Moulton exhibition April 2010

Alex Moulton has fond memories of his time as a student in Cambridge. One of the loudest is removing the silencer and riding his motorbike up and down a passageway in the university engineering department. Friends were helping him tune and test the bike for speed trials at Syston in 1938.

He had bought the machine – a Scott TT Replica built in 1931 – from Ben Brierley of Trowbridge Road.
He later begged £50 from his grandmother in Bradford to buy an Austin Seven Speedy, which he raced at a then rather daring 80mph in a Donington relay.

From pencil to patent: a first draft of Alex Moulton’s groundbreaking Hydrolastic suspension alongside its 1959 patent

In 1938, Alex at first failed the entrance exam for a mechanical sciences degree at Cambridge. To get in, as he puts it, he had to “concentrate more on maths than on the metal workshop”.
His Cambridge tuition in maths, design principles and accurate scale drawing – together with lab experiments on heat – helped put his experience of making and testing within a theoretical framework.

“I have no doubt hand drafting is the best way for the first steps in innovative engineering design. The pencil provides direct communication from mind to paper. Freehand sketching must be encouraged. It limits the scope for extreme fantasy which words on their own can produce.”

“In the process of innovation I try to catch the vision in my mind straight away in little sketches. But sometimes you need to ‘park’ an idea, because not every new one is a ‘Eureka!’ moment. You need to maintain a painstaking test/ observe/deduce process to reveal the truth of what works. I like to say, ‘Let it speak to you.’”
Alex Moulton, 2009

Royal opposition: Alex Moulton, left, with Prince Bira of Siam before a Donington relay race at in 1939. Alex’s Cambridge tutor Paul Dykes, who taught him about the internal combustion engine, looks on

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