1899 Gaillardet Tricycle

1899 Gaillardet Tricycle

The Lakeland Motor Museum is brimful of motoring history – so you might wonder which vehicle is the oldest on display?

That title is held by a rather odd-looking powered three-wheeler which was built way back in 1899.

It’s an 1899 built Gaillardet. It’s believed by the museum to be the UK’s only surviving example of a French powered tricycle made by Société Francaise D’Automobiles (SFA).


It has an 800cc single cylinder air-cooled engine and tiller steering. It uses a suspension system based on a design developed by the French amateur motor sport legend after which it is named. Gaillardet participated in the 1894 Paris to Rouen competition for horseless carriages which is often described as the world’s first motor race.

SFA was established in 1898 west of Paris and its likely this model was imported to London for the 1899 Motor Show held in Richmond Park.

The show catalogue explained: “Compared with the standard type of motor tricycle, the great difference in this machine will be found in the very ample surfaces of the cooling flanges and extreme accessibility of the valve which can be taken out and replaced in a few minutes, and the removal of which also gives access to the interior of the cylinder and ignition point. There is a two-speed gear.”


Nothing is known of this tricycle’s whereabouts after 1899, until mid-1937 when it was found on a scrap heap in Hammersmith by engineer and WW1 Pilot Officer, Albert Henington.

He restored it to full running order. Subsequently it was displayed and kept in storage at the Science Museum, later moved to the Bakewell M&C Collection before it was accepted as a loan item at the Lakeland Motor Museum.

The Gaillardet may look basic and somewhat flimsy. But it’s regarded as a splendid example of inventiveness and dexterity, it is very well built and a rare survivor from the pioneering days of motoring.

It’s hard to believe that it was once intended for use as an everyday means of road transport.


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