3 τροχα οχήματα: Μια σύντομη ιστορία

Posted: 13 Μαρτίου, 2012 in ΡΟΔΕΣ & ΤΣΟΝΤΕΣ

Ανεβαζω τα κειμενα στα Αγγλικα. Πιστευω οτι εαν μεταφρασω μαλλον θα χασουμε καποιους ορους…

Πηγη: http://autos.sympatico.ca/home/

1886 Benz Patent-MotorwagenImage

You’re looking at the genesis of the modern automobile. Drive-ins, drive-thrus, cruise control, and the joys of commuting wouldn’t exist without the little 3-wheeler Karl Benz developed.

Horsepower? 2/3 of a horsepower. Which is probably about right, but later models pushed it to a full 2 horsepower—and a top speed of 10 km/h.

The coolest thing about the Patent-Motorwagen is that Karl’s wife, Bertha, financed the entire thing, including the patent—but at the time women weren’t allowed to hold patents. That’s right: the car is just as much a woman’s invention as a man’s.

1904-1907 Lagonda TricarImage

After Benz’ invention took off, it was only a matter of time before others jumped into the market. Lagonda, started by an American, was making motorcycles and decided to branch out into a 3-wheeled car. Even Benz’ developments were four-wheeled machines at this point, so it was interesting to see Lagonda stick with three wheels. It was one of the first vehicles with a «tadpole» layout: two wheels in the front, and one in back. Two in the back and one in the front is called a «delta» layout.

1929 Zaschka ThreewheelerImage

I wouldn’t normally include a vehicle that they made only one of, but Engelbert Zaschka’s car deserves mention because it’s the only one designed to fold up to save space. Top speed was an alarming 48 km/h!

When the famous inventor wasn’t stretching canvas over a folding 3-wheeled chassis, he spent his time as one of the world’s eminent helicopter pioneers.

1931-1934 Goliath «Pionier» (Pioneer)Image

Now we’re getting into vehicles that at least look like cars. Goliath—a German manufacturer that produced mostly industrial designs—introduced the Pionier, a vehicle based on the F200 3-wheeled truck.

4000 were built in total, and formed the basis for the firm’s best-selling (and revolutionary) small car, the (Borgward) Hansa.

1933 Dymaxion Car (Concept)Image

Inventor Buckminister Fuller is too interesting to explain here (you should Google him) but his 1933 three-wheeled concept included a feature our friend Zaschka found so important: easy disassembly. That’s not all! It did 30 mpg and hit speeds of 140 km/h, way back in 1934.

It was front-wheel drive but had rear-wheel steering, and a prototype crashed at the World’s Fair (not a great place to crash your car), killing the driver. Yes, he was wearing a seatbelt. (Another one of the car’s safety features.)

Chrysler was supposed to make it, but was afraid it was so revolutionary that people wouldn’t want to buy «conventional» cars. Would you drive a Dymaxion car?

1946-1962 Mitsubishi MizushimaImage

As far as I know, the Mizushima was the world’s first auto rickshaw, or Tuk-Tuk. It’s a motorcycle front end, with a wide rear axle to carry passengers or cargo. The Mizushima was successful, and helped to get Japan back on its feet after the Second World War.

Later versions (called the «Go») could hold up to two tons of cargo in their bed, more than the payload of a modern full-sized pickup!

1948 Davis DivanImage

Like the Dymaxion car, the Davis Divan was built more for proper touring (and style) than the more typical «economy car» role three-wheeled cars filled. Top speed? 130 km/h, 35-50 mph efficiency, and a turning circle of 13 feet—that’s half the distance a Smart fortwo needs!

One of the selling features was the fact you could sit four people across the car’s wide bench seat. I think I’ll pass.

1948-1967 Scammell ScarabImage

Called a «three-wheeled tractor,» the Scarab represents one of my favourite three-wheeled types: trucks. For some reason, seeing a small, unstable vehicle hauling a load makes me both giggle and cringe.

Very popular as railway and local delivery support vehicles, the Scarab had a 2-litre engine. Here’s what’s crazy: it could tow up to 6 tons! 30,000 were made, now only a fraction survive.

1948-present Piaggio ApeImage

Very similar to the Mizushima—but two years later—came the Ape. Not «Ape», like the primate, but «ah-peh», Italian for bee. Makes more sense now, eh?

The Ape was far more popular than its Japanese counterpart, and millions have been made. In fact, they’re still made. Go to developing regions in the world, and an Ape derivative will likely be your cab from the airport and can be seen doing everything from cargo delivery to construction. Even better? They race the Ape.

This one’s a modern electric version, if you were wondering.

1951-1958 Daihatsu BeeImage

How’s this for a segue? From one bee to another, yet the Daihatsu version was strictly a car. Adapted from a truck, this was Daihatsu’s first car and was made with a fiberglass body.

You can never judge a book by its cover with three-wheeled machines; despite the Bee’s long hood, the engine was mounted in the back for stability, one of the first with this layout.

1951-1971 Velorex (nee-Oskar)Image

While the rest of the world was getting into the swing of things by 1951, in Czechoslovakia things were a little more dire. So the Velorex, built initially in a small bicycle shop, was designed to fix two problems: 1) veterans with missing limbs couldn’t operate conventional cars and 2) cars were expensive.

For problem #1, its controls were more like a bicycle and were easy to operate. For problem #2, the car was made out of leather. Sadly, unforseen was problem #3: nobody wanted one.

1955 Fujicabin Model 5AImage

Not much is known about the Fujucabin Model 5A except that it’d do 60 km/h, had an air-cooled engine, staggered seating (something Toyota copied for the upcoming Scion iQ), and weighed a mere 130kg. I rather like it, but by the time it was introduced the small car market in Japan had moved on—only 85 were made.

That said, you’ll soon see elements of the beautifully-designed Model 5A in other cars on this list.

1955-1964 Messerschmitt KR175 / KR200Image

This is my favourite three-wheeled vehicle. In my mind, it captures the jet age well without being ostentacious—as well it should, being built in the old Messerschmitt aircraft factory. Like the Velorex, it was based on designs for an invalid carriage, adapted for disabled veterans (called the Fend Flitzer), and later developed for mass production.

Like the Peel Trident you’ll see later, it had an amazing optical-quality plexiglass top with a small front windshield, which totally gives the car its amazing look. The whole affair is side-hinged, so to get out you have to lift up the top. The Messer seats two in tandem, and has a 4-speed sequential gearbox, like a motorcycle.

Design-wise, it’s aged best compared with the other vehicles here. It was also one of the most successful, with more than 40,000 KRs produced.

I’ve driven one, and let me tell you: it’s incredible fun. Sure, it’ll only do 100 km/h and it’s rather noisy, but the car is an absolute blast. They’ll still even do 87 U.S. MPG. Want one? You’re looking at $20,000 and up for a well-maintained example. I’ve been saving.

1959-1962 Mazda K360Image
While the three-wheeled car market was crumbling around the world in the late 50s, the truck market was just getting started. By 1959, Mazda, Daihatsu, and Mitsubishi all had small, three-wheeled trucks in production. They were incredibly popular with farmers and local delivery men who needed tiny, maneuverable trucks. This Mazda has a 360cc engine (hence the name) mounted behind the cab.

1959-1962 Mitsubishi LeoImage
Like Mazda’s K360, the Leo was a small truck. Mitsubishi had an advantage, though: they had been producing small three-wheeled trucks since 1946. The Leo traded outright practicality for a bit of style, yet its modest 12.5 horsepower engine was enough to carry loads of up to 300kg, or 660lbs

1962-1974 Mazda T2000Image

This is my second favourite three-wheeled vehicle. Why? It may look like a little pup, but if you ordered the extended bed seen here, it could reach a length of 20 feet—even longer than a Chevrolet Suburban! On three wheels!!

With a bed of up to 12 feet long, you’d certainly make pickup trucks jealous. Its cab is apparently the same size as an entire BMW Isetta (or Smart fortwo-sized, for you young folk.) Power? 46 horsepower in early versions, and up to 81 in later versions. It was even built in Greece (as the Hellas) for a while under license.

Maximum payload? 2000kg, or 4,400 lbs, or 2.2 tons. With three wheels. Epic.

1962-1966 Peel Trident / Peel P50Image

The «sporty» version of the world’s smallest car, the Peel P50, the Trident was part suitcase and part Messerchmitt KR200, thanks to that Jetsons-like bubble roof. Unfortunately, performance wasn’t space-aged: powered by a tiny 49cc engine (that’s a volume seven times smaller than a pop can) gave a maximum of 4.2 horsepower. The entire car weighed less than many people do: a lithe 198lbs.

Marketed as a «shopping car», both the boring P50 and exciting (two-seater!!) Trident failed to light the world on fire, and was one of 99 others named to Time’s 100 Worst Cars Ever list.

That said, point your browser to peelengineering.co.uk, and you can reserve a modernized replica for the low, low price of a £999 GBP deposit. Want to rent one for the day? That’s also £999 GBP, or $1,550 Cdn.


1970-1974 Bond BugImage

You’re looking at a Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder. Seriously. A Bond Bug chassis was used as the base for one of the most iconic bits of Star Wars imagery. 

While it looks like an orange shoe, the Bug could do (I’m scared just thinking about it) 126 km/h. Less than 1000 survive today, which is a shame because of the cars in the list it’s one of the best. Two seats, a bit of cargo room, fast enough to keep up with traffic, and has an enthusiastic owner’s club even today.

Assembled by three-wheel experts Reliant (see the next slide), the Bug had only one Achille’s Heel: when new, it was more expensive than a Mini Cooper.

1973-2002 Reliant RobinImage

Reliant as we know it was started by former Raleigh bicycle designer T.L. Williams, after the bicycle company began in 1931 to produce three-wheeled cars, the Light Delivery Van and Safety Seven, in 1933.

Decades later, after renaming to Reliant, the company kept modernizing three-wheeled vehicles. After the more modern Regal was introduced, the company brought out its most iconic model ever, the Robin. In the UK, the Robin is a huge joke. (Even Mr. Bean makes fun of it.) Why? Well, unlike other three-wheeled cars, the Robin has both a single wheel and its engine up front. This makes it roll over with relative ease—as they’ve shown on Top Gear many times.

That said, the car has a cult following and was originally conceived as a form of low-cost transportation, as registration and taxes for it fall under rates for motorcycles, not cars.

1983 GM Lean Machine ConceptImage

Surprisingly, GM has been toying with three-wheeled machines since 1964. In that year, they showed the «Runabout,» a small commuter car concept for two adults and three kids. After, they developed the XP 511 Commuter Car concept, much like the Bond Bug: two seats, engine in the rear, and two wheels in the rear for stability.

Take all of that and make it drivable and you get the Lean Machine: a single-seat car that in its latest iteration could hit 130 km/h, do 0-100 km/h in less than seven seconds, and could return 200 U.S. MPG. So there’s the «lean» part.

Well, not quite: the car would also «lean» into corners as you turned; the rear wheels stayed perpendicular to the ground while the front wheel and cabin leaned like a motorcycle.

If this seems familiar, you may have seen the Lean Machine before: it was shown at Disney’s Epcot park in Florida, and was a «future» car in the movie Demolition Man.

1983 Badsey Bullet ConceptImage

If GM wasn’t going to build a three-wheeled car, a man in California surely would. Bill Badsey built (apparently) eight Bullets; even so, it’s easy to see where some of the newer cars on this list got their ideas. Top speed was 240 km/h, 0-100 km/h in 5, thanks to power from a motorcycle engine.

Amazingly, badsey.com still active and has a ton of information about the car. It even made it onto the cover of Popular Mechanics in 1984! 27 years later, its looks haven’t held up well: it resembles a Star Wars landspeeder mixed with a Chrysler K-Car.

1987-present CityElImage

Think of the CityEl as an all-electric Bond Bug. If you need one seat, want an electric car, and can’t wait for a Nissan Leaf, the CityEl is a viable choice…provided you can actually import one into Canada.

I rather like the styling of the CityEl, but then again I like strange things. You can have it with a full plexiglass top, targa top with a removable centre panel, or a convertible. Current models do a top speed of 60 km/h with a 90 km range.

Sure, it’s not going to set the world alight, but an active owner’s community has experience in upgrading the car’s performance, so you could theoretically get a car that keeps getting better.

1991-present Grinnall Scorpion IIIImage

You should notice by now that if you want a fast three-wheeled car, you put the engine and one rear wheel in the back. The Grinnall Scorpion III, available as a kit, does just this. All are powered by BMW motorcycle engines, and if you’re handy with wrenches you can assemble a basic one in your garage for $15,000.

Opt for factory assembly and the biggest engine (180 horsepower!) you’re looking at $25,000 or more. The whole car weighs a slight 860 lbs—so any version is likely to be faster than what you’re driving now.

1996-present Campagna T-RexImage

A Canadian car! And like the Grinnall, it follows the motorcycle-motor-out-back strategy. Criss Angel owns one, too. It’s easily the fastest three-wheeled car sold, with a 197 horsepower engine. Unfortunately, in most places it’s classified as a motorcycle so you’ll need an M license to drive one.

They’re certainly eye-catching…so how much? Set aside $60,000, plus taxes. Compared with cars at that price, it’s a performance bargain. Compared with a motorcycle, you’d have enough money left over for a new compact car to drive during the winter.

2006-2009 ZAP XEBRAImage

Unfortunately, not all three-wheeled machines can be as fast as the Campagna or as cool as the Mazda T2000. This unfortunate sedan (or truck!) has a top speed of 64 km/h and a dismal range of just 40 km.

It also has the dubious honour of being the first machine imported from China to the U.S. Those of you concerned about Chinese cars invading our shores don’t have too much to worry about by the looks of it.

2007-2009 Carver OneImage

It’s the GM Lean Machine all over again! Yes, this three-wheeler has a body that tilts into corners—and looks like fantastic fun to drive. Power comes in at 65 horses, which while not spectacular will still push the Carver One to a top speed of 185 km/h and will hit 100 in 8.5 seconds.

Unfortunately, even after motoring critic Jeremy Clarkson called it the «most fun he’s had in a car,» Carver went bust. The rights were bought by a California company called Persu, and it’s being re-tuned for efficiency. Let’s see if the company survives—they’re projecting a base price of $25,000.

2010 Marotti ConceptImage

And now, from Poland…

First, they’re busy upgrading the engine to a stout 190 horsepower, which is great because it means it’ll be harder to focus on when pictures are being taken. Well, without the rear fins it’s quite attractive…with them it looks like a miniature space craft.

Unfortunately, all has gone quiet. The company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been disabled, and there are no updates on their official website. Sadly, it looks as though Marotti has hit the same fate as pretty much every other three-wheeler manufacturer.

2011 concept UrbeeImage

Another Canadian car* the Urbee is a model from Winnipeg that promises to be «fuel-efficient, easy to repair, safe to drive, and inexpensive to own.» 

They’re still in the prototype stage (we did an exclusive feature on the company earlier in this year), but early indications show they’ve got a few good ideas. Chief among them is the car’s incredible aerodynamics—something made easier by a three-wheel layout.

One thing’s for sure: we’ll make sure we’re the first in line to drive the Urbee once it debuts.

2010 ZAP Alias electric conceptImage

I realize you’re still recovering from the Xebra-caused visual assault, but it looks as though Zap has learned their lesson. With the new Alias, the company is (like the Urbee) going after efficiency, with performance to match.

Powered by an electric motor, the Alias will do 140 km/h, hit 0-100 in less than 8 seconds, and retail for less than $40,000 U.S. in early 2012. They’ve just bought a huge 100,000 sq metre production facility in China, too, so it’s possible you’ll be seeing the Alias electric sooner than later.

2013 Morgan ThreewheelerImage

We end with one of the very first three-wheelers: the Morgan thre-wheeler. Production first started in 1911, and Morgan quickly entered the car into competition, where it was pretty successful. After the Second World War, production resumed using the engine from the Ford Model Y.

The original was built until 1952, by which time Morgan sold a range of cars with four wheels.

So why is one of the first three-wheelers listed as the last? They’re putting it back into production! That’s right, you’ll soon be able to own your very own modern Threeeheeler; it’ll do 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 185 km/h—surely fast enough for a second car. Its X-Wedge engine is from the American company S&S Cycle, and the transmission is from a Mazda MX-5.

Get your orders in, though: Morgan reportedly has 500 orders for the car, which means that this whole «three-wheeler» thing may finally be gaining steam.


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