Posts Tagged ‘Microcars’

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In the first half of 1932, Wilhelm Gutbrod, the President of the Standard Fahrzeugfabrik, came into contact with German engineer Josef Ganz. Ganz had been working on a small car design since the early 1920s and had so far built two prototypes, one for Ardie in 1930 and one for Adler in 1931, called the Maikäfer (May Beetle). After a demonstration with the Maikäfer by Ganz, Gutbrod was most interested to build a small car according to this design. The Standard Fahrzeugfabrik then purchased a license from Ganz to develop and build a small car according to his design. The prototype of this new model, which was to be called Standard Superior, was finished in 1932. It featured a tubular chassis, a mid-mounted engine, and independent wheel suspension with swing-axles at the rear.

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The first production model of the Standard Superior was introduced at the IAMA (Internationale Automobil- und Motorradausstellung) in Berlin in February 1933. It had a transverse 396cc, two-cylinder, two-stroke engine mounted in front of the rear axle. Because of some criticism to the body design, not in the least by Josef Ganz in Motor-Kritik, it was followed in April 1933 by a slightly altered model.

In November 1933 the Standard Fahrzeugfabrik introduced yet another new and improved model for 1934, which was slightly longer with one additional window on each side and had a small seat for children or as luggage space in the back. This car was advertised as the German "Volkswagen" (a term that means, literally, "people’s car" in German.

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The Volkswagen Beetle connection

With the Ardie-Ganz, Adler Maikäfer and Standard Superior cars, as well as his progressive writings and promotion of the concept of a Volkswagen (people’s car) in Motor-Kritik magazine since the 1920s, Josef Ganz is claimed by some to have had input into the Volkswagen Beetle. These cars had some of features of the later Volkswagen Beetle, such as the tubular chassis, rear-mounted engine and independent wheel suspension with swing axles. While the Volkswagen Beetle was produced in its millions after World War Two, the name of Josef Ganz was largely forgotten. In 2004, Dutch journalist Paul Schilperoord started researching the life and work of Josef Ganz, and in 2011 he published The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz: The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler’s Volkswagen.

Text from Wikipedia

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In August 1959, Mr C. J. Wright a Wolverhampton business man with garage and haulage interests, bought the stock, jigs, tools, fixtures and fittings, along with the rights to manufacture and the trade name of Frisky from the Official Receiver. He formed a new company Frisky Cars (1959) Ltd. and he and E F Wright became directors. A Mr G A Stuart was made general Manager. The 753_frisky_02company announced that they hoped to restart production in September at Fallings Park with a target of 30 three-wheeled cars a week, also that a deluxe version would follow and that it was hoped the Friskysprint would be built later. Also announced was the intention to build a new production plant on a 30-acre (120,000 m2) site in Penkridge but this never happened.

In September 1959 a new version of the Family Three was announced. The Frisky Family Three Mk2, dropped the MacPherson strut front suspension of the original car replacing it with the Dubonnet system used on the Friskysport. The chassis was lengthened to allow the engine to be moved back out of the cabin and it was now offered with the choice of either a 250 cc (15 cu in) or 328 cc (20.0 cu in) Excelsior Talisman twin engines giving the advantage of an Albion gearbox with a true reverse gear. Twin front seats replaced the original bench seats and production commenced in early 1960.

753_frisky_04In October 1960, a new model, The Frisky Prince was shown at the Earls Court Motor Show. This was basically a re-bodied Family Three with front hung doors. Around the same time, a deal was done with a company called Middlesbrough Motorcraft and kits to build your own Frisky became available from them. Anthony Brindle, who had become joint managing director of Frisky Cars took part in a publicity run attempting to visit five European capitals, Paris, Luxembourg, Brussels, Amsterdam and London not spending more than £5 on fuel.

A four-wheel version of the Prince was announced for 1961 but never reached production.

Text from Wikipedia

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In 1945, Hermann Holbein, a former development engineer for BMW, recovered his beloved BMW 327 sports car from the haystack where it had been interned and reluctantly gave it up to an American GI in trade for an Opel-Blitz army truck. He made a lucrative business out of picking up scrap metal and transporting various materials into a devastated country bent on cleaning up. He picked up a scrap BMW 328, rebuilt it, and Holbein made a name for himself as a successful racing driver for the next three years.

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Racing did not pay the bills, however, and he resolved to fill the post-war need for a small car, which he would design and sell the production rights to. A chance meeting with an old acquaintance, engineer Albert Maier of the gear-making firm ZF, brought together their individual interest in building a small car. In fact, Maier had already built a very basic open roadster with the backing of the ZF Company. In January 1949, Holbein came to a licensing agreement with ZF to build the car, raising the money by selling his three racing cars and two trucks. It would be called the Champion, with a nod to Holbein’s racing successes.

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Holbein and Maier saw the need for the development of the little car and worked out the design for a custom transaxle driving the rear wheels and incorporating inboard brakes. Meanwhile, the prototype used an Irus lawnmower gearbox. The new, stylish, aluminum body was found to be too expensive to make, so Holbein modeled a simpler body in clay, and his racing mechanic built it using a bent flat sheet and motorcycle fenders. Aluminum discs hid the tall wire wheels’ humble motorcycle origins. There was a single “Cyclops” headlight, and the 198-cubic centimeter Triumph motor, along with its cylindrical fuel tank, sat nakedly out in the open on the tail. It was called Champion CH-1, and it made its debut at the Reutlingen show in April 1949. Orders flooded in, but the vehicle was not yet ready.

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Development continued, and companies that could supply parts had to be found. The Hörz Company in Ulm made large clocks for clock towers, and they agreed to make the transaxles. The new ZF transaxle was incorporated into the two upgraded CH-2 prototypes, along with a new Triumph 248-cubic centimeter motor used as a stationary engine in farm applications, which was now under a louvered cover. Bosch in Stuttgart supplied the generators, Continental in Hannover supplied the tires, Schleicher in Munich supplied the hubs, and Hella in Lippstadt supplied the lamps. Former aircraft builder Böbel had a press, and they agreed to do the body shells.

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Production of the CH-2 got underway, and the press was enthusiastic about the new, small roadster. The first cars made it clear that the transaxle was not up to the job. The Hörz people refused responsibility, but ZF stepped in to help. In addition, teething problems with breaking in the front and rear suspension elements caused Holbein to take the drastic action of recalling all cars sold to date and refurbishing and upgrading the chassis to the latest specifications. The public’s faith in the new car was not shaken.

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The CH-2 became the CH-250 in March 1950, with a new twin-piston motor, a split windshield, bumpers, and smaller wheels. This model would lead to the charming Champion 400 coupe and eventually to the Maico 500 sedan. Perhaps two of these CH-2 cars exist worldwide. The bare metal bodywork of this exceptionally rare car was completely remade by a master metalworker, and it was restored by the museum’s in-house staff; it runs and drives just as well as it looks.

Text and images from RMauctions

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Micro car made in Argentina under the protective ‘Second Five Years Plan’ carried out during the second term of Juan Domingo Peron.

It was a small affordable car for two adults and two children. Low in maintenance costs and fuel consumption. About 200 cars were made.

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These cars were shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1959 and this brochure may have come from that show. Built in France by Vantung Ngo’s Union Industrielle. The red car was built after the auto show. There was some interest as a result of this showing, but financing for production was not secured, so the planned 5000 cars a year never got past one.





Text and images found on one of hugo90’s albums on Flickr

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Only a single Tri-Car Surburbanette was built and shown at the Universal Travel & Auto Sports Show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, held February 20-27, 1955. There were discussions of two others: one with a transparent panel above the seating area and a second with a removable fabric. The car had a rear 30 hp engine and drove around 17 km per liter of gasoline. The top speed was said to be 110 kmh. The car was built by Tri Car Corp. of Wheatland, Pennsylvania. This company also tried to market the three-wheelers Trivan, Bassons Stationette and the Roustabout Jeep.

Image and text found on mrscharroo’s Flickr account

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Originally called Bianchi and founded in 1899, the company made vehicles for 56 years – big cars, tanks (during the war) and, from 1939, trucks with Mercedes engines. Bianchi was based in Milan. In January 1955 it merged with Pirelli and Fiat to become Autobianchi SpA and produce Fiat 500-based small cars. The attractively-styled Bianchina Transformabile made its debut in September 1957 in Milan.

In 1958 it was given a stronger engine and became available as a saloon, coupe, convertible and estate. In the same year Bianchi sold its shares to its partners, Fiat and Pirelli. In 1960 just over 30,000 of these little Italian cars were built.


In the same year, Autobianchi introduced at the Geneva Salon, the prettiest model of this series, the Bianchina Special Convertible, a little luxury car, with lots of chrome trim and attractive interior fittings. The indicators were fitted separately below the headlights (not on the bumper guards). The radiator changed and two sweeping ornamental moldings decorated both sides. The cooling slots on the side behind the doors and the chrome borders below the body edge were eliminated. The windscreen was more angular.


The convertible continued to be manufactured until 1970 while the saloon and estate were manufactured until 1969. Today the name lives on in the Lancia Y 10, a name that has dominated Autobianchi since 1975. The Y10 is one of the most elegant -though not cheapest- series of small cars.

The Autobianchi Special Cabriolet has the Fiat 500 Sport motor and is rarer and, perhaps, even more attractive than the coupe.

Text and images from “The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum

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Opperman, a tractor manufacturer in England saw the success of the Bond Minicar and decided to build a new Microcar for the British market.

The first model from Opperman was the Model "T" Unicar. It looked like a larger sedan in miniature and was the cheapest car shown at the 1956 London Motor Show.There was no front hood or rear trunk lid in the fiberglas body.

The engine was positioned in the middle of what should be the rear seat and 2 small "jump" seats are on either side of the engine "hump".


There was no differential for the rear wheels so they were placed closer together than the front wheels, in a manner similar to the Isetta, but not as extreme.

Unfortunately since it had 4 wheels, it was subject to a higher Road Tax in Britain as compared to a 3-wheeled vehicle. In an attempt to make the car even More Affordable it was also offered in Kit Form!

Text and images from “The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum

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11638_myra2The Meyra was first manufactured in Germany in 1952. It was powered by a single cylinder 197cc Llo engine which drove the single rear wheel by a chain. Entrance to the vehicle was via a door at the front of the vehicle and so due to its ease of access the vehicle was mainly aimed for invalid drivers. Production ceased in 1956.
Text and images from “Cartype

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The Autoette was a microcar created and manufactured from 1948 to 1970’s by Royce Seevers, owner of the Autoette Electric Car Company Inc. of Long Beach, California. The two-seat, three-wheeled microcar was electric powered by specially made batteries from Trojan battery Co., and motive power provided by a converted 24-volt Dodge 1½ hp. electric starter motor and later a proprietary motor built for Autoette. Models included the "CruiseAbout", "Golfmobile" and "Electric Truck".

Autoettes were available with a broad range of accessories, usually installed by the dealer as upgrades. These included windscreens, doors, convertible tops, side curtains, and more.

The Autoette was also marketed and sold as an early electric wheelchair or invalid car for the disabled. Starting in 1953 some models could be equipped with a small "accessible" door on the vehicle’s curb side, at the level of the seat, to facilitate entry.

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altBond Minicar is the name given to a series of economical three-wheeled cars manufactured by Sharp’s Commercials Limited (The company was renamed Bond Cars Limited in 1964), in Preston, Lancashire between 1949 and 1966.

The car was invented by Lawrence "Lawrie" Bond an engineer from Preston, Lancashire. During the war, Bond had worked as an aeronautical designer for the Blackburn Aircraft Company before setting up a small engineering business in Blackpool, manufacturing aircraft and vehicle components for the government. After the war he moved his company to Longridge where he built a series of small racing cars with a modest amount of success. In the early part of 1948, he revealed what was described as a new minicar to the press.

Read the whole story on “European Car History

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The Messerschmitt KR200, or Kabinenroller (Cabin Scooter), was a three-wheeled bubble car designed by the aircraft engineer Fritz Fend and produced in the factory of the German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt from 1955 to 1964.

Messerschmitt, temporarily not allowed to manufacture aircraft, had turned its resources to producing other commodities. In 1952, Fend approached Messerschmitt with the idea of manufacturing small motor vehicles. These were based on his Fend Flitzer invalid carriage.

The first of Fend’s vehicles to enter production at Messerschmitt’s Regensburg factory was the KR175. The title Kabinenroller means "scooter with cabin". While the Messerschmitt name and insignia were used on the car, a separate company, incorporated as Regensburger Stahl- und Metallbau GmbH, was created to manufacture and market the vehicle.

The KR200 replaced the KR175 in 1955. While using the same basic frame as the KR175 with changes to the bodywork (notably including wheel cut-outs in the front fenders) and an improved canopy design, the KR200 was otherwise an almost total redesign. The rear suspension and engine mounting were reworked, and hydraulic shock absorbers were installed at all three wheels. Tire sizes were enlarged to 4.00×8.

Retailing for around DM 2,500, the KR200 was considered an instant success with almost 12,000 built during its first year. A maximum speed in excess of 90 km/h (56 mph)[8] despite a claimed power output of only 10 PS (7.4 kW; 9.9 hp) reflected the vehicle’s light weight.

In 1956, Messerschmitt was allowed to manufacture aircraft again and lost interest in Fend’s microcars. Messerschmitt sold the Regenburg works to Fend, who formed Fahrzeug- und Maschinenbau GmbH, Regensburg (FMR) to continue production of the KR200 and his other vehicles.

In 1957, the KR200 Kabrio model was released, featuring a cloth convertible top and fixed side window frames. This was followed by the KR201 Roadster without window frames, using a folding cloth top, a windscreen, and removable side curtains. A Sport Roadster was later offered with no top and with the canopy fixed into place so that the driver would have to climb in and out at the top of the car.

Production of the KR200 was heavily reduced in 1962 and ceased in 1964 as sales had been dropping for a few years. The demand for basic economy transport in Germany had diminished as the German economy boomed. A similar situation developed in other parts of Europe such as in the manufacturer’s biggest export destination, the United Kingdom, where sales were particularly affected by the increasing popularity of the Mini.

24-hour record run
In 1955, in order to prove the KR200’s durability, Messerschmitt prepared a KR200 to break the 24-hour speed record for three-wheeled vehicles under 250 cc (15.3 cu in). The record car had a special single-seat low-drag body and a highly modified engine, but the suspension, steering, and braking components were stock. Throttle, brake, and clutch cables were duplicated. The record car was run at the Hockenheimring for 24 hours and broke 22 international speed records in its class, including the 24-hour speed record, which it set at 103 km/h (64 mph)

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Article from Mechanix Illustrated July 1960. Found on blog.modernmechanix.com 11026_mopetta3

London Busses does not intimidate Mopetta driver; He feels sassy and manoeuvrable.


Scooter controls and 100 mpg fuel consumption characterize tiny German car.


Parking with a small car is easier when you can lift the whole car into a tight spot.


Transparent cover provides weather protection and visibility. Non-automatic.

This very small car may qualify better, to some minds, as a scooter with a body, or perhaps as a deficient power mower. You steer it with a handlebar and you start it by pulling a cord. “It roars into life with a pull of a cord,” is the way our London informant puts it—and from now on we greet anything he tells us with hurt distrust. It’s called the Brutsch Mopetta, it has three wheels, costs $560 and has a top speed of 21 mph. Its obvious role is in home-to-station and city driving.

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With Japan in a devastated turmoil, many companies scrambled for survival. Hitachi Aviation, associated with Hino and Isuzu were forbidden to build airplanes and attempted to survive by producing non-war related products. Hitachi became Tokyo Gas-Electric Manufacturing Company and merged with Fuji Automobile and by 1952 was producing motorcycles and small two-stroke engines, called Gasuden.

The Fuji Cabin was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1955, intended as a fully enclosed motor scooter. Its sleek aerodynamic monocoque body was constructed of polyester, a bold use of this material at the time. Very well engineered by Ryuichi Tomiya, a director of Suminoe Manufacturing which also produced the Flying Feather microcar and bodies for Nissan, the Fuji Cabin featured rubber suspension, staggered seating, a cooling duct down the centre of the car, and beetle-wing motor lids. The tiny, but well engineered Gasuden motor featured a reverse gear.

Competition was stiff in the Japanese motorcycle market at this time and the price was somewhat steep. This, combined with poor marketing and inexpert handling of the FRP material, contributed to poor sales. This particular car turned up in a derelict condition in Pennsylvania, whereupon it changed hands several times before its acquisition and restoration for this collection. Another example (with two doors and detail differences) of this extremely rare exotic can be seen in Tokyo.

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The extraordinary Isetta, the nicest and famous microcar of the world, was conceived by the mind of eng. Ermenegildo Preti, who together with the faithful & expert Pierluigi Raggi gave the shape of this glorious little-big vehicle. Exhibited for the first time in 1952 at Bresso (Milan), it was produced by the Iso firm where Preti and Raggi were in charge of the Technical Office. The Isetta got its maximum international sales success with BMW, the great Bavarian factory that purchased the license for the production of the mythic “egg with wheels” in 1955 from the Rivoltas.


The Isetta Source:
ISO Millenium:

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