Many people associate the Corgi with the Welbike of World War II fame, and they are right, to a point. Others make the mistake of thinking they are the same machine, (possibly encouraged by the large number of Corgis painted in military green) but that isn't the case.
The Welbike was the brainchild of Harry Lester, a worker at 'The Frythe' near Welwyn in Hertfordshire, the R&D section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Originally conceived as a means of transport for SOE agents in occupied Europe, the Welbike was designed to be dropped from allied aircraft by parachute, in a special container with a diameter of just 15 inches, hence the collapsible seat and handlebars. It was powered by a two-stroke Villiers Junior Deluxe engine, of 98cc capacity and weighed just 32 kilograms. Manufactured by the Excelsior Motor Company of Birmingham in 1942 and 1943 a total of 3853 Welbikes were produced in two marks.
The Frythe R&D establishment was commanded by a Colonel John Dolphin, who after the war established an engineering company. One of his first projects was to make the Welbike acceptable for a civillian market, one which he saw potential in given the desire for cheap personal transport in post war Britain. He partnered with John Brockhouse of Brockhouse and Co and manufactured the Corgi at the Brockhouse factory on Rufford Road in Southport, Merseyside.
The prototype was unveiled in March 1946 and had significant differences to the Welbike. These included; a conventional gravity fed fuel tank, Excelsior Spryt engine, mudguards, front and rear brakes and lights. Although the seat and handlebars still folded flat, this was essentially a brand new machine.
Three marks of Corgi (I, II and IV) were made by Brockhouse from 1947 to 1954 with many being exported, including to the USA where it was known as the Indian Papoose. In total over 24,500 Corgis were built.