Classic Bike Guide - V-Sport Review
Updated: 6 days ago
We welcomed Matt Hull of Classic Bike Guide to try out our V-Sport in the summer of 2019. We discussed how 'cycle cars' came about and how the V-Sport has a close connection with the motorcycle world:
"Ive spent the last few miles trying to put into words the multitude of sensations I’m feeling – and failing. This is down to several excuses. I’m struggling to breathe, let alone think, thanks to the enormous beam I’ve been wearing for the last 20 miles.
The Worcestershire roads are in perfect harmony to a lithe, open car; and the balance of car and bike, to me at least, is perfection.
The V-Sport is, like the Triking and Morgan that you can read about in the next few pages, a three-wheel cyclecar. It marries a brand-new Moto Guzzi V7 III engine to a Citroën 2CV gearbox, to give a gate-style gearchange like a car, with front wheel drive and therefore, two driving wheels. So to the driver – or should that be rider – the controls are just like a car.
But then the bike influence comes in, with the air-cooled Guzzi engine sitting in your eyeline and the weight of a bike – 298kg – less than a loaded BMW R1200GS – which you can feel from the moment you set off.
When the motorcycling press tested cyclecars, they were seen as cheap transport that was better than an outfit. With the front wheel drive layout, the V-Sport has a good amount of space around you and a flat floor, as the 2CV gearchange, as per the donor, pokes out from the dashboard. This is no load-lugger – there’s minimal storage behind the seat and you’ll get quite close to your passenger. You can have a rack on the rear bodywork but how much room do you need?
The Pembleton was conceived by Phil Gregory, after his good lady noticed that bikes and three-wheelers went free on the ferry they were on. Phil has built several vehicles, including one of the fastest bikes up the nearby Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb – with his own engine!
After building his cyclecar with Citroën engine, gearbox and parts, he then went on to sell more than 500 kits to those who wanted to make their own simple, fun mode of transport, based on the old, rusting French chicken shed.
Then many years on, Phil’s son, Guy, built one for himself and liked the idea of making something, so father and son sat down, reengineered the old design and worked out all the parts made by local engineering companies.
The current design has been modified and improved by Guy, and features a steel frame with simple, elegant aluminium bodywork, riveted together, which has more than a passing resemblance to early aircraft.
The engine gives around 50bhp, not much more than the original 2CV engine and certainly not enough to overwork the completely refurbished French gearbox. Special driveshafts head out to bespoke hubs and the spoked wheels, with inboard discs ala Formula one – and 2CVs; while the rear has a simple set up based on the 2CV with a horizontal suspension unit. All nice and simple, but as with most low-volume car manufacturers, options and customer requirements mean that rarely are two V-Sports the same.
Driving is easy. Although there are no doors, the V-Sport is so low most will be able to easily get their legs over the immaculate alloy bodywork and into position. It’s a bench seat, so no buckets to lower yourself into and the seatbelts, while coming from the opposite side you are used to, are easy to find. Once you’ve mastered the accurate but close gearbox gate (Pembleton have worked hard and used rose joints to get a positive and easy to use change), remembering where first is (Citroën liked doing things differently) and where reverse is, the rest is easy. Pedals are wide-spaced just like your car, as are the controls and indicators.
The modern V7 motor has the standard electronics so its manners are finishing school perfect. Except, that is, the exhaust sound. Because you are exposed to the elements, your soundtrack is that of the Moto Guzzi duet; but encouraging; it’s not too loud. Every gearchange, every time you back off, or pull away, is an aural pleasure. And because you’re out there with just an aero screen to protect you, the sensation of speed is more than most motorbikes.
Cyclecars may have been mundane transport originally, but they are now more exciting than many modern bikes and this excitement is carried through the corners, too. With skinny tyres and limited power working against you; the soundtrack of an overhead Spitfire and a wooden-rimmed steering wheel working with you, corners are as challenging as on two wheels. Grip isn’t a given like in a modern sportscar with fat tyres and electronic nannying, but something you have to feel, plan and judge – like on a bike. With little weight, relatively low power and braking, the suspension can remain soft and compliant, adding to the sensations of cornering. You roll, you feel the forces acting on the car and you; continuing the bike-like feel. And with front-wheel drive, you don’t have to worry about the rear kicking out.
The 50bhp gives little worry of torque steer, but the balance that the Pembleton guys have engineered in front to back is superb: bike-like in its intensity – and yet safer to explore the limits. Just watch out for potholes, because if you think you’ve missed one at the front, you’ll just get it at the rear!
The Pembleton is now a fully produced car and starts at £21,995+VAT. It’s great to drive, is authentically old in style, its simplicity is welcome in a world of ABS, power steering and brake-assist and it is beautifully handmade. In an old wooden shed. You’re welcome to most bike meets and so many people wave or at least smile as you go by. And you can talk to your passenger. Though I'd rather listen to the engine..."