November 1998, Neil Selwood and Chris Parker rent a 1000 sq. ft. industrial unit. As they move all their tools benches and other assorted equipment into the unit they start to wonder why they took on somewhere so big, maybe they will grow into it!
As January 1999 dawned, Neil and Chris were ready to start assembling and delivering the first batch of trikes. But where were the frames? Delivery had been scheduled for December from an order placed by Crystal Engineering. Frantic phone calls resulted in no frames. Patience broke and Neil jumped into a car and drove 300 miles to the factory where the frames were being made. No frames were found and there seemed little urgency to start work on them, so Neil loaded the materials, drawings and jigs into the back of his car and drove back home.
There followed a quick rewrite of the business plan which now required all frames to be built in house. This would mean there was less time for the planned research and development of a range of machines but it would guarantee the ability to deliver trikes. It is only the delivery of trikes that brings money in and they had invested a lot. Wages through this first year were almost non-existent. Neil worked for nothing and Chris took out only enough to cover his living expenses for the caravan (trailer) in which he, his wife and soon expected baby needed to survive.
Payment came in the form of the thrill of living the dream of being a recumbent manufacturer. 12 hour days were normal in the workshop, 16 hours at the bench was not uncommon. Design development went ahead at a pace in between work and sleep.
Within a month machines had started to leave the building. The first 10 machines had all been delivered by the end of the second month and designs were ready to build the first prototype for a lower faster trike, the “XL”; Neil’s smile after his first ride said it was a great success, and within another month, Chris and his new born son, Tim, were testing a higher seated trike aimed at touring, the “Explorer”; Tim’s smile said it was another winner.
Over the following months many of the new trikes were delivered and Chris’ Dutch friend Jaap came over for the summer to help Tim and Chris design a tandem. Before the end of the summer Tim now 5 months old, was overseeing testing.
ICE was rolling…. it had been a massive effort and much more hard work was to follow but the future was looking exciting.