Bizarre Bikes is a segment that looks at an unconventional motorcycle and examines what made it unusual. The Ner-a-Car is an interesting machine because it looked like a cross between a motorbike and a car. Although it was an American design, the Ner-a-Car became popular in the UK. The vehicle was created by Carl Neracher in the early 20th century and it went on to be one of the strangest motorbikes of all time.
A unique design
In 1918, Carl Neracher set out to design a motorbike that could connect the front wheel to the frame. It had several unusual features that included a friction drive transmission, hub-centre steering and a low-slung perimeter frame chassis. The frame was closer to what you’d expect to see on a car. The Ner-a-Car’s unique design granted it excellent stability.
Neracher couldn’t find any American investors to manufacturer his vehicle, so he licensed the design to Sheffield-Simplex so it could be sold in the UK. A group of US investors eventually funded the Ner-a-Car Corporation and started producing the motorbike in 1921.
It was marketed as a cheaper alternative to a car and the Ner-a-Car’s step-through design was emphasised. It allowed riders to wear normal clothes and protected against road debris. In America, the motorbike went under the Neracar name.
The motorbike had a good public showing when racer Erwin ‘Cannonball’ Baker rode one from Staten Island to Los Angeles in 1922. Baker covered 3364.4 miles and the journey took him 174 hours to complete. The motorbike won several awards for reliability in long-distance road trials, such as the team prize in the 1925 ACU 1000 mile Stock Machine Trial.
The motorbike proved to be popular in the US, but when Ford started producing cars, it couldn’t keep up with the trend. Fortunately, UK customers were enamoured with the quirky vehicle. Manufactured under Sheffield-Simplex, the Ner-a-Car was updated with a 285 cc engine in 1923. The company developed a new version with a 348 cc Blackburne four-stroke side-valve engine in 1925.
In 1926, Sheffield-Simplex created a deluxe model with swingarm rear suspension and an adjustable Triplex windshield. Production stopped in 1927 due to financial difficulty. Around 10,000 Ner-a-Car’s were produced in the US and 6500 in the UK.
Today, it’s estimated there are around 100 Ner-a-Cars in existence. The motorbike remains popular among collectors. Do you know anyone who’s owned a Ner-a-Car? Feel free to post pictures on our Inside Bikes Facebook page.