These Glorious Three-Wheeled Microcars

Link - article by Avi Abrams

Miniature Three-Wheelers! (Who Needs an Extra Wheel?)

We are continuing with our long-popular series Adorable Micro Cars, only this time we are highlighting little cute vehicles with three wheels only. It seems there was a smorgasbord of these wonderful mechanical wonders in the 1950s and early 1960s - "all you can eat" cuteness! - so that even the new term of invented to describe them: "bubble cars" (we wrote about some of them previously).

Colored in all shades of a jelly bean, and looking like a retro-chick automotive candy, these lovely three-wheelers are highly desirable catch for collectors today - you will see plenty of them on this page, but this is by no means a comprehensive catalog; we're sure there are some rare models not included in our roundup. Plus, the early history of three-wheelers is no less illustrious and fascinating, and merits its own article; after all, the very first automobile was a three-wheeler (Benz Patent Motorwagen in 1886)!

(Messerschmitt KR200 Super Record Car 1955 - image via)

(left: the Allard Clipper microcar (1953); right: Scootacar - images via)

(BMW Isetta microcar models)

Let's start with classic European (mostly German) 1950s models, lovingly called "bubblecars". German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt was forbidden making airplanes after World War two, so they started making the next best thing - cute little 1953 Messerschmitt KR175 with aircraft-styled cowl top instead of normal doors and wildly unusual looks. These Kabinenrollers, or “cabin scooters" models proved very popular - more than 15,000 were built throughout the 1950s:

These cars had plenty of style: check out different cool possibilities of attaching your luggage:

(right image via)

1951 Hoffmann (designed by Munich engineer M. Hoffmann) features rear-wheel steering (when the entire motor is attached to the rear wheel and rotates together with it):

(images via 1, 2)

From the rear this car looks like a miniature bus, with the extra-width required to house the whole unusual wheel-motor assembly (which made the whole car very unstable and a nightmare to drive):

(images via 1, 2)

Another "kabine"-style car from Germany was Heinkel Kabine 175 (Typ 153):

(image via)

Here is a truly awesome three-wheeled bubblecar from France: 1956 Avolette Record De Luxe, seen at Microcar Museum in Madison, Georgia:

(image credit: Robert Elzey)

The fiberglass "bubble" canopy here is pretty unique: two egg-shaped plastic shells, tied by a strip in the middle. This car sold for almost $80,000 at the RM auction recently - info.

BMW has never made anything stranger and (some say) as "hip" as Isetta

Isetta! This marvelous BMW offering from the heady super-stylish 1950s was equally good in auto racing (check out this rally pic on the left) and good for weddings (see right):

(images via)

Here is the 1961 Isetta 300 Pickup! -

(image via)

Left: 1955 Fuji Cabin... on the right is the 1959 Scootacar MK I:

(right image credit: Darin Schnabel)

Left: Another look at 1955 Fuji Cabin, unveiled at the 1955 Tokyo Motor Show (marketed as a weather-proof scooter). Right: 1962 Trojan 200, based on the German Heinkel-l:

(images via)

Designed by Egon Brusch, the Rollera (below left) was built in France by a company called Societe Rollera Francaise. Here is how the auction (where this car was sold for $50,000) describes this model: "This car is one of only three known to survive. It had been used, for a time, as a children's sandbox toy." Oh boy! -

(images via)

Right image above is the British Frisky Family Three from 1959.

Below left - 1955 Inter 175A Berline with its inimitable aeronautic lines, build not surprisingly by the National Aeronautic Society of Northern France. On the right is the 1951 Reyonnah:

(images via)

Below left: 1956 Paul Vallee. On the right is a beetle-like curvy 1956 Fuldamobil S-6 from Germany:

(images via)

Here is one of many Fuldamobile's variations: "Bambino M" -

(images via)

More Fuldamobiles, including an interesting Attica, produced under license in Greece:

(image via)

1949 DAF-kini from the Netherlands (below, left) and a somewhat mysterious Scootmobile, shown under it, are extremely rare today. Here is some info we could find about Scootmobile: "Scoot-Mobile will go 75 miles on a gallon of gas and 40 miles per hour, according to its designer and inventor, Norman Anderson (at left of group), of Corunna, Michigan. He hopes to market the vehicle - made mostly from airplane parts - for $350. It has automatic shift, knee action and brakes on all three wheels":

(images via 1, 2)

Right image above: this is the ELECTRIC! microcar from 1941 - the Pierre Fauré’s Electra. And now we come to British microcar examples; in the 1950s many such cars has only three wheels fro a good reason - it which allowed to qualify for lower British road taxes.

Allard Clipper, Great Britain, 1954

This three-wheeled microcar not only looked fantastic, but was also functional in its own unique way: two kids could ride in the trunk; it did not need any runway or airplane fuel, and it came complete with the pilot goggles (just kidding). It is also almost extinct: only two cars exist today - one in a German museum and one in England:

(images via 1, 2)

This British prototype "Peardrop" car from 1952 was designed by Victor Bouffort, who also worked for Brütsch Avolette... looks like this car is very easy to park, especially if you need quick parallel parking (watch video):

1960 Berkely T-60 three-wheeled convertible (I simply love its sinuous shape):

(images via)

The Griffin Three-wheelers: Streamlined Wonders of the Art Deco Age

R. H. Griffin’s 1930 three-wheeler looks somewhat like a boat (Griffin was a boat builder from San Diego) and even has an oak-wood frame - with a single door located at the very front, very Isetta-like:

(image via)

Japanese Three-Wheeler Mini-Trucks

These were very widespread in Asia in the 1950s, with many companies producing similar-looking vehicles. Here is one from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, LTD - 1959:

(images via)

Mazda K360 (left image below) - Mazda made one of the first three-wheeler trucks back in 1931, the "Mazdago". It was probably the first auto-rickshaw in Asia, with tons of imitators flooding the Asian streets ever since:

(left image via)

Tuk Tuk Thailand taxis, or rather "auto-rickshaws" are pretty ubiquous, cheap and tough as nails:

(top image credit: Serge Markin)

Russia had its own three-wheeler minitruck concept, called "Chizh" (Little Birdie):

(on the right is another Russian three-wheel minicar concept from the 1960s)

Three-whelled tug seen at the Sandbach Transport Festival in 2010 (left image); on the right is the 1935 Model “Y” Tug and Allan Taylor tractor (a three-wheeled ‘mechanical horse’, marketed by the Ford Motor Company - only 111 vehicles were manufactured):

(image credit: Richard Hovey, 2)

The Thompson Mk Vc Aircraft Fueller can be seen at the Yorkshire Air Museum: "it is is a small three-wheeled, airfield-based refuelling vehicle, powered by a Ford 10hp petrol engine... The three-wheeled, low slung design made it easier to get close to aircraft for refuelling":

(image credit: The Yorkshire Air Museum)

Rarities of the Three-Wheeled Micro Kind

German World War II truck: Goliath (1930 - 1950) was hardly a rarity in its day, but is pretty hard-to-find in working condition today:

Another German fascinating microcar is Tempo (making Matador and Hanseat micro-trucks since 1924). These cars are quite collectible and rare nowadays:

(more info, image via)

1948 Davis Divan (more info) - beautiful aerodynamic shape (claimed top speed - 116 miles per hour) -

(right image credit: Jim Inman)

H-M (High Mileage) "Freeway" car from Minnesota, 1979:

(image credit: Tim Lynch)

Pete says: "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" - one adult and two bags of groceries. I test drove one. It was noisy but quick".

The British Bond Bug (from Ogle Design) has nothing to do with Agent 007, which is a pity:

(left image credit: Tim Lynch)

Blackjack AvionOnly 66 Avions were ever built, using a 1988 Citron 2CV engine and base (manufactured at Helston in Cornwall):

(images credit: madabout-kitcars)

De Carlo 200 Minicar from Argentina looks exactly like a toy plastic car:

(images via)

1975 Mini-Comtesse and 1979 Mini-Comtesse Break, France:

Microbe! and Alta 200 from Greece:

Another mini-car? truck? scooter? from Greece: Delta Minitriadi, 1968 (left) and Mitsuoka BUBU Shuttle 50 from Japan (right):

(images via)

On the DIY front, here is a bizarre recent one called Moonbeam, which will give you 100mpg - more info

(image via)

More contemporary is the German CityEL mini electric car project, introducing a vehicle capable of transporting one adult and a child around 60-100 kilometers at up to 70 km/h depending on the model:

Finally, here is the "L'Oeuf Electrique" (French for "The Electric Egg") chrome bubble car, possibly designed by Paul Arzens; it would look great in some futuristic spy movie! -

And now, perhaps the weirdest, is this homemade three-wheel car using an aircraft fuselage style, from 1934:

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.




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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you missed one .....


Anonymous Max said...

I do appreciate the nostalgic feel of these contraptions, but myself I'm much more attracted to contemporary TILTING 3-wheeled vehicles (like the much regretted Carver One)...

Anonymous Dave said...

You can still buy a Morgan 3 wheeler

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your blog! Not to nitpick, but I think an article about micro 3 wheelers ought to include the Piaggio Ape (Bee), which has been in production since 1946 (although since 2013 production has been transferred by Piaggio to India).

Anyway, all that aside I really do appreciate the work you put into your articles. These are quality collections of interesting images.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are there plenty of four-wheeled cars amongst those 'glorious three-wheeled microcars'?
I spot at least 11 four-wheeled cars

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a Morgan three wheeler on the DC Beltway last month.

Blogger Skipweasel said...

I've got a Blackjack Avion. Or at least, I will have when I finish it!


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