By: Janaki Jitchotvisut
So many tiny metal construction toy nuts and bolts!
Building a life-sized toy motorcycle is one thing, but have you considered building a life-sized toy motorcycle that actually works? What about adding a sidecar so you can take a friend along for the journey? That sounds like fun, you might be thinking, but how on earth would you manage to do all that out of building toys?
Inventor Simeon Oakley accomplished this feat back in 2013, when he used over 15,000 individual pieces of Meccano parts to craft a bespoke electric motorcycle and sidecar. James May and Oz Clarke then took that bike for a full lap at the Isle of Man. Since we’re now coming up on what would be the start of the 2020 IOMTT, what better time could there be to look back on this amazing accomplishment on one of motorcycling’s most legendary courses?
If you’re thinking that Meccano looks an awful lot like Erector, there’s a reason for that. The Meccano metal construction toy came first, invented by proud Liverpudlian Frank Hornby in 1901. For a time, these toys were briefly imported to the U.S., but by 1912, American inventor A.C. Gilbert came up with the strikingly similar Erector sets. One fan site breaks down some of the minute differences between the two building systems here. Long story short, Meccano is still vibrant and going strong, while Erector fell down along the way and was eventually bought by Meccano in the early 2000s. Modern Erector sets are now called “Erector by Meccano,” to make matters even more confusing.
In any case, neither Meccano’s nor Erector’s inventors probably could ever have imagined machines built with their creations holding the weight of a full-grown, average-sized adult man, let alone TWO of them. While May and Clarke and the construction team did suffer a few setbacks along the way, as well as several emergency pitstops while getting around the full 37.8-mile course at the Isle, the pair did eventually cross the finish line.
Unsurprisingly, the Meccano Oakley wasn’t the fastest, but the fact that it managed to complete the journey at all is nothing short of amazing. At one point, it managed to hit about 25 miles per hour on a downhill. At the time, only May was riding it, as they’d discovered that the added weight of a passenger (and the kippers he’d bought, freshly smoked) was just too much for the tiny little electric Meccano motors to handle.
The TT may not be happening this year, but we’ve got screwdrivers. We’ve got wrenches … er, spanners. We’ve got toys, both building-type and motorbike-type. Let’s get to work and make our wildest motorised dreams come true, shall we? Or at the very least, get our oil changed.
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