This was the most unusual of the new acquisitions I photographed at the Nelson Classic Motorcycles Collection. Here’s the description written by motoring journalist and motorcycle enthusiast Mike Murphy:
“Carl Neracher designed the Ner-A-Car, with the name derived from his name, during the First World War but was unable to secure financial backing in his native U.S. However, the Simplex Company in Yorkshire, England, agreed to manufacture it for Britain and its colonies, excluding Canada. Production began in Tinsley, near Sheffield, and Finningley, near Doncaster, in 1921 with the official launch held on the Douglas promenade during TT week at the Isle of Man. In 1922, with backing secured from King C. Gillette of safety razor fame, U.S. production was launched in Syracuse, New York.
The low-slung, pressed-steel chassis that featured centre-hub steering had wide footboards and a wide front mudguard that afforded weather protection for the rider. The fuel tank was located under the seat and it had two drum brakes on the rear wheel. The 4-volt electrical system powered the right-hand side headlamp while the left-hand side one was illuminated by acetylene.
Most of the mechanical components were concealed under the chassis so that only the engine cylinder was visible. The first models were powered by a 221cc Sheffield-Simplex two-stroke engine although Blackburne fourstroke engines of 347cc in both side-valve and overhead-valve configuration were used on later models. The crankshaft was in-line with the flywheel towards the rear driving an in-line friction wheel that could be moved across the flywheel face via a control lever to achieve a variable-ratio transmission. On later models the lever was restricted to five positions. The friction wheel drove the sprocket of the chain drive to the rear wheel. By 1924, the British model, by then manufactured in Kingston-upon-Thames, featured a side-valve Blackburne engine, a conventional clutch and a gearbox.
The Ner-A-Car’s weather protection and quietness made it popular with women and in November, 1921, a Mrs. G.M. Janson completed a 1,000-mile (1,609km) test observed by the Auto Cycle Union without stopping the engine. In 1922, Cannonball Baker rode one from New York to Los Angeles in eight days, covering 3,364 miles (5,413km) while spending 172 hours on the road. He averaged 30mph (48kph).
During its production life from 1921 to 1926, around 10,000 Ner-A-Cars were manufactured in the U.S. and around 6,500 in the U.K.”
Mike Murphy June 2015
NZ Classic Motorcycle Collection website