British car culture is unlike any other. The nation is amongst the biggest in the world, not necessarily in terms of number of cars produced, but it has always had a huge impact on the industry nonetheless. Just think of cars like Bentley, Aston Martin, Jaguar, or even the humble little Mini. Cars that left a lasting impression on generations of people and continue to do so to this very day. But that’s not all, as the Brits also have a reputation for building excellent road and racing cars in nothing more than a shed from time to time. And one of the finest examples of this engineering spirit is the Pembleton T24, a hand-built retro-styled cycle car by a company founded by former National hill Climb Champion Phil Gregory.
Back in April of 1999, Phil Gregory was planning a cycling tour of Ireland, the story goes. While checking the timetable and prices of the Dún Laoghaire ferry service, which connects the city of Dún Laoghaire (south of Dublin) to Holyhead in Wales and Liverpool in England, he noticed cyclists and tricycles were exempt from fees. Speculating if this would also extend to three-wheeled cycle cars (such as the Morgan Three-wheeler or Super 3), it reignited something within Phil Gregory, taking him back to his racing days. As well as being a formidable Hill Climb racer in his heydays, Phil Gregory also knew a thing or two about car and racing engineering. He even designed and built the V-twin engine and racing bike that won him the National Hill Climb Championship.
In the early days of the Pembleton motor company, the focus was on low-volume specialised three-wheeled cars that were to be built by clients, a so-called kit car essentially. In 2015 Phil’s son Guy Gregory joined the company and soon after, the founder took a step down and Guy Gregory started to work on the next step for Pembleton. In 2018 the company would introduce the V-Sport, a three-wheeled cycle car much in the vein of the famous Morgan. It had a strong focus on providing a simple, high-quality driving experience that’s above all; fun! The Pembleton T24 we’re taking a look at today is basically the follow-up of the V-Sport and was introduced in 2020. This essentially is a three-wheeled cycle car sprouting a fourth wheel, as the approach to car building is largely the same as the V-Sport.
The Pembleton T24 is a very small, very lightweight handbuilt car that is styled to look like it came straight from the 1920s. It takes the driving experience down to the essentials, as you will find no such things as cup holders, cruise control, a built-in navigation system, or even a roof for that matter, on a T24. Instead, you’re fully exposed to Mother Nature, with only basic controls and rather skinny tires connecting you to the car, and it to the road. This simple, uncompromising approach to what a car can be, is guaranteed to have all your senses on edge when you work the T24 down a twisty B-road.
Close to the iconic Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb Course in Worcestershire, each T24 is hand-built using traditional methods only. Pembleton builds its own chassis, and forms the aluminium bodywork the old-fashioned way, by shaping, drilling and riveting it by hand. The shape is that of pre-war sports cars, with hand-cut louvres in the ‘engine’ cover and leather straps holding it down.
The boat-tail-like rear section is cut short to fit a spare tire on the back. The narrow tires are covered by cycle fenders and you only have a very small window in front of you, doing its minimal best to divert air from messing up your hair and bugs from hitting you in the face. It’s really a revival of a driving experience long gone!
The interior of the Pembleton T24 is spartan but again put together with the greatest possible care and attention. The seats and upholstery are made in partnership with a number of local craftspeople. The engine-turned instrument panel holds classically styled gauges and tumble switches, as well as a dash-mounted shifter, much like the Citroën 2CV. Guiding the car along the road and through corners is done with a four-spoke steering wheel wrapped in leather. And while it is technically a two-seater, it certainly helps if you like your passenger at least a little bit, as the seating position is intimate! Despite its small frame, the T24 is able to store 200 litres of luggage, which is quite a bit more than a modern-day MX5/Miata!
Up front, an exposed Moto Guzzi V-Twin engine of 744cc or 853cc drives the front wheels only. The most powerful of the two produces about 80 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like much but it only has to push along 361 kilos of car. To compare that to other sports cars, the power-to-weight ratio of 218bhp per tonne is on par with a 2021 Honda Civic Type R or an E46 generation BMW M3. I’m not saying it can keep up with those cars around a track, but it goes to show you don’t need a monstrous power output when you’re a featherweight of a car! The V-Twin breathes through an exhausted pipe that’s mounted outside of the body on either side so getting in and out of the T24 should be done with some caution.
It has to be said the Pembleton T24 Cycle Car looks like an absolute blast to drive. Its very low weight, skinny tires, grunty Moto Guzzi V-twin and exposed cabin should at least make it a very sensory-driven experience! And what’s perhaps best of all, this is a turn-key car with a relatively modest base price of GBP 32,995 instead of a six-figure exotic weapon. Mind you, that’s still quite a bit of money but where else can you buy a hand-built car at such a price? The only issue is, and the people of Pembleton couldn’t stress this enough when talking to them, the company is swamped with demand and is currently only building cars for the UK. So for everyone else, including us, we’re sadly left out of this retro-cool bundle of fun!
For more information, please visit Pembleton.co.uk.