More Lovely Microcars

Link - article by Avi Abrams

World's Smallest Vehicles: Some Are Ugly, Some Are Cute, All Are Fondly Remembered

As today's economy continues to shake and stagger, most people find themselves in the "savings" and "fuel efficiency" mode when it comes to cars - and so the idea of microcars, easy to park and to maintain, remains quite popular. Even from purely design viewpoint (and considering their collector's value) these cars can possess more cuteness and nostalgia factor than your most favorite childhood toys. Just like a well-worn toy teddy bear, they are extremely cuddly and adorable.

Some of these models provoke immediate "love it" or "hate it" response... Enjoy this collection and do not miss Part 1 and Part 2 of this popular series.

Small is Timeless

The idea of small mass-produced cars dates back to the 1910s (see for example this 1920s article) -

But few would argue that the "Golden Age" of such cars arrived right after World War II, bringing with it "bubble"-licious designs: here is the entirely aluminum-bodied aerodynamic 1946 Hewson Rocket designed by William Hewson and built by Coachcraft; seen at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee -

(image credit: DaveSeven)

Rare Japanese Microcars

Here is a little bit of Japanese cuteness - a smiling Subaru 360 (1970):

(left image via)

This model was first introduced in Japan in 1958 and even "offically" imported to the U.S. in 1968 by Malcolm Bricklin (almost none were sold in subsequent three years, though)

Here is another smiling creature: the "Fram King"

(image credit: tucker48fan)

Mazda R360 remained quite popular in Japan for the duration of the 1960s. Here is the 1961 and 1964 "Coupe" models:

(images via 1, 2)

This is a weird little one: built in 1961 by the Aichi Machine Industry Co., Ltd. as "Djiyaianto Coney 360":

(image via)

Cony models (including the popular Cony 360 pickup truck) were built by Aichi Machine Co. from 1943 to 1965 (the company was then acquired by Nissan) - it has a strange appearance, as though somebody squeezed it width-wise in Photoshop!

On the right you can see even more ridiculous-looking "Cony Guppy":

(image via)

Here is Toyota Sports 800:

And 1969 Mazda Carol P360 Deluxe Automatic:

Miniature trucks were very popular in Japan and other Asian countries in the 1960s, with some remaining in use to this very day. Here is Suzuki from 1965 -

(image via)

Suzuki Suzulight Carry -

Hre is somewhat strange-looking van, "Subaru Sambar-van" from 1961, made by Fuji Heavy Industries, LTD:

More modern varieties of mini-trucks: Daihatsu Midget models:

This Daihatsu Midget II is customized to resemble a Citroen WW2 military vehicle:

More recent concept of a minitruck - Nissan Snail (Escargot):

Nissan Figaro from 1991 had some sophisticated roof retraction mechanism:

(image via)

Italian microcars cannot be ignored, as they include the widely popular Fiat 500 model:

(image credit: Thomas Lamp)

Italian Vespa company made not only the famous scooters, but also cars (1958):

(image via)

FIAT 600 Multipla (1960) was one of the smallest vans ever. It was also a perfect taxi vehicle:

(images credit: microcarmuseum)

FIAT 600 and FIAT 500 (produced in many countries, including Russia, as "Zaporozhetz") has pretty recognizable shape worldwide:

(image credit: digilander.libero.it)

As "Zaporozhetz", though, they usually suffered a miserable death and can be still spotted as rusted hulks on many Russian streets:

(left: photo by Nina and Roman Reznichenko)

Speaking of modern Italian small and micro cars, this example from Lancia looks pretty inviting and classy:

(image via)

Rare Vintage British Microcars

Austin A-30 from 1964 has a group of devoted followers and a fan club even now:

(left image via; right via)

Want a small pickup truck? Austin A-35 fits the bill:

(image via)

The incomparably ugly "The Bond Car"! -

In Germany, the Google-mobil....er, no - Goggomobil from Bavaria (more info) has been produced in many variations and remained popular throughout the 1960s:

(top image credit: Ritzsite; left image via; unknown car on the right)

Hungary produced many cute/ugly models of microcars in the 1950s. Here is Alba Regia (left) and Balaton (right), 1956:

(bottom left: 1954 prototype Uttoro; bottom right: Alba Regia)

Is this car frowning? is it grumpy? "Balaton", again:

How many people fit in the car on the left? You must be kidding me:

(image via)

What about U.S. - any microcars there?

well, here is a very attractive Crosley convertible from 1947:

(images via)

There was also Crosley station wagon, Crosley "Scorpion", 1952:

... and even Crosley Little Chief fire truck (1950):

(images via)

Here is a strange one: Crosley Car, 1948:

(image credit: Consumer Reports)

Another strange one: the "Commuter Vehicle" from Florida looks like a prop from some sci-fi B-movie:

Rare microcars from other countries

Variations of Goggomobile, Spain:

(images via)

Dinarg D-200, also from Argentina, has somewhat haughty and slightly stuck-up demeanor. This model is from 1962:

(images via)

NSU Prinz I, II, III and 30 - from Argentina:

(images via)

NSU Prinz 4 shown below is better known to Russian people as the "New Zaporozhetz" ZAZ-966 - another example of "swiped" design by Soviet automakers (they also used some design cues from Chevrolet Corvair):

(left: NSU, via - right: ZAZ, Russia)

NSU Wankel Spider sported some pleasant lines, even though it was really tiny:

Marathon Corsair had style, too:

Then there were micro cars, small concept cars and hot rods that defied characterization. Some of them were designed by George Barris (known as the King of Kustomizers), or Ed Roth, and looked like something from Hot Wheels back catalog:

(images via)

("Orbitron", by Ed Roth, more info)

And we can't forget the sinister "Hannibal" car from the 1965 movie "The Great Race", full of James Bond-worthy tricky gadgetry:

more info here

Small Cars in Vintage Rally Competitions

Microcars were ideally suited for narrow European roads... and immensely photogenic:

(model of Simca 1000 Rallye 2, Rali de Monte Carlo 1973, via)

(Mini at Monte Carlo Rally, via)

Racing micro-cars seems like fun!

(image via)

Lorenzo Quinn's "Vroom Vroom" sculpture in London uses a vintage Fiat 500:

(image via)

Microcars are often used in advertising:

This kind of paint scheme emphasizes how small Smart Car really is - same length as a motorcycle! - Smart Car Vehicle Wraps

And finally, here are some visions for the future of microcars by legendary designer Syd Mead:

(From Syd Mead's book "Sentinel", via)

We all know (or at least we can hope) that there'll come a time when almost everybody would drive - and prefer to drive! - a downsized economical automobile that would also be comfortable and make a lot of sense to own. Until then, we can only look in faint amusement on some of these cute models... and then jump into a supercharged huge truck to pick up groceries a few blocks away.

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.




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Anonymous Anonymous said...

they are little yet so great machines of mankind and should be reinvented in a new manner for the future. Also check http://www.microcarmuseum.com

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's zaz-968 on the picture with NSU

Zaz-966 had 'ears' -- air intakes.

Also, "can be still spotted as rusted hulks on many Russian streets" is definitely not true, they were not built in that large quantities : only 322 166 were built. You can encounter some in rural areas, but usually they were scrapped quite long time ago.

And finally ZAZ 965-966-968 shared engine and some transmission with military amphibious micro-car LuAZ 967 "ТПК" (Front-Line transporter).

Blogger Dr. Iccapot said...

The yellowish car, on the right of the "Goggomobil", is the italian FIAT 500 Topolino (perhaps the 1949 model C). See it here: http://www.netcarshow.com/fiat/1949-topolino_500_c/
More on Wikipedia: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_500_%22Topolino%22

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Dr Iccapot, I was wondering what that car was since it looked so different to the other Goggomobil pictures.

Anonymous Jim-Bob said...

There are quite a few errors in this article! The ZAZ-965 is NOT a copy of the Fiat 600! It shares some of it's styling, but underneath it shares more in common with a VW Beetle than a Fiat. It also uses a V4 instead of Fiat's inline twin. This is also true of all cars sold by ZAZ. As far as the Nissan "Snail" is concerned, it's actually called the "S-Cargo". It's an homage to the Citroen 2CV Camionette and was part of a series of retro themed cars based on the Micra chassis that also included the Figaro, Pao (loosely based on the Renault 4) and BE-1 (loosely based on the original Mini).

The 360 designation in the Japanese cars means they were keijidohsa (or Kei) class cars. That was the limit in engine displacement (in CC's) of the kei car specs used by the Japanese government. Keis are still made today and are a very popular class of car in Japan today. However, newer ones are allowed to have up to 660ccs of displacement.

Blogger zhochaka said...

The photos of Mini Coopers in the Monte Carlo Rally maybe hide that it wasn't quite a micro car. And Mini Coopers won the Rally several times.

There's a spectrum, and Americans are used to big cars.

The reinvented Mini, manufactured by BMW, is wider-tracked than a Land Rover.

Blogger Boo Long said...

Zaporozhets were not copies of Fiat 600 or NSU!
They are an original design with V4 air cooled engine and front suspension similar to the VW Beetle.
Nothing is shared with the Fiat or the NSU apart from rather similar looks. (Fiat was a watercooled straight 4 and NSU a transverse OHC straight 4)
Oh and they're not Russian, they're Ukrainian.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the cool pics! I found this site while looking for information about a car that looks like a zaz 986 but the front logo has the number 896 preceded by what might be an phonetic character that could be a stylized letter w.
I will be happy to share the pics with site owner or admin.
By the way I live in Tbilisi. locals often refer to things made in "soviet times" as Russian not matter where it was made. They all know the Volga plants were in Ukraine and they will tell you the car was made in Ukraine but they will still call it a Russian car. They also refer to things made in Georgia during "soviet times" as Russian.
Please don't ask me questions about the OHC-air-and-water-cooled-thingy ... I am not a motor head and I won't know the answer.
UPDATE! it is a M986 with the front name plate flipped top to bottom ... mystery solved before I posted.

Blogger Domitype said...

The Daihatsu made to look a bit like a Citroen is interesting, but the HY it resembles was not produced until after WW2, 1947.


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