Flashback 1 – The Moulton Automatic

Flashback is a new series of short articles on aspects of Moulton bicycle history. In presenting these pieces, and with a view to improving our knowledge of the marque, I would welcome your feedback and comments. It is some 16 years since I wrote The Moulton Bicycle and much interesting information has come to light since then. Also, the passing of time changes our perspective in subtle ways. Therefore any contributions would be greatly appreciated.

In the first of the series we take a look at a short-lived and relatively little-known model, the Moulton Automatic.

Brochure and Date of Introduction

Unusually, the Automatic had its own four page A5 format brochure. Although this was undated, anyone consulting the back page might reasonably have concluded that it was printed in 1964. The text stated: “Two years after its announcement …. in 1962, the Moulton …has been acclaimed by tens of thousands of users …”.

However, the actual date of introduction seems to have been spring 1966. The CTC’s magazine Cycletouring featured a captioned photograph of “Moulton’s latest” in its February/March 1966 issue, which revealed that the price was 29 guineas (£30.45). This fits with the machine’s catalogued model number, M0, which in the previous year, 1965, had been used for the Moulton Continental.

Specification

So what was the Automatic’s specification? Essentially it was similar to a Moulton Standard but with the following differences:

  • It had the Fichtel & Sachs Duomatic two-speed back-pedal hub brake.
  • It featured a continental-style front fork lock.
  • It came fitted with the original Moulton high-fixing chrome-plated prop-stand.

One cannot help concluding that to some extent this machine was created to use up excess stock of certain components. The previous year the Continental had been introduced as a base model which conveniently used the Perry B500 single-speed coaster hub after the Stowaway had been upgraded with the Duomatic. Now the Automatic used up Series One rear forks and original pattern prop-stands after other models had moved to the Series Two rear fork, which in some cases was factory-fitted with the shorter brazed-on prop-stand sourced from Jonas Oglaend, the Norwegian Moulton licensee.

Rear Fork

The Series One rear forks fitted to the Automatic were the last variation on the theme. The first Series Ones lacked a plate closing the underside of the fork ahead of the wheel. Later a closing plate was fitted to strengthen the fork. Finally the version used on the Automatic had not only the closing plate but small semi-circular reinforcement pieces brazed to the undersides of the fork blades just behind the closing plate, at the point where splitting was most likely to occur.

Main Frame

The Automatic’s front forks were the elegant Series One type. However, the main frame was true Series Two. That is to say it had characteristics such as:

  • an edge-brazed junction of the head tube to main beam,
  • rear carrier stays brazed to the frame,
  • a seat tube that narrowed at its base as viewed from the side.

This combination of Series One forks with Series Two main frame contrasted with general production of the time. Despite the introduction in 1965 of the ‘New Look’, the only Series Two element in general production was the rear fork.

Fork Lock

The fork lock fitted to the Automatic was the same as that fitted to the Mini Automatic and some S range Moultons. It comprised a small spring-loaded pressed steel bolt mounted on a plate brazed to the left blade of the front fork. To lock the front wheel, the bolt was pushed to the right, thus fouling the forks. As it clicked into the locked position, the bolt released a small key which otherwise was securely held in the lock.

These locks were commonly available in some Continental countries at this time. (I bought a retro-fit version in Belgium in 1966.) However, I do not recall seeing them used in the UK by any manufacturer other than Moulton Bicycles.

Conclusion

The Automatic was soon to suffer the fate of most 16″ wheel Moultons as competition stiffened in the market for small-wheeled bicycles that Alex Moulton had himself stimulated. By 1967 the only catalogued model was that great survivor, the Deluxe. The Automatic had been deleted, along with all the others.

I have to admit a certain liking for the Automatic, although I never owned one myself. To my mind it had individualistic character, flawed only by the long prop-stand. But then I do rather like the Duomatic hub ….

So, does any reader have an Automatic? Have you ever owned one, and if so, what did you think of it? And are there any good photos around of its key features?


For full illustrations (the complete bicycle, lock and propstand, all taken from the original brochure) please see the printed article in issue 51 of The Moultoneer.