A photograph from the Frisky Sport sales literature. The image was produced as part of a styling exercise, no such car was ever built. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.
Henry Meadows Limited was founded in 1920 to manufacture high quality 3 speed gearboxes for cars at their Park Lane works. The company soon grew, and in 1922 added petrol engines to the product range, and began to supply many famous manufacturers including Lagonda, Invicta, Lea Francis, Bean and Frazer-Nash.
Just before the Second World War the company started to experiment with diesel engines, and in 1947 produced a range of diesel units for use in vehicles. 

Meadows also worked jointly with D. Wickham & Company Limited, of Ware, to produce diesel engines for railway locomotives. 

The Factory expanded with the opening of a new works in Cannock Road, next to the existing factory.

The site now covered over 14 acres and the company employed more than 1,200 people, but was eventually taken over to become part of the Associated British Engineering Company.

An advert from 1951.

Mr. Lawrence Robson.

Racing driver Raymond Flowers had the idea of producing a small car, whilst living in Egypt. He intended to call the car 'Rameses', and approached manufacturers both here and abroad in the hope that one of them would agree to add the vehicle to their product range. He had very little success with his venture until he contacted Mr. Lawrence Robson, Chairman of Henry Meadows Limited. Lawrence liked the idea, and the company decided to go ahead with the project.

The new car was to be called the 'Frisky', and although Raymond Flowers had an initial design, this was not used. Ex-Kieft employee Gordon Bedson joined Meadows as Export Sales Manager, and became involved in the Frisky project. He designed an initial prototype nicknamed 'The Bug'. Another ex-Kieft employee Keith Peckmore joined the company to build the prototype chassis.

The new Frisky made its first public appearance at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show with fibreglass bodywork designed by top Italian stylist Michelotti, and produced by Vignale of Turin. 


An initial prototype using the first body mock-up, which was nicknamed "The Bug". Courtesy of Grant Kearney.

Another prototype body showing the gull-wing door held open by Gordon Bedson. From an old factory news release that appeared in "Rum Car".
The two-seater car, powered by a two cylinder, two stroke air cooled, 250c.c. Villiers engine, had a narrow rear track of only 2ft 8inches, to obviate the need for a differential.

It had a top speed of 65m.p.h., a fuel consumption of only 65m.p.g., ample room inside for two adults, and two gull-wing doors. Although an impressive machine, it was still a prototype, production hadn’t yet started. 

The Frisky production was in the original Meadows works in Park Lane, and had its own entrance.

The offices were at the front, with the body bay and assembly area behind. The company employed around 25 people and the cars were assembled by hand.

Gordon Bedson in the driving seat of a prototype.
Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.
One of Michelotti's original sketches showing the rear of the car.
Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.
Another of Michelotti's original sketches; this one shows the interior. Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.
The photograph shows the original wooden model of the first body design.

Courtesy of John Meadows.

The front cover of the early Frisky sales literature showing the gull-wing body that never went into production.
The Michelotti gull-winged bodied car at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show. Only two of these bodies were ever produced.

The engine arrived at the show from Wolverhampton and the chassis and body came directly from Turin.

Photo courtesy of Keith Peckmore.

The car was favourably reported in the press, and expectations were high. As can be seen from the following report about the new car, which appeared in the Express & Star.

Wolverhampton’s ‘Bubble Car’ Shakes Germans

Geneva, Thursday.

Britain’s first baby “bubble car”, the Wolverhampton made Frisky, being shown for the first time at the 27th International Motor Show at Geneva today, is worrying West German firms who have hitherto dominated the continental market for baby cars. This little four-seater British “giant” is powered by a Villiers 250c.c. rear engine, with coachwork designed by the Italian Giovanni Michelotti. “We are most anxious to see this British baby”, one West German said. “From all accounts, it has plenty of style and go, and with its four wheels and larger seating capacity it looks like a winner.”

At the Henry Meadows, Ltd., factory in Wolverhampton today the interest which has resulted from the Frisky announcement was described to the Express and Star motoring correspondent as “fantastic”.

400 Letters a Day

The company received 400 letters about the car on Tuesday, the day after its announcement. There were a further 300 letters yesterday and letters are still arriving in large numbers. Both men concerned in the car's design, Mr. Gordon Bedson, Meadows’ Export Sales Manager, and Mr. Raymond Flowers, are at Geneva. Mr. Flowers has said he thinks the proposed production schedule of 1200 a week will have to be increased. Many of the cars will be exported.

At the Meadows factory everyone is waiting for a day later in the month when the first of the Italian bodied Friskys arrives back from Geneva. Up to this morning no one had seen more than a drawing and a small model of the car in its final shape.

The first production model, the 'Frisky Sport' appeared at the Earls Court show in 1957, looking very different to the Geneva prototype. The gull-wing doors had gone, and open-topped, and hard-topped versions were produced. Before production began it was extensively tested by Keith Peckmore who drove one as far afield as Stuttgart, and down to Devon. It proved to be very reliable. Moulds for the new fibreglass bodies were built in-house, and so were a few of the bodies, but most were made at the nearby Guy factory where a fibreglass body plant had been set up to make lorry cabs.

The car, powered by a 2 cylinder, 2 stroke, 325 cc. Villiers engine, had a welded steel tube chassis with roller chain transmission in an oil bath.

John Meadows standing by his immaculate Frisky Sport at the 2005 Black Country Vehicle Rally.

Another view of John Meadows' car. Courtesy of John Meadows.
It had a cruising speed of 65m.p.h. and a fuel consumption of 60m.p.g. with room for 2 adults and a child. It could however be a tight squeeze for a larger or taller person. The only protection from the weather in the open bodied version was a vinyl hood, which clipped onto the body and could be stored behind the seat. For its size the car had an impressive performance, but only a small number were made. Mainly because of low sales and the high selling price of £484.
A newspaper article that came from a cutting, from an unknown newspaper. It is from the collection of the late Jim Boulton:

Came off the production line in the Black Country and caused a sensation!

A 1950s publicity photograph showing one of the first Henry Meadows made (Frisky) bubble-cars to come off their Wolverhampton production line. The car was launched at the Geneva and Earls Court motor shows, and even Prime Minister Harold Macmillan tried it out for size and comfort.

The Black Country in general, and Wolverhampton in particular, was famous during the last century for the manufacture of all kinds of vehicles - from bicycles through to aeroplanes.

However, one of the most unusual, and possibly one of the last, mass produced vehicles to be made in Wolverhampton, was the 'Frisky' bubble-car! How many readers recall owning one or even seeing versions of the 'Frisky' on the roads of the Black Country or further afield?

The photograph above, which belongs to Mr. Ronald R. Smith, of Knowle, Solihull, shows the car, fresh off the production line, around 1957, with a couple of ladies adding a female touch to the picture. Mr. Smith has every reason to remember the 'Frisky', as he was the publicity manager of Henry Meadows Ltd., of Wolverhampton, at the time. They were the manufacturers of the car, as Mr. Smith explains in his brief covering letter.

"This was the first British 'bubble car' to be produced, preceding the Austin 'Mini' by several years. The car was made by Henry Meadows Ltd., whose main products were diesel engines, gearboxes and power generating plants, at their factory in Fallings Park. The car was given the name 'Frisky', and was powered by a Villiers engine. It was first introduced at the Geneva motor show and later at the 1957 Earls Court motor show, where it caused quite a sensation and received world wide publicity. Some prominent politicians of the day including the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan and one Bessie Braddock tried out the driving seat of the car at the show."


The 'Frisky Sport'. From 'The Motor', October 16th, 1957.

Also from 'The Motor', October 16th, 1957.

Also from 'The Motor', October 16th, 1957.

John Meadows seated in a hard-topped Frisky Coupe at the 2004 Black Country Vehicle Rally.

Courtesy of Rod Bishop.

Another view of a hard-topped Frisky Sport. This prototype was photographed whilst undergoing road trials in Germany.

Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.

The front page of the sales literature.
Another photograph from the Frisky Sport sales literature. This image was produced as part of a styling exercise. No such car was ever built.

Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

The Frisky Sport at the 1957 London Motor Show with Rank Organisation artists (L to R) Donald Sinden, Stanley Baker and June Laverick. Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.

The Frisky Sport from above.

Courtesy of the late
Jim Boulton.

An advert from October 1958.

In 1958 the company became Frisky Cars Limited, and a new sports car, the 'Frisky Sprint' appeared. The elegant new design was powered by a three cylinder 492cc, two stroke Excelsior engine that developed 30b.h.p. Keith Peckmore who built the prototype, took it up to 90m.p.h. during a test run.
Keith Peckmore at the wheel of the Frisky Sprint. Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.
The car made its appearance at the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show but never reached production.

Because all Friskys were hand-built, the car would have sold for over £700 and so could not have competed with the mass-produced competition.

Another view of the Sprint, this time inside the factory surrounded by Frisky Sports.

Courtesy of Thoroughbred and Classic cars.

The Sprint outside the works.

Courtesy of Keith Peckmore.

Raymond Flowers and his two brothers left the project after about two years and moved on to other things. In 1959 the company was again reformed, this time as Frisky Cars (1959) Limited, as a result of a take-over by Wright's Haulage. A new three-wheeled car, the 'Family Three' was developed. It could carry two adults and two children, and was powered by a Villiers 197c.c. engine. Later an Excelsior 250c.c. twin-cylinder two stroke version became available. The body was produced by Hills Fibreglass Developments at their Wednesfield factory.
In February 1959 Gordon Bedson began negotiating with Lightburn & Company Limited, Adelaide, Australia. About two months later both he and Keith Peckmore joined the company and helped to design and build the 'Lightburn Zeta' that was based on the 'Sprint'. It used a Frisky chassis fitted with an FMR engine, as used in the Messerschmitt 'Tiger' cars.
The prototype Australian 'Lightburn Zeta'. Courtesy of John Meadows.
A Frisky “Family Three” from 1959.

Courtesy of John Meadows.

Frisky cars never sold well, and it was always a struggle to keep the company going. The company changed hands several times, but production of the cars stayed at the Meadows' factory until its final move to Sandwich, Kent, in 1961, where a few of the final model, the 'Prince' were built.

Unfortunately manufacturing problems soon brought production to an end in 1964.

It is thought that around 1,200 Friskys were produced at the Wolverhampton works.

Another 'Family Three'. Courtesy of John Meadows.
A Frisky 'Prince'. Courtesy of John Meadows.
For some time after production ended spares were available from Frisky Spares and Service Limited, Queenborough.

An advert from 1958.


Two adverts from 1958.

Further information and help with these cars can be obtained from The Frisky Register (01600 860420) which was been run for over twenty years by John Meadows the grandson of Henry Meadows who founded Henry Meadows Ltd.

The address of the Frisky Register is as follows:

Graces Cottage
NP25 4RZ

John Meadows and the line-up of Frisky cars at the 2010 National MicroCar Rally, at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. John is holding the "Spirit of the National" award, presented to him, on behalf of the Frisky owners, who made the Frisky event possible.  Courtesy of John Meadows.

In September 2010, John Meadows organised the largest line-up of Frisky Cars since about 1980, at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, during the National MicroCar Rally.

13 cars were displayed in different stages of restoration, which must have been quite a sight.

The line-up consisted of 3 Frisky Sports, 1 Frisky Coupé, 6 Family Threes, 2 mark 2 Family Threes  and one Gull Wing Shell.

Another view of the line-up at Malvern. Courtesy of Richard Dredge.

John Meadows has kindly informed me that around 75 Frisky cars are known to survive. The majority are mark 1 and mark 2 Family Threes. There are 12 surviving Frisky Sports, and 4 Frisky Coupés.

I would like to thank John Meadows and Keith Peckmore for their help in producing this brief history.

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