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Phantom History

Written by Super User. Posted in The Company

The roots of The Phantom Manufacturing Company run deep. The cogs of the four founders, Erasmus Thump,Titus Bottomly, Enoch Podsnap and Mrs. Mabel Ramsbottom meshed in the late Spring of 1919 on the banks of the Cam river and the company was born shortly thereafter. Responsibilities were distributed as such – Erasmus was responsible for invention and exploration, Titus was the team spanner man and basher of hard things, Enoch was responsible for testing and helping Erasmus raise funds when sales were not quite to plan, and Mrs. Ramsbottom, as company secretary, made all things run smoothly. Over time they acquired a staff of skilled individuals to help in all aspects of manufacture of some of the finest sporting vintage motrobikes the world has ever seen.

The four established themselves in Erasmus' laboratory and workshop in the country just outside of Cambridge. Although Erasmus has been operating the facility prior to establishing The Phantom Manufacturing Company, it was not initiated until well after he had completed his graduate project of equipping the Cambridge rowers' shell with an experimental methanol reactor below its waterline. (It proved to be quite successful in delivering a crushing defeat to the gentlemen of Oxford that year. Despite calls of foul play, it was not until long after Erasmus' death that the existence of the device was discovered.) For their first task, the men set about their initial challenge of trying to improve the reliability of Enoch's rather dishevelled Model 3, ACME Lucifer.

Upon closer inspection they realised that significant portions of the machine were not only poorly made, but also poorly designed. Rather than try to improve the existing machine, they set about creating a new device of their own design.

The first innovation claimed by the trio was the implementation of what they called, the 'flexible, steel, ladder belt' drive system. You or I would now call this a chain drive. They also devised a crude gearbox, consisting of seven different cogs on three spindles, connected by four forks and two large clock springs. They called this amazing device, the 'Noddle Box.' It gave their machine three ratios so that operators would be sure they could climb any known hill and take full advantage of flat areas to achieve mind bending speeds.

And then they turned their attention to the source of the machine's mobility, its motor. Experimentation began with a variation of Erasmus' methanol-burning engine used previously in marine applications. It used a crude version of what would later be known as a pulse-jet motor. The motor was extremely difficult to start, but the biggest problem was the frequent and catastrophic detonation of the caste iron combustion chamber which resulted in a violent explosion and ejection of bits in the direction of the rider. Consequently, Erasmus chose to explore evolving the standard internal combustion engine.

At the same time they experimented with various forms of fuel ingress. Atmospheric inlet valves were scrapped almost from the start in favour of mechanically operated variations. And a crude atomiser was developed as a kind of carburettor which they called 'The Sneezer'. The frame and steering format was quite traditional for the time initially, but these too changed quickly with experiments in various forms of front suspension explored even in the very early days.The company even went so far as to conduct pioneering work in  rocket-powered starting mechanisms as a labour saving feature.

What became clear from the very start, was that the main interest of The Phantom Manufacturing Company, was the design and manufacture of sporting machines for discerning gentlmen. The models evolved over time incorporating many ingenious and fascinating innovations, many of which were later adopted by other similar companies around the world and can be seen on some of the world's most desireable vintage motorbikes.

Enoch Podsnap

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