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World's Smallest Cars


"QUANTUM SHOT" #251
Link - article by Avi Abrams



Bigger than your bike, smaller than your typical European parking space

A product of traffic & parking problems in high-density urban areas, small cars have a lot of redeeming qualities. They are endlessly practical, often cute and mostly easy on your wallet. While you'd need to sacrifice much of your space and comforts, you'll have a reward of being considered ecologically & street "smart". Some of the models can go 40 km per liter (100 miles per gallon), which is advertised as "almost cheaper than walking".

Of course soccer moms will still need vans and macho fathers will still need a Hummer statement, but if you live in the urban area, where parking space could cost you as much as $250,000 (link) - these little critters may be just for you. They certainly speak to our sense of esthetic and evoke a strong desire to hug them and pat them on the back.

This would be the first part of a series; let us know about other models and we'll include them later.

1954 Mivalino small car (truly rare find) - Italian Mi-Val motorcycle company's own version of the Messerschmitt KR-175:




(images credit: Microcar Museum)


(image credit: pic.dc.yesky)


Vintage Miniature Cars

This is a very rich collector's category, as there have been multitude of models produced in many countries. It seems the Fifties were the "boom" times for miniature cars. Many prototypes achieved mass production, but their popularity cooled off in the Sixties, and regretfully almost stopped in the Seventies, with compact Japanese imports effectively killing sub-compact market.

Smallest ever car to go into mass production was the fascinating "Peel" P50 car (you could almost carry it as a suitcase) - more info here.




(image credit: Peel Microcars)


(image credit: Rumcars)

Despite having only one light (of any kind) and 5-inch wheels, the car was nevertheless deemed street legal.


(image credit: Chris Littler, courtesy Peel Microcars)

"Top Gear" recently tested "Peel" car, while driving it to, and INSIDE, their office:



"Trident" model came in 1964, described as "a terrestrial flying saucer". Photos by kind permission of Andy Carter.






(images credit: Peel Microcars)

There are many good pictures of these cars on this page. You can even order an assembly kit for a "Peel" replica.

Brutsch 1958 "Mopetta" was another vintage vehicle that we like:




(image credit: Schowver-online)



At this point we'd like to refer you to the most interesting site: The Microcar Museum. It has loads of pictures and data on most microcar models, including Mopetta.

Here is a sample:
1955 Inter 175 A Berline -





1955 Fuji Cabin (Japan) -



1958 Zundapp Janus (Germany) -




(image credit: Microcar Museum)


Isetta, My Beloved

The most easily recognizable of all "bubble cars" of the vintage era, the Isetta evokes the feelings of sophisticated European romance like no other small-budget car. It was seen in many movies of the era, and was quite popular for many years and earned many names. French called it "yogurt pot", Germans "coffin on wheels" (apparently disdaining very little space inside), Italians "little eggs". Originally designed in Italy, Isetta was made by various manufacturers, namely ISO, Velam and BMW.



1957 Velam Isetta - quite rare version:




(images credit: Microcar Museum)


(images credit: Redspot.blogbugs)









The Isetta apparently had enough power in her to pull a trailer:



Isetta serving as a police vehicle? Why not, in the narrow streets of European towns it would come in very handy.





Trojan 200A from Heinkel (model from 1963) was a car similar to Isetta, but hyped as a better one; it did enjoy significant popularity with even stranger looking design:








(images credit: Microcar Museum)

We promise to publish more about Isetta and her clones in the future, as this little wonder on wheels seem to have captured the hearts of many collectors.

--------------

The Small, the Tiny and the Utterly Absurd

The smallest of all is probably this bike, made by "Honda". Can it be folded even further to fit into your laptop bag?



Amazingly, they thought of the same concept as far back as 1951 in the Soviet Russia. Here's proof:


(image credit: Tekhnika Molodezhi, 1951)

This is a modification of Polski "Fiat" - a swanky convertible.


(image credit: Strange Cosmos)

"Smart" car is everywhere these days. But have you seen "Smart"-based crane?



or "Smart"-based Jeep-like SUV...
The Crosstown Concept, shown at the 2005 Frankfurt show:



I personally have spotted a few "little ones" on the streets in Amsterdam:




(images credit: Avi Abrams)

A smorgasbord of small:
(we don't really know much about these models. If you have any info, send it in)
UPDATE: Thank you all for the comments, I updated the info.

Here's a Pasquali three-wheeled tandem two-seater from Italy:


(images credit: Redspot.blogbugs)







"Carver One", by the Dutch company Carver Engineering (see more here) -



Daihatsu Midget micro-truck:



Morgan Super Sport, circa 1932-34:


(image credit: pic.dc.yesky)

"Tri-Magnum", designed by Robert Q. Riley:


(image credit: pic.dc.yesky)




(this is a Milieu R made by the Japanese firm Takeoka. More info)



3-wheeled Ape, produced by Italian Piaggio company:


(images credit: Redspot.blogbugs)



2001 Corbin Sparrow (designed by Mike Corbin):



And a vision for the future - "Venture One" from "Fly the Road" project (click here)


(image credit: pic.dc.yesky)

The American infatuation with the large cars (see evidence here and here), introduced the idea of the "backseat romance", which could not be properly fulfilled in these little vehicles (with the notable exception of Mr. Bean, perhaps, who even mastered the art of fully changing his clothes while driving). Europe and Japan continue to manufacture sub-compacts, with very few of these models seen overseas. Nevertheless, world's ecological situation may dictate another set of rules for all motorists, and we'll see yet another "Golden Age" of micro and "bubble" cars.

CONTINUE TO NEXT PAGE ->


Even the smallest vehicle needs some auto parts and accessories. Go to AutoAnything and find Thule Racks or Tonneau covers for the lowest price around. And, whether you have a truck or the world's smallest vehicle, you can't go wrong with a Headrest Monitor.




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YOUR COMMENTS::

35 Comments:

Blogger Kyle said...

I've seen that Corbin Sparrow more than a few times around my house. Haven't seen it lately but a year or two ago I'd see it all the time on the way to school.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are battery operated cars made by an indian manufacturer called 'Reva' that seems to fit the 'small' bill:

http://www.revaindia.com/worldwidegallery.htm

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Blogger Pierluigi said...

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/126/332278624_ed3d7df65d.jpg

this one is Ape, 3wheels producted by Italian Piaggio.

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Anonymous tangle said...

Mr. Bean may be able to change his clothes and do other things in a bubble car but he has other challenges in the area of romance, I think.

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Blogger Tim said...

Thanks for the article, I love microcars.

In response to some of the pictures you have posted and were interested in more information:
The Mivalino small car you have pictured, I'm not sure if the ownership of the manufacturing rights on that car was just transferred over or not, but I've seen a very similar vehicle (if not the same thing, it's really, really close if not) as the Messerschmitt KR200.

The BMW Isetta: BMW also made a car very commonly mistaken as an Isetta known best as the "600 Limo" which basically was a 4-seater version of the Isetta with a slightly more powerful engine and a rear door.

under Smorgasborg of Small:
The yellow car with the trailer with flowers on it is also an Isetta.

The white truck looking thing with the "Yamamoto" tire cover is a Daihatsu Midget... personally I prefer the look of the Midgets through the 50's and 60's, when they were built with only 3 wheels.

The Corbin Sparrow is an interesting car, in that it's a 3-wheeled electric 1-seater vehicle that was created for the sole purpose of being a daily commuter car to/from work... the idea was that most people drive to work alone, and most of them drive under 30 miles each day, so why drive a gasoline car when you could just have something that would scoot you back and forth for next to nothing... they were used as the "goldmember" cars in Austin Powers 3... you'll find one for sale on ebay every now and again, but normally they need batteries replaced... fewer than 300 were made because Corbin Motors filed for bankruptcy, but the rights were sold to Myers Motors who re-released them in 2005 and is still producing them.

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Blogger KeithF said...

The 7th image down in the "Unknown" category is a Morgan Super Sport, circa 1932-34. I saw one puttering about when I was stationed in the UK back in the '80s. Everyone stopped to watch the thing go whizzing by. Looked like a fun car to own and operate.

Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgan_Motor_Company

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Anonymous Pete said...

The HM Freeway was produced in Minnesota in the '70's. The design philosophy was, "The average passenger load in a 'full-sized' car is 1.4 people. Let's build a car that will carry that many." ie; One adult and two bags of groceries. I test drove one. It was noisy but quick. The Crosley refrigerator people built a couple different sized models in the late '40's. The engines used a number of parts common with their refrigeration compressors and could be serviced by their existing mechanics.

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Blogger elve said...

That red vehicle in Amsterdam en the white one which comes two pictures later, are electrical vehicles for disabled and elderly people. They have a legal max. of 25km/h

Some other kind of micro-car is frequently seen on Dutch roads which is something like small Smart, but bigger then these electrical cars.
These latter vehicles have a petrol-engine, have a max. of 40km/h and you don't need a driver license for it.

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Anonymous sock.monkey said...

The car labeled "Tri-Magnum" was built from a set of plans sold by Mechanix Illustrated magazine in the early 1980s. The car was designed by Robert Q. Riley. It is based on a motorcycle drivetrain married to a Volkswagen front end. A web search will turn up a number of examples built by various individuals around the US. Mr. Riley has his own design firm and is presently working on a hybrid descendant of the Tri-Magnum.

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Blogger fenriss said...

the one in http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=1133522911&size=o

is called a carver, by Carver Engineering. You can see ab better shot of their tilt-vehicles at http://www.carver-engineering.com/, or you can go to http://flytheroad.com/ for a proposed hybrid variant by an American company.

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Blogger Maarten said...

One of these cars is the carver, a Dutch autombile. (link)
It has been tested by topgear, the video can be seen on youtube (link)
.
Enjoy

Maarten

I love this blog!

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Anonymous peach said...

Are any of these available in the U.S.A ?? How much do they cost?? Do they run on gas? What kind of mileage do they get? Where can I see them in person -are they legal in Missouri? I want to know more.

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Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Peach, looks like Corbin Sparrow and Smart car (in Canada) are the only ones available in North America.

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Blogger Scott said...

Peach (& Others) The Morgan Super Sport was produced in big numbers early on due to big tax credits offered at the time, but continued production through the 50's. They're good for freeway speed (70ish) stock, but most examples that you find today can go much faster. They've always been great club racers. They handle very well. I had a couple of friends with them in the San Francisco area and they come up for sale on eBay with some regularity.

My guess is that pretty much anything that canb be registered for the road in California can be registered anywhere in the U.S. (You can certainly register things here in Florida that aren't legal there).

You might want to look into one.

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Anonymous Andreas said...

The Norsjö Shopper was still quite common here in Sweden when I was growing up, at the end of the eighties. With an engine of less than 50cc, delivering a single horsepower, it was classified as a moped and could be driven without a license by anyone 15 or older. By that time it was mostly used by elderly ladies living in the countryside, though, except for a few that got in the way of the popular pastime of moped-tuning and got turned into three-wheeled deathtraps.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a lot of strange and small cars on http://www.kvadd.net

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Blogger haberb said...

What about the Nash Metropolitan or MG midget? Or are these too big in comparison?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the CityEl (www.cityel.de) an electric vehicle capable of transporting one adult and a child around 60-100 kilometres at up to 70 km/h depending on the model

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Subaru 360. It was about the size of the Isetta.
More cars here:

http://www.microcarmuseum.com/tourindex.html

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Anonymous Udo F. Doerge said...

Hi,

the BMW Isetta was not called by the Germans "Coffin on wheels". It was the Messerschmitt KR 175 and it was called "Schneewittchen Sarg" = Snow White's Coffin.

According to the fairytale Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs Snow White was buried in a glass coffin and the Isetta are hardly look like a coffin, but the Messerschmitt.

Anyhow great site.

Best regards

Udo Doerge

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgot the Eshelman :)
http://www.microcarmuseum.com/tour/eshelmanadultsport.html

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who like to view more New-Generation-Fun-Cars Infos, Videos & Fotos, look @

http://www.karts2rent.de/

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Anonymous Dester said...

Hungary had only ONE self-manufactured car called PULI:

http://www.bparchiv.hu/magyar/kiadvany/bpn/49_50/091.jpg

It has been manufactured in Hódmezővásárhely, which is by birth city.

More pictures and some modified models:
http://totalcar.hu/tesztek/haszon/szertartasko/

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Anonymous Dester said...

I forgot to say, that the Puli was RATHER small. :) It should have the place among the collection :)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do Google image search on "Goggomobil". Goggo's were very popular 4 wheel microcars from the 50's.

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Blogger Anders said...

You are missing the Danish batterypowered ultramini car, 'Ellert'.

http://www.ellert.info/

http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellert

It is still in production - now in Germany - under the name 'City El'.

http://www.cityel.de/

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Anonymous Saim Baig said...

These car are beautiful to watch.But not comfortable to use.I think they are just showpieces.

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Anonymous rajesh said...

With the fuel prices skyrocketing, we surely will have to use these small cars.The best cars are the ones which are fuel efficient and environment friendly.
http://www.latest-cars-in-the-world.blogspot.com

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Blogger Ryan said...

Is there like some sort of mini Toyota? I know there's the Aygo, but anything smaller? Such as the B.M? (This may sound weird, but I've seen Erkel [from "Family Matters"]drive a BMW lsetta), and I was wondering if there is a small car for a kid like me to legally drive. Leave any suggestions if u find any!
-------------------------------------
THIS MESSAGE GOES OUT TO THE PUBLIC

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Anonymous Euan said...

I'm amazed how famous the little Peel cars are, being from the Isle of Man - makes sense - a small city car for the smallest city there is. I'd love a little one of my own!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another comment about the Isetta: as Udo put it, it's the Messerschmitt that is called Schneewittchensarg.
The Isetta was called Knutschkugel, which means "snogging ball" according to wikipedia. I think you get the idea ;)

Best regards, Anonymous.

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Anonymous CrazyDriver said...

Nice post, I have a peugeot 206, my nieces smallest simplesy buggy doesnt fit in the boot, so i'll be changing when we are starting a family.

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Anonymous Joao Trindade said...

Hi! Great article!
Here's another one: Sado 550, a portuguese microcar sold in the '80s.
http://www.jcle.pt/sado550/sado550.htm

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Anonymous Mario said...

I wonder if you would include the Thundersley Invacar in this list! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thundersley_Invacar Now no longer seen on Britain's roads, it was a great source of amusement to us as youngsters, I have to confess.

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Anonymous David said...

That mavalino is so weird--why does it have that side crooked thing going on? I love the baby morgan, though. how cute!

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