Tuesday September 20, 2016
Written by Andy Roberts.
The Magnificent Seven Microcars... Or, a wholly and utterly subjective list of my very favourite microcars – all very different and all with industrial levels of charm!:
Heinkel Cabin Cruiser/Trojan 200 1956-1966: In 1956 the Heinkel Cabin Cruiser offered the bold motorist a ‘swing front door’ of the type that permitted ‘elegant entry and exit’, and a 56 mph top speed, while the 100 mpg fuel economy offered, according to the advertisements, ‘Motoring almost as cheap as breathing!’. And the price of just £398 15s even included a heater!
BMW Isetta 1955-1962: Possibly the archetypal bubble car with its distinctive lines and universally jointed steering column attached to the front door. A learner driver could pilot an Isetta unaccompanied, providing that the reverse gear was blanked off as this classified the BMW as a ‘motorcycle-sidecar combination’. Should they forget this and drive straight into their garage, there was always the sunroof/escape hatch.
Zundapp Janus 1957-1958: The Janus was certainly unorthodox but it did not lack for sophistication with its MacPherson suspension, a 12-volt electrical system, four-speed transmission and rack and pinion steering. The 245cc motor was centrally mounted and both rows of seats could be folded to make a double bed. Best of all, to afford a degree of extra comfort to the sleeping occupants, the steering wheel was detachable!
Messerschmitt KR200 1955 - 1964: The ‘Cabin Scooter’ was not the ideal family transport – although two very small and uncomplaining passengers could sit, tandem style, behind the driver - but as a form of motorised roller skate with a top speed of 62 mph it had few equals. The Kabrio, with its folding hood, was especially delightful and all models were now fitted with the luxury of shock absorbers.
Peel P50 1962- 1965: A less than blistering 49cc power plant, a top speed of 37 mph and seating for one– all for a mere £199. According to the Peel Engineering Company of the Isle of Man, this made the P50 ‘almost cheaper than walking’ and at just 50 inches long the P50 was certainly easy to park. As for motoring per se, the very thought of the Peel dodging between Routemasters and FX4 taxis is, frankly, terrifying.
Reliant Regal 3/25 & 3/30 1962- 1973: It is often forgotten that when Only Fools and Horses commenced transmission in 1981 there really were any number of small traders who used the Regal Supervan. For many, the ultimate version is not the light commercials but the 21E with, you’ve guessed it, 21 extras as standard – after all, what self-respecting Reliant 3-wheeler would be complete without a steering wheel cover in simulated black leather?
Bond Bug 1970-1974: A long time age, in a galaxy far far away a future Jedi warrior cruised the bleak deserts in a vehicle based on a Tamworth built orange three wheeler. Cinema is the art of smoke and mirrors and the fact that the Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder is derived from the Bond Bug is no more surprising that Darth Vader actually sounding like an irate Bristolian farmer.