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Saturday 23 August 2014

Vintage 'Mi 96' sells at auction for €54,399

Jim Hayes

Published 12/11/2013 | 05:42

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An Mi 96.

A VINTAGE 'quadricycle' with historic Wexford links has been sold at auction in London for €54,399.

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The Ariel 375cc Quadricycle - registration number MI 96 - was owned from new by Captain Loftus A Bryan of Borrmount Manor, Enniscorthy, who bought the vehicle in 1901.

In what the venrdors describe as 'a wonderful coincidence', the four-wheel,motorcyle style vehicle was sold at Bonhams' auction house at 101 New Bond Street, the exact location of maker Ariel's London showroom where Captain Bryan purchased the quadricycle at the turn of the last century.

'Once in a while a delightful co-incidence occurs which greatly adds to the excitement of a machine. How strange to think of this machine surviving over a century to be sold in exactly the same place it was sold all those years ago. If only the machine could speak, what tales it would tell,' said James Stensel, Bonhams' motorcycle specialist in advance of the auction.

'MI 96' is a rare survivor of the Ariel quadricycle, which was one of the more successful examples of this 'halfway house' between a car and a motorcycle.

It was offered as a tricycle, with optional quadricycle attachment, 'taking the form of a small open carriage, which can either be supplied with the Tricycle at the time of purchase or at any future period' , according to Ariel's advertising.

Ariel Motorcycles was a British motorcycle manufacturer based in Birmingham. It was one of the leading innovators in British motorcycling and was sold in 1944 to BSA but the Aerial name survived till 1970.The original company was established in 1870 by James Starley and William Hillman to make bicycles. But in 1898 it produced a powered tricycle with a de Dion engine.

Captain Bryan's quadricyle has historical significance for Wexford as the registration plate 'MI 96' suggests it was the 96th vehicle ever to be registered in County Wexford - the first was a Benz car owned by Colonel J.R. McGrath of Bann-a-Boo in Ferrybank. 'MI 96' was the first quadricycle to be registered in the county and the only one with an 'MI' plate.

The vehicle was not sold for 66 years when, in 1967, ownership passed to a Sydney Cooper of Blackrock in Dublin who set about having it restored through specialist James Tennant-Eyles of Oxford.

This was no easy task as many parts had gone missing over the years including the two-speed gearbox, which had to be re-manufactured together with various other components. Fortunately, the restorer was granted access to the Science Museum's similar Ariel quadricycle, which provided much valuable data.

A detailed account of its restoration was subsequently published in 'The Classic Motor Cycle' magazine.

Soon after restoration, the machine successfully completed two London-Brighton Veteran Car Runs, including the Centenary event of November 1996. It was sold on later that month and has now changed hands again, for only the third time in over a century.

Bonhams estimated that the Wexford quadricyle would fetch between £25,000 and £35,000 at auction earlier this month, but it achieved more than that - £40,000 (€54,399) - reflecting the historical importance and beautiful condition of this rarity from Wexford's automotive past.

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