Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge
Author

Richard Dredge

JARC Little Horse

If you needed a poverty-spec van in the mid-1950s, the Little Horse was for you

The microcar world was unbelievably complicated, with projects constantly changing hands. JARC developed the Little Horse which arrived in 1954, before the project was then sold on to become the Astra Utility in 1956. Later the car would become the Gill Getabout as well as the Lightburn Zeta, the latter produced in tiny numbers in Australia. Are you keeping up so far?

JARC Motors Ltd was based in Ladbroke Grove in west London, in premises previously used by a bike manufacturing company called Jarvis. This company moved into coachbuilding and when a Mr Christoforedes approached Jarvis in the early 1950s with a view to collaborating, the JARC was born. The new company took its name from the first part of Jarvis, combined with C for Christoforedes.

The first car to come from JARC was the Little Horse MkI, which was finished in spring 1954. It seems that just the one prototype was made, registered OYE 20, then scrapped with no media coverage at all. By 1955 the Little Horse MkII had been unveiled and while it looked very similar to the MkI there were lots of differences to the design in a bid to cut production costs while also improving quality. Crucially, while that first prototype was fitted with a bench seat to make it a two-seater, the second iteration was a small van with just a single seat.

The Little Horse was very much at the economy end of the spectrum, which is why it was very affordable with its asking price of £347. Power (such as it was) was supplied by a 250cc air-cooled Excelsior two-cylinder two-stroke engine mounted just ahead of the rear axle, which was driven via a Burman transmission that fed a differential via a chain. There was swing axle independent suspension with Girling dampers on all wheels.

Available only as a light delivery van with a 364lb (165kg) payload, the Little Horse came with only a driver's seat, but for export markets a passenger seat was available, and provision could also be made for carrying two small children on a small bench seat in the rear. It's thought that no Little Horses were exported however, and from what's known, there don't seem to have been any home market sales either.

When The Motor tested a JARC (possibly the only one made as it was registered OYE 20), it reported:

The power unit is quiet and starts easily and silently under the impulse of a Dynastarter, is flexible and gives useful performance. The clutch is slightly less fierce than on some of its rivals, and the gear change is not too difficult once one has learnt to rely upon 'feel' rather than the marks on the gate.

The suspension is good, particularly over bumpy surfaces, and the braking adequate; indeed, once one has become used to a notable degree of oversteer and a slight amount of roll on comers, the JARC can be motored quite enthusiastically and with a feeling of confidence.

 

According to the JARC sales leaflet, the Little Horse could be run for little more than three pence per mile including fuel, depreciation, road tax and maintenance. As a result, according to JARC "under certain conditions this could work out cheaper than delivery by bicycle". One of the cornerstones of these low running costs was fuel consumption of around 65mpg, but when The Motor tested the JARC it couldn't achieve any more than 47mpg.

At the end of the above review, which was published in April 1956, The Motor noted that "since the article was written, the JARC concern has been acquired by a new company and the vehicle, which is being somewhat redesigned, will in future be powered by a 325cc British Anzani twin two-stroke light car power unit".

The revised JARC Little Horse MkII would resurface as the British Anzani Astra Utility later that year, and once again this pint-sized economy car would fail to make its mark. However, rather than the Little Horse failing, it may be that British Anzani made Christoforedes an offer that he couldn't refuse, to put his lightweight commercial into production, so he chose to pack up his business before it had even got going. We'll never know…

 

Vital statistics
Produced 1955-1956, England
Number built Unknown, possibly just one prototype
Engine Mid-mounted, 250cc, 2-cylinder
Transmission 3-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Price £347 16s

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