There are different types of three-wheeled cars. Some have two wheels in the front and one in the back, others are the other way around. That lonely wheel needs to be positioned along the centre-line of the car for the vehicle to be stable. The Scott Sociable might be the only exception, because it looks like a conventional four-wheeled car that just lost one wheel.
Scott Sociable was produced in 1921-1925 by an English automotive company Scott Autocar, which belonged to the much more famous Scott Motorcycle company. Its motorcycle connections were what made it land on this weird three-wheel configuration.
Alfred Angas Scott used to work on steam engines. When it was time to refocus on internal combustion, he became interested in two-stroke engines. At first he experimented with small boat engines, but eventually in 1908 he began making motorcycles. That’s how the the Scott Motorcycle company was born.
Scott marketed his motorcycles as mechanical horses for modern gentlemen. During the First World War, Scott received a large UK government order to make motorcycles for the Royal forces. These were real military vehicles armed with sidecar-mounted machine guns. But Scott wanted to expand to the passenger vehicle market as well.
Scott took a good look at those motorcycles with sidecars and decided he could build a car like this. This is how the Scott Sociable was conceived back in 1916. It is a three-wheeled car with a liquid-cooled 578 cc engine pushing about 12 horse power.
Even in its day this little car looked pretty weird. It has two wheels at the back and one wheel at the front. That one front wheel is offset to the right – it’s not central at all. That’s why the Scott Sociable looks like it lost one of the front wheels.
The idea was simple – although the Scott Sociable had a unique frame, a normal round steering wheel and a simple interior for two people, it featured a geometry inherited from a motorcycle with a sidecar. Scott designed this vehicle with hopes to receive another military contract, but it never materialised. Scott Sociable, which went into production in 1921, was intended for civilian use only.
Scott Sociable is pretty weird to look at and its mechanicals are not conventional either. This car is one-wheel-drive – that small engine is only driving the left wheel through a 3 speed gearbox. That is because none of the wheels are in line with each other. The left wheel is a little ahead of the rear right and the front wheel is just a smidge closer to the centreline. There is no reverse gear – you better wear your driving gloves in case you need to push it out of a parking slot. And you’re probably wondering about the stability of this car. Let’s put it this way – back when the Scott Sociable was new, it was declared that turning the steering wheel at higher speeds was dangerous.
The sales of the Sociable were not great. In 1921, this little two-seater three-wheeled convertible cost £273 – about €15,500 in today’s money. In 1924, the price of the Sociable dropped to £135, but this did not save the dangerous and impractical car. Production was stopped after only about 200 Sociables were made.
Three-wheelers can be quite stable if they are well-engineered. But the Sociable was just a motorcycle with a sidecar with a car body and interior. In terms of practicality, comfort and safety, this car was just not that great.
The Scott Motorcycle company didn’t collapse because of the Sociable. Production of Scott motorcycles ceased only in the 1970s.