Through his gig with the British television series Toy Stories, show host James May gets to build all sorts of wondrous objects from toys. His latest effort was to build a working motorcycle from Meccano toys, (in the U.S., we use the name Erector Set). The idea for this project may well have been inspired by his other television program, motorhead show Top Gear, and May’s passion for anything on two wheels.

James May and Oz Clarke ride the Meccano bike at Manx Grand Prix
James May and Oz Clarke ride the Meccano bike at Manx Grand Prix

May undertook the challenge of making the Meccano bike roadworthy enough to ride a lap around the TT course on the Isle of Man. Toy Stories and Man Lab TV shows’ project manager Simeon Oakley used over 15,000 pieces of Meccano, with a series of electric motors delivering less than 1/4 hp. This was not a trivial effort, and took about three months for the design and build. There are 600 nuts and bolts in each wheel alone! It’s still a toy, though, and during a test run that reached 9.3 mph downhill, the brakes fell off and a wheel was completely mangled.

The plan was for the bike to carry two adults—one in the sidecar—at speeds of 15 mph over the 37-mile course over three days, as the crew was expecting additional mechanical issues. After all, it is still basically a toy. The holiday airing of Toy Stories showed the success of the effort, with May piloting and writer Oz Clarke in the sidecar. The Meccano bike achieved 25 mph coming down the mountain—a fitting tribute to the 90th anniversary of the Manx Grand Prix. Afterwards, May commented, “It is a great honour to have done it.”



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