Classic Micro and Bubble Cars
We love microcars and bubble cars because they look like something out of a sci-fi film. These small vehicles are bizarrely compact, and they boast of having wonderfully retro-futuristic designs. Once you see them, the image sticks with you for life! Most of these cars can only carry one passenger and the driver. They were mainly manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s. These three-wheelers were cheap, simple and easy to drive. They were promoted as fun, inexpensive cars that could be used in place of conventional vehicles. These vehicles might have been a short-lived craze, but there is no denying that they left an unforgettable mark in the automotive industry.
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Modern-day kids will be forgiven for thinking that this is a “giant” computer mouse. The old-timers will see it as a vintage fighter plane. This car represented the very worst and best of the microcar revolution when it was launched in 1952. The good news was that it was stunning to look at. It was inspired by the designs of the 1950s planes. The automaker was no longer making aircraft when it made the Messerschmitt KR175. The bad news was that it was surprisingly basic and almost-laughably unsafe. The car’s only pedal controlled the brakes and the windscreen wipers were manually operated. It did not come with a reverse gear.
All in all, it was a nice car to interact with. This mini car is now regarded as a classic; a collectors’ item. The Messerschmitt KR175 has surely earned its spot in the hall of fame because it was a pioneer of many crazy and fascinating microcars. The manufacturer only built 15,000 units.
12The Peel P50
According to Guinness, this is the smallest automobile ever built. It was produced between 1962 and 1965. It could be lifted by a reasonably-fit adult. Yes, it was light and as small as an ordinary desk chair. Everybody thought it was ridiculous right from the beginning. It was just short of being absurdly impractical. It came with one windscreen wiper, a single door, and a single headlamp. The P50 was a big flop although it was highly publicized. The Pell P50 couldn’t reverse, and it also had shaky frames. It was a hard sell in the 1960s, especially when compared to the tiny smart cars of modern-day London. The manufacturer only produced 50 units. Today, this vehicle is remembered with nostalgia and amusement; a bizarre retro classic.
11 Isetta ‘Bubble Car’
It was a real bubble car. In fact, you can be forgiven for thinking that it will burst at any moment! It was among the first cars to be referred to as a ‘bubble car.’ The Isetta ‘Bubble Car’ was a small metal mountain that came with bright colors. The BMW Isetta was the most famous version. It enjoyed its best days during the early 60s and late 50s, grooving around the streets of the United Kingdom and Germany. It was used for camping holidays because it had a front-opening door that could easily be attached to a tent. There was even a police version that was used in Germany; it must have been spectacularly unthreatening and adorable at the same time. At its peak, this vehicle was shockingly popular. The Isette sold more units than most bubble cars on this list, selling more than 160,000 units in 1955. Today, you are likely to see the remaining Isetta cars at car shows.
This one is the younger sibling of the Messerschmitt KR175. Just like its big brother, it was created by Fritz Fend; an aeronautical engineer. The Messerschmitt KR200 became an unexpected hit. It boasted being visually delightful, compact and powerful. This was the first Messerschmitt microcar that could reverse. It could hit 56mph at full speed. Some versions had shock absorbers, sun visor, and a heater. Its popularity saw it make more sales than its elder brother, dominating German roads between 1955 and 1964. Today, it is hard to find this vehicle anywhere.
This family microcar looks more like an “ordinary” car when compared to other microcars. It also goes by the name: Trojan 200. Although it had a cramped interior, it could accommodate a maximum of four people. The only way to enter or exit this car was by unhooking the front of the car. You had to scramble over the steering column and pedals to get out. It was hugely popular in South America, especially in Argentina.
This microcar was less compact when compared to others that followed it. It was designed in 1949 by a German journalist. It had an ordinary “American car” look. However, it still came with three wheels and a small frame. It was used in several parts of Europe. It was a cheap means of transport at a time when the continent was at war. The Fuldamobil laid the platform for more advanced bubble cars.
The Peel Trident must have been created by a genius who was high on crack. Most car experts place it among the worst cars of all times. It was first made in 1965. It is pointless, absurd and dumb! It is wonderfully impractical. It has a bright glossy red color and a pop-up top. Two people could fit inside, albeit uncomfortably. Its small wheels were barely visible. Just like most bubble cars, it was quite difficult to enter or exit the Peel Trident. To enter, you had to lift the whole top because it didn’t have a door. It comes as no surprise that the manufacturer only made 45 units of this car.
This one was delightfully unconventional. Also referred to as the Tiger, it was another Fritz Fend invention. It stood out from other bubble cars. Why? Well, that is because it came with four wheels. The FMR Tg500 had an awkward curved top and boxy base. It looked more like a strange beast than a car because of its goggling eye-like headlights and a long “tail.” The Tiger also came with a tandem seating arrangement that complemented its bizarre appearance. It could only carry a driver and one passenger, and lasted between 1958 and 1961, with only 320 examples made.
5The Bond Bug
This three-wheeled microcar was made in Britain by Tom Karen and lasted from 1970 to 1974. The Bond Bug could accommodate only two people. Reliant Motor Company owns it although Bond Cars Ltd started it and used a 750 cc engine. Reliant produced 2,270 units.
This one is a lightweight electric car that is manufactured by Citycom GmbH in Germany. It was originally made in Denmark and was designed by Steen Volmer Jensen. The CityEl rides on three wheels. It has a range of 70–90 km. Production began in 1987, and it continues to date. The power of this car comes from a lithium iron phosphate battery that offers 4.8 kWh. The curb weight is 210 – 280 kg.
3The Smart City Coupé
This microcar is definitely a classic although it might not belong to the “old school” class. Production of this car began in 1998. Its small stature helps it move with ease in crowded cities. It is also famous for its fuel-saving ability. It still borrows a lot from the 1950’s; it is colorful, small and curvy. In addition to all this, the Smart City Coupé is fun to drive.
The Berkeley T60 microcar came with an Excelsior Talisman engine that offered 328cc. It rode on three wheels. The T60 was very popular. In fact, 1,800 units had been made by 1960. Its popularity in the United Kingdom was partly because drivers were allowed to drive it on a motorcycle license.
Janus was the only car to be built by Zundapp. This German car was first made in 1957. It had two faces, like the Roman god, Janus. You could hardly differentiate its front from its rear. It also came with doors in the rear and the front. The Janus Zundapp has been featured as Professor Zundapp in the film “Cars 2”. It was a little more expensive than its rivals and it lacked many modern elements. Zundapp sold the company to Bosch in 1958 after giving up on the project.