Denise’s Rickshaw Challenge

Rickshaw – noun – a small two wheeled hooded carriage drawn by a man or men, or powered by a man on a bicycle (bicycle rickshaw). Political correction – person/persons/people!

Cycle Rickshaw – synonyms – bike taxi, velotaxi, pedicab, bikecab, cyclo, beca, becak, trisikad, or trishaw.

It’s been a while since we posted a restoration on this page – Luca has been busy at university and is now working for a living!

So, given that there is no engine in this, and after successfully restoring my own bicycle several years ago, Pietro decided that I can have a go at this one…

Here we have, to be restored by August this year, a 1950 Asian rickshaw.

Internet research has revealed that the most likely origin is the Macau region of China – the colour is typical of rickshaws of the region, possibly derived from the colour of the flag when under Portuguese rule. Though the plate on the rear detailing ‘Tong Fong’ would appear to implicate Hong Kong in its history too.


Sunday 29th April 2018

The rickshaw arrives at Motori Di Marino after a 4.5hour, 210 mile round trip to Margate in Kent.

It appears to be absolutely untouched since leaving its land of origin; still enhanced with 50s-60s lino on the passenger footboard, screwed-down tin cans behind the seat back & two spare tubes in the under-seat basket!

A quick look underneath reveals that whilst the foot pedal on the down tube operates the rear brakes, the lever on the crossbar is a gear shift – this must be the two speed deluxe model!











Previous colours on various parts of the machine, in approximate chronological order are:- black, red, Chinese green, bottle green and yellow.


Tuesday 1st May 2018

Since Pietro doesn’t have three ramps spare in the workshop I have no option but to work on the forecourt and am totally dependent on the weather – hence no work yesterday.

Today I concentrated on removing the ‘add-ons’ – dynamo lighting kit, non-functioning rear indicators (1970’s Honda, I think), lino floor covering, framed formica panel, underseat luggage basket etc. The seat back and base just lifted off.

By the time I was done, there was quite a pile!

The bare bones of the structure were beginning to appear – bolstered by significant quantities of wood!


Saturday 5th May 2018

Having either been hampered by the weather or other duties, I have not been able to get back at it until today. However, as it is a Saturday, I have got access to the workshops, tools and an assistant (Pietro!).

The first job was to remove the hood which was not too difficult as most of the nuts and bolts were very obliging.

The next stage was to remove the woodwork. I have discovered that whilst it may be quite easy to get a rickshaw out of a shed, it’s not so easy to get the shed out of the rickshaw! Since the majority of the nuts and bolts holding on the woodwork were completely seized they required grinding off to facilitate removal. In order to get to all the fixings we had to remove the passenger body first. This was relatively simple, just two bolts at the front and two long bolts through springs at the rear were all that secured the body shell to the sub-frame.

Interesting use of a bearing as a spacer under the suspension spring!

Pietro was then able to reach the bolts, previously inaccessible, with the grinder.


So we now have a stripped passenger body and half a shed!


And a rickshaw rolling cycle chassis; and another big pile of bits!


Sunday 13th May 2018

Dismantling continues to get the parts ready for re-finishing. Along the way I take photos to assist with the build-up later on.

Firstly the bottom bracket. Pietro helpfully suggests the use of a plastic box to catch the bearings and avoid losing them all over the floor!

Next the front end, wheel, brakes and forks. Again the plastic box comes i handy!

At the back end, I have to take particular note of the gearing before the rear axle and wheels are removed.

Work carries on in the same vein.

The fixings present challenges; most are imperial, the odd one metric, some are round (not by design!) or seized. As I don’t have a licence to use the angle grinder, my boy-Sunday (Pietro) comes to the rescue with a personal firework display!

At the end of the session we have a pair of independent rolling wheels on an axle, a cycle chassis, a passenger cab body and several boxes of bits.



Wednesday 16th May 2018

The chassis, passenger cab and sundry parts are loaded into the van to be taken to the re-finishers for blasting and painting.

Having thought long and hard, weighing up originality against attractiveness, we have decided to have the bike-chassis painted red – the earliest uniform colour we could discover (the ‘donor’ bike was originally black). The passenger cab will be painted as close to the existing green as possible. We will then over-paint by hand the rear bumper, mudguard ends etc in white to reflect the current scheme. Various other parts will be red/green/black/silver according to where on the rickshaw they will be affixed.

Basically green, white and red – a familiar colour scheme!


Wednesday 6th June 2018

The painted parts are collected from the re-finishers. The cycle chassis and front mudguard are now red, the passenger cab a similar dark green to before, the hood edge and ‘pram-stays’ are white, the saddle stem, chainwheel, pedal arms and front brake calliper have been painted silver and the front forks, springs, bearing ‘spacers’ and luggage basket are black.


Sunday 10th June 2018

Pietro and I dedicate our ‘day-off’ to working on the rickshaw. The parts which were not dismantled to be sent away for painting are cleaned and pressure-washed prior to re-assembly . Most of the bearings used on the component parts of the drive-train are the open variety, so after cleaning they had to be lubricated and packed with grease before being re-attached to the chassis. Hence, not many photos of the process as I spent most of the day with grease on my fingers! Our aim was to end the day with the rickshaw being progressed to the state of a rolling chassis – which we achieved. So all we have is before and after pics.


Sunday 17th June 2018

Looking at the chains before they are re-united with the rolling chassis, we discover that they are three different sizes even though the sprockets are of similar pitch/width. Obviously, in its previous life, when a fix is required you used what was readily available even if it wasn’t quite right.

The primary drive chain was a long bicycle one and the two gear chains were of the type used for a motorised bicycle and a moped respectively. As the bicycle chain could virtually stand up on its own and the moped chain is too heavy for the job, mindful of the embarrassment should any of the old chains snap under load, we decide to order new chains and opt to do all with the mid-weight (420D) chain.

Since progress on the has broken at the weakest link, attention is turned to other ‘bolt-on’ items. The saddle still bears evidence of the rickshaw’s former livery and proves difficult to dismantle as hidden captive nuts have freed themselves! So it’s off to work with a wire brush and wire wool.

After a lot of scraping and rubbing, the saddle sub-frame is ready for a quick spray of satin black. Result – a saddle that I would be happy to sit on!

Pietro then turns his attention to re-building the rear brakes…


Sunday 24th July 2018

Gardening leave – literally!


Sunday 1st July 2018

Aware of the fact that we have only 8 weeks until the planned outing for the rickshaw, and anticipating that the final touches could be the most time-consuming, we press on in spite of the lovely weather. Fortunately, the garage stays relatively cool compared to outside and as the workshop doors are on the shady side of the building in the morning we can work with the door open until the sun comes round.

First job is to fit the new chains – we have drive!

I just about manage to pedal around the forecourt but we have problems with the steering. The threads at the top of the fork post are stripped so the top (head) nut cannot be fastened down securely and added to that, the forks are slightly bent. After some internet research we find a pair of forks to fit a 28″ x 1½” wheel and order them together with a new top nut.

Turning our attention away from the cycle chassis and towards the passenger cab, I retrieve the box of bits and we review the parts awaiting reinstatement. By far and away the biggest items are the wooden slats that make up the footboard. Fortunately I numbered them when I removed them so we know the right order to replace them in after removing the rusty bolts stuck in the boards.

As we don’t have the correct bolts to fix them down, we move on to look at the seat side panels, under the armrests, instead. Previously they slightly buckled sheet metal fixed with a variety of bolts and rivets which were not in a suitable condition for reuse after removal.  I propose that boards covered in vinyl or oil cloth could be a suitable replacement, so two templates are created pending the acquisition of suitable covering material.

At that point we call it a day and move the passenger cab into the garden in case we should be inspired to do some further work in the light evenings.

Monday 3rd July 2018

I clean the seat squab and back ready for fitting back into the passenger cab. There is a lifting handle on the front of the squab, fixed with three screws and one nail. It is rusty and has peeling chrome – a liability to clothing or legs – so I remove it with the intention of refinishing it. However once off, the poor condition indicates that replacement would be a better plan. I source a vintage drawer/cupboard handle from my ‘domestic sundries’. Unfortunately, it is a different size, so after a brush up and quick spray with silver, it is fitted onto the squab over a backing cut from the vinyl removed from the footboard to disguise the previous mounting screw scars.



Tuesday 4th July 2018

After a trip to the local fixings supplier we are equipped to tackle the footboards.

These are now secured with stainless steel bolts and nylock nuts. Not original but should be much easier to remove if necessary. The seat side panels are in position awaiting covering – in red I think.

The original lino covering the footboards was very faded and not tidy enough for use again. We now have the dilemma of deciding what to use instead. We need a piece of thick vinyl or rubber flooring but only about 1 metre by ½ metre – not many shops have offcuts that small!


Saturday 7th July 2018

Anticipating a ‘quiet day at the office’ as England are playing in the World Cup quarter final in the afternoon, Pietro brought the rickshaw into the workshops last thing the previous day. He gets to work, inside, replacing the forks with the new ones which arrived earlier in the week. He moves on to replacing he handlebars and building the front brake caliper back up.

Meanwhile, I work outside washing the canopy hood.

During the day, whilst looking for something else in the store, an old roll of ribbed matting surfaces – we knew we had some somewhere! There is a big enough usable section for the  rickshaw – flooring problem solved!

At the end of the day we assemble, loosely, all the various sections – the cycle chassis, passenger cab and canopy…ta dah! – an almost rickshaw – albeit with a hood held up with a bungee!


Sunday 8th July 2018

Pietro gets busy with a spray can, changing the rear bumper from red to white, as it was originally. The rear wheel hubs get a quick coat of black, obliterating more of the previously ubiquitous yellow paint.

Now the only visible traces of that ‘no parking’ hue are on the hood frame. After a circular discussion on the merits of red, black or white, we come back to red – providing we have a suitable shade – particularly as the hood struts have been refinished in white.

I pick up the brass ‘Tong Fong’ plate that was removed from the back of the cab, clean it up and re-affix it.

Then, in preparation for remounting the hood struts, I cut two large vinyl washers, using the press, out of the un-faded area of the salvaged red textured lino.

It’s now officially too hot to do any more today!


Sunday 15th July 2018

Pietro has partially dismantled the rickshaw again to investigate the possibility of installing a ‘pedal assist’ electric motor. I cannot work on much as whatever I do to the passenger cab will only increase the weight making it difficult to remount. I busy myself with painting the hood struts red and then attaching the refinished white metal edge.


Sunday 22nd July 2018

Pietro has completed his investigations into supplementing the person pedal power and the rickshaw now has installed an electric motor salvaged from a Powabyke.

The original number plate for this rickshaw bore the number 287. Although originally painted white the figures were actually brass. After having them polished, together with another slightly larger number 2 liberated from a manhole cover on the forecourt, I re-attach them to the number plate in a slightly different order without making more holes in the number plate. The bigger number 2 is reversed, trimmed and placed in the centre as a number 5 and the 8 placed in last position, giving the impression of 258 as the 25th August – the date of the planned outing.

We then mount the passenger cab again and fix the hood.

The rickshaw is now ready for a road test. Firstly as it appears above and then with the seat in place, carrying a passenger. It goes, it changes gear and stops – after a fashion. The front wheel is not true so the brake is not very efficient.


Wednesday 25th July 2018

Pietro drops the front wheel out of the rickshaw and I take it to the wheel builders to be trued up.

It seems like two steps forward, one step back (back-pedalling?) but it’s taking shape…


Tuesday 31st July 2018

With only two wheels on our wagon there is a very limited amount that we can do, so in the meantime I order three new tyres and tubes.


Thursday 2nd August 2018

The tyres and tubes arrive and are fitted onto the rear wheels. Nice red line!


Sunday 5th August 2018

Still awaiting the return of the front wheel we get on with a few jobs at the rear: fitting the reflectors and a pair of newly-purchased rear lights & making a template and cutting a piece of ribbed rubber matting to cover the boards. At the front the bell is serviced and re-fitted on the handlebars along with a new front light.

Pietro finds a piece of textured aluminium and fills the gap between the seat and footboard,


Tuesday 7th August 2018

The front wheel is back and soon wearing its new boot. Fitted back onto the rickshaw, we can now move it around easily once more. Outside for a photo I think!

Two and a half weeks to go and a few more finishing details to complete. Among them are the inner side panels in the cab, fixing the rubber floor matting and highlighting (with paint) a few design details on the cycle frame.


Saturday 18th August 2018

Just one week to go until the grand public unveiling and I get busy with the final touches.

Firstly, I finish covering the seat side panels and fit them in place.

Next, it’s out with the paintbrush to highlight a few details on the frame. I am usually behind the camera chronicling the progress of the restoration but on this occasion Pietro picked up the camera to prove that I have actually done some of the work!

I dig out my licence to ride…

and proudly attach my proficiency badge prominently on the front of the rickshaw!


Friday 24th August 2018

It’s finished!

Then loaded up into the van to be transported to its appearance destination…


Saturday 25th August 2018

The big day has arrived!

Pietro abandons his usual rule (“I don’t ride it if it hasn’t got an engine”) and, in all his finery, proudly pedals our #1 daughter, Gina, and her new husband, Spencer, from the ceremony to the reception venue on their wedding day.

The Motori Di Marino rickshaw – available, by special arrangement, for weddings and more…

Rider by negotiation!










1 Comment

  1. Julie Olver says:

    Absolutely fantastic… Di Marino at their best!