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Quasar Motorcycle History

The Quasar was a semi-enclosed feet forward motorcycle, created by Malcolm Newell and Ken Leaman,[1] who made a number of similar vehicles.[2] It used an 850 cc engine built by Reliant Motors and was capable of cruising at 90-100 mph (145-160 km/h) and exceeding 100 mph in favourable conditions.


In the Quasar, the rider sat feet forward or feet first, changing the usual position of the rider from on top and straddling the vehicle, to inside and sitting down. Unlike most motorcycles, the Quasar was a cabin motorcyle with a roof which goes over the rider. While normally not a problem, tall riders with larger, more modern helmets could have trouble fitting inside although it was also possible to carry a passenger. In the front of the bike the laminated glass windscreen had car-style windscreen wipers and a heater. The use of an enclosed passenger space caused blindspots where the driver had to move his head around to make sure visibility was not obscured by the screen supports in corners. Integral with the rear bodywork was a 60 litre (2.21 cubic feet) storage space and wrap-around panniers were a factory option.

In 1968, after his previous idea for a trike named the "Revolution" failed, forcing him to close his motorcycle store, Malcolm Newell met Ken Leaman while on holiday in Scotland, and the two combined forces to design and build the first Quasar prototype. The first production Quasar was sold in December 1976, having been built by Ken and Malcolm at Wilson Brothers of Bristol, where Ken was employed full time, and who owned the rights to the machine.

Though they had launched a publicity campaign to gain interest in the bike, even after they began to receive inquiries Wilson Brothers did not provide enough funds for production to meet demand. Between December 1976 and October 1979, they only produced a total of six vehicles. In 1980, John Malfoy, who had originally designed the Quasar's unique fluorescent rear light persuaded his employers, Romarsh, of Calne, to manufacture five Quasars under licence from Wilson Brothers. While all five vehicles sold by December, 1981, another batch of ten was prepared starting in August.

When Romarsh collapsed, John Malfoy bought the remaining parts and assembled several more machines and Malcolm Newell independently made at least one more from parts. While only 21 Reliant engined Quasars were produced, Newell went on to build several more with motorcycle engines and Tait hub centre steering in his own workshop at Field Cottage, in Heddington. These included several with Suzuki GS engines, both chain and shaft drive, a Honda VF750 powered machine and one with a Kawasaki Z1300 6-cylinder engine. Malcolm also produced a whole range of Phasar machines powered by engines from the Honda Goldwing and VT500, Moto Guzzi V50 and Convert, Z13, and Yamaha LC250 and 350. He was working on a leaning trike, with two narrow leaning front wheels when he died in 1994, aged just 54.

Malcolm Newell and three Quasars were featured in a BBC TV motoring programme Top Gear which was broadcast on April 14, 1988. The same programme also featured the first public outing of Royce Creasey's Voyager, which was a development of the Quasar, and the Ecomobile made in Switzerland by Arnold Wagner's Peraves company. The item was written and presented by bike journalist Paul Blezard who bought a Quasar of his own in 2005. The original Quasar featured in the programme was owned by enthusiast Mark Crowson who has taken on the job of preserving and improving the Quasar heritage left by Malcolm Newell and the late John Malfoy. Mark owns three Quasars and two Phasars and is also the creator of the Quasar website, [ Quasar World]. Blezard also wrote an eight page feature on the Quasar for the British magazine Classic Bike for its July 2000 issue, which had Crowson's Quasar on the cover and told the whole history of the machine and what it was like to ride