Mattel X-15 Circa 1964

My first Recumbent
by Mark Matarella
1964 Mattel X-15

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Note: all photos can be clicked to see a larger image.

This is the 'recumbent' that started it all for me, a Mattel X-15 from about 1964. My folks bought me this in part because the bigger kids in the neighborhood were teasing me about being to6o small to ride a 'two wheeler' bike. Needless to say once I got it they (who were envious and begging to try it) weren't allowed to ride my X-15!

I placed a normal water bottle on the seat in the photo above so you could see just how small this trike is. The seat could be moved among several bolt holes. In these photos it's set all the way back!

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The name X-15 of course is borrowed from the NASA rocket plane of the period that set all sorts of speed and altitude records.

The Mattel X-15 is direct pedal drive to the front wheel.

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Steering is by rear wheels through a cantilevered A arm setup that banks the trike when you move the steering joystick. The further you move the stick the greater the bank. One amazing ride. The work 'Wicked' comes to mind. The banking increasing in proportion to the degree of turn helps keep one upright. Ha! This thing would flip quite easily at speed. Great fun though! I'm sure the lawyers would never let a product like this for kids make it to market today.

This is really a slick piece of engineering. The mechanics are simple but the geometry is very clever. One has to sit and move the joystick side to side watching the a arms to really appreciate it.

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My folks decided after watching me ride it down the hill in our backyard at what I suppose was an alarming speed and I guess rolling it a few times that a helmet was in order. Were they ahead of the times or what? Got the kid a bent and then a helmet, long before any bikers wore head gear. They found a cool little   helmet complete with helmet mounted headlights and some electronic noise makers.

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And for those who are wondering, the STP stickers and Batman sticker didn't come with it. ;-) Hey, I was about 5 years old whaddaya expect?

To save some email traffic, let me say now that I have no plans, technical drawings, of any idea where you could get one of these beauties. And no, mine is not for sale!

We purchased the X-15 at a department store called E.J. Korvettes. I never saw one in a store except that day. In fact I've only ever other seen one other in all these years. A couple of years ago I saw a very rusted one the Carlise Pennsylvania antique car show & sale.

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Those of you into recumbents that occasionally bring up the idea of rear steering now can see that there is indeed nothing new under the sun.

It is made of steel. Hardly any plastic at all. Very sturdy construction. I've included pairs of photos from the same angle with the steering centered and then at full lock

Here are some shots with steering centered and at left lock.

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Note the a arm wheel attachment. The top and bottom pivot of the a arm is inclined inward and back too.

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Again, centered steering and right lock. The joystick connect to a tube that runs under the frame, much like a driveshaft would. A bracket extends down from this tube and connecting rods attach from there to the a arms.

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To top it off you can slide a switch that engages a diaphragm noise maker with that famous 60's Mattel Motorific simulated engine noise. This gadget appeared on a number of the Mattel small toy trucks.

I was a lucky fellow to have the opportunity to get recumbency in my blood at such an early age. Thanks Mom & Dad!