Historical cars carry a lot of weight in certain communities, which is certainly the case for the Skeoch Utility Cycle Car. Designed by James Skeoch, it was one of Scotland’s first affordable cars. It appeared at the Scottish Motor Show in 1921, selling within ten minutes at a price of £180. However, Skeoch’s business went up in flames after his uninsured workshop burned down. Nearly a century on, a group in Scotland are looking to bring the Skeoch Utility Car back to life in the town it was manufactured.
The project is being carried out in Dalbeattie by a collective of retired local men known as Dalbeattie Men’s Shed. The group are aiming to build a working car in time for 2021 to mark the centenary. The project was the brainchild of enthusiast Martin Shelley, who approached the Men’s Shed with the idea after finding out about the group on the BBC Scotland website.
Cycle cars were created at the beginning of the 20th century and got the name because they utilised motorbike engines and wheels. After WW1, the cars became popular among returning soldiers who were used to the technology. There were a lot of people making cycle cars in the 1920s, but the Skeoch family were the only people to manufacture them commercially in Scotland.
The original drawings and parts were found in the Wishaw home of Skeoch’s son. Shelley is hoping to capture the spirit of the 1920s motor. “Using the Dalbeattie Men’s Shed’s energy, enthusiasm and skills to recreate the car seemed like a match made in heaven. You could make a replica of the car which would pass muster using a modern engine and a modern gear box and using modern parts. But the spirit of the car is very much based on the parts that were available in 1920. This project will be very much like the original car and that to me is what the joy of the whole thing is.”
Skeoch’s grandaughter, Fiona Sinclair is involved with the project as well. Although Skeoch died before she got the chance to know him, Fiona hopes that her mother will get a chance to ride in one of the cars. “I think it’s going to mean a lot to my family. It’s tragic that the fire put an end to his ambition. I’m actually rather hoping I can physically get to sit in the car, I’m not quite sure I could be trusted with driving it. It’s only got two gears apparently but I think it would be rather wonderful.”