Rex McCandless was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and, when his father emigrated to Canada, the teenage Rex became the family bread winner. In the early thirties he moved to England to earn money but returned to Belfast just before the outbreak of war. In partnership with his brother Cromie, he developed the Featherbed motorbike frame which became highly successful for Norton, in competition and on the road. He also worked with fellow Ulsterman and tractor maker, Harry Ferguson. Although largely self taught, he was a highly innovative engineer and worked on a wide range of projects including four wheel drive, four wheel steer and the use of engines as stressed members (a decade before Chapman and Cosworth developed the idea for the Lotus 49).

McCandless April 1953.JPG (78720 bytes)

In 1953 Rex built two quite extraordinary 500cc cars of his featuring a works Norton engine mounted well forward and all enveloping bodywork. Most striking was the four wheel drive system. A primary chain took drive from the engine to a high mounted gearbox then down to the front axle. A third chain took drive from this axle to the centre of the car where twin drums provided braking and a final chain to the rear axle. gearing was very slightly different at the two ends of the car. The rear wheels were set for large amounts of negative camber while the fronts have positive camber

The driver sat very low alongside the backbone of the frame, giving the impression of being a two seater which it isn't. The car made quite a stir on its debut but, in truth, the additional weight and complexity largely outweighed any aerodynamic and traction advantages.

Rex leads John Habin in the Staride, during the Earl of March Trophy, Goodwood, April 1953. He would finish eighth in a quality field.

Another shot of Rex from Goodwood April 1953.

New boy Laurie McGladery takes FTD at Cancastle, Co Antrim in May 1954.

Both cars together at Kirkistown in August '54.

McCandless March 1955.JPG (38931 bytes)March 1955 at Kirkistown where he finished 3rd behind Bueb and Parker.


Rex continued inventing all through his life and was instrumental in the development of the Autogyro, his biography "To Make a Better Mousetrap", was written by R.L. Jennings and published in 2003. Copies may be obtained from R.L Jennings at


Arnie Black at the wheel of the second car, Earl of March Trophy, September 2011, where the car caused quite a stir. No words can do justice to the mechanical madness that lurks under the skin of this truly remarkable machine.