing down before facing the big bumps, difficult to digest for the front suspension.
Once back and familiar with the peculiarities of the Quadricycle, it is a pleasure to guide this car through a lonely stretch, far from the aggressiveness and the norms set for its immense legion of descendants. And to top it off, a few words from Antonio to Henry Ford:
[su_quote] «The more I deepened in the Quadricycle technique, I realized the professional value of Henry Ford. It was enough for him to know that the four-stroke engine existed to build his own car without copying anyone »[/ su_quote]
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The «Scale 3/4» version
At the request of a friend who wanted to give a replica of the Quadricycle to his grandson, Antonio Pérez returned from almost zero in 2010 in his desire to create a ric-scale Quadricycle, that is, that all its measurements were 25% lower . To do this, he had to re-manufacture all the pieces on this scale -or buy those that were widely distributed, such as the bell or the acetylene lighthouse, in North American antique dealers-, with the surprise that the volume measurements were much smaller. . For example, the displacement of the twin-cylinder engine decreased to 415,6 cubic centimeters.
Interestingly, the most striking thing is that this small scale motor has an unexpected facility to turn up the revs. In fact, Antonio is convinced that the Quadricycle Scale 3/4 can reach higher speeds than the standard model.
After riding aboard Antonio Pérez's personal Quadricyle, we had the opportunity to visit his workshop, where he was finishing assembling one of the twin-cylinder engines that he will install in a new unit. As a tiny car factory, we saw on the tour the different molds of the parts that make up the engine, the frame bars, the leather of the transmission belts; and doorbells and headlights that, among other accessories, can still be found in the United States.
Curiously, the piece that has made Antonio go through the most headaches is the Cola de Vaca, which acts as command of the direction, whose precise curvature is more complex to achieve than it seems at first and which has a conical diameter.
If someone wants to have more information about this model, as well as the scaled variant ¾, they can get in touch with Antonio, which has parts to mount more Quadricycle on request.