"The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself."
Pete Larsen, Patty Billings
Patty and I launched Liberty Sidecars in 1991 by riding our Harley Davidson w/ prototype Liberty Sidecar to the Sturgis SD Rally and accepting six orders right from the sidewalk. This boded well and we raced back to our shop and began series production. Vintage sidecars, like vintage race and sports cars, had been a long standing passion of mine and I poured my heart into this product. Those sidecars were hands-on and labor-intensive and we soon gained a reputation for exceptional build quality, function and finish. By the end, close to 30 years later, we had shipped the sidecars all over the US and to more than 20 countries including China, Russia and Japan. We had sold them to some celebrities, Bllly Joel, Eric Burdon and even, finally, Willie G. Davidson. John Travolta rode one in a Disney movie.
Eventually though, we realized that we were building by rote and a new challenge began to formulate: I’d been describing a Harley/Liberty Sidecar outfit as being "like a Harley powered three-wheeled car" so why not go that direction? I’d seen one Morgan three-wheeler in my life so I knew it was up my alley, you know: really off beat and bordering the edge of credibility. All the suppliers were lined up for such a project: we had a tube supplier and bender, laser cutter, fiberglass shop and upholsterer not to mention the Harley bits we bought for the sidecars. This was, of course, a much more complex piece than a sidecar which is, after all, just a one-wheeled parasite to a motorcycle.
Busy each weekday with sidecar building, the design and development of the Harley powered ACE three wheeler was relegated to weekends and, with many setbacks, the car required several years to bring to a satisfactory state. However, one day I found myself driving it, as in a dream, out in the countryside, miles from the shop with the engine rumbling away. I wrote later that it was the best day of my life...maybe still true.
I tentatively called the new three-wheeler "ACE" mainly for the way it made you feel...you know, like Juan M. Fangio.
After building a few of these cars, a bizarre development would be precipitated by the visit of the British journalist, Andrew English and the subsequent publication of his impressions of the ACE in the Daily Telegraph: two Morgan Motor Company executives would drop in, drive the ACE briefly and tender an offer to buy the design rights in order to produce a similar product. This sequence of events is well documented in Peter Dron’s book, "The Morgan3Wheeler- Back to the Future!"* My personal perspective on this is expressed in this interview from the Bulletin, newsletter of the Morgan Three Wheeler Club, MTWC, UK
*Dron, Peter. Morgan 3 Wheeler - Back to the Future! Veloce Publishing Ltd, 2015.