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A Carver Carves: Hooniverse Gets to Ride in a Carver One

After a day spent walking around Cologne, Germany (I’m on a holiday over here) with my Kiwi-turned-German friend Joe, it was time to grab something to eat. We do not get Burger King in Finland, so the obvious solution was to walk to the BK just a stone’s throw from the apartment. Yeah, the decision went as thus: “I can not not go to Burger King. Back home, the nearest one is in Stockholm.”

Having ordered, I glanced out of the estabilishment’s window. “Hey, that’s a Carver. One of those Dutch things that tilt. I have to get a few photos of it, otherwise I can’t live with myself.” As I was snapping away a minute later, a bearded guy quipped at me, “Hey there, it’s five euro per picture!” and laughed. I asked if it was his car. Yeah, and his company. Excellent. “Want a ride in it?” Definitely excellent.

We invited him to our table, and discussed Carvers over Angus burgers. Harry, as he introduced himself, had acquired the company as the original Dutch venture went bust. He was the German dealer of the machines at first, and now has all the toolings, drawings and parts while the Dutch guys have the patents. Since January, he’s sold seven of the vehicles and plans to keep improving (and driving) them. The venture in Germany as it stands now is somehow similar to the current DeLorean setup in Texas. Harry also runs a gyrocopter manufacturing business, so “you can ‘fly’ your Carver to the airfield and fly off in a gyrocopter.”

The Carver, an amazing-looking tilting trike, uses a rear-mounted Daihatsu Copen engine and five-speed transmission. The 660cc four-cylinder JB-DET engine produces 68 hp – albeit more power is on the way. At 640kg, the vehicle weighs considerably less than the Daihatsu, so it’s a lot brisker and 200kph can be easily reached. But like Harry says, if you drive it like you’re supposed to, it’s not the most economical thing in the world. Currently, the demo vehicle sports aircraft-style livery as it was on display in an airshow a few months ago. “And the stickers weren’t too cheap so we’re keeping it that way for while.”

After finishing the burgers, we walked to the vehicle and snapped a few photos. Harry showed us how the machine can be tilted while stationary, so you can reach all the mechanicals easily. It really consists of two sections; the drivetrain package in the rear, driving the passively-steered rear wheels and the tilting cabin section that has a motorcycle tire in the front. The “thing” seats two, with the passenger sitting behind the driver/pilot with legs spread.

Then it was time to go for a ride in it. Harry lifted the cabin back to normal position, I made my way into the back seat and buckled up. Harry started the engine, and the hydraulics whirred while the Dynamic Vehicle Control unit built up the pressure in the tilting system. We pulled off, and turned between a few parked cars. Or did we fly between then? I remember choosing my words somewhere along the lines of “OH MY GOD”, predictably as the vehicle tilted and darted. It was like a rollercoaster ride from the get go.

You’re not riding in a car. You’re not the passenger on a bike. In reality, you’re a co-pilot on a low-flying aircraft that’s holding on to the road. The vehicle sneaks between cars and trucks in traffic, effortlessly, safely, surprisingly. Everybody looks at you, everybody smiles. It’s not a vehicle made for shrinking violets, it’s not designed for people without a sense of humour. You absolutely have absolutely everybody looking at you, in Cologne traffic. Thumbs-up, a smile, someone shakes their head and laughs.

A snobby-looking guy in a red Karmann Ghia suddenly has none of the attention he had a minute ago, and floors it past us. Our turbo engine whistles and the tilt scale indicator beeps while Harry navigates the traffic. After a minute, he takes the Carver on a short motorway stint, and it’s surprisingly silent in there due to the excellent aerodynamics.

The comfort in the cabin is surprisingly good, despite the semi-hard seat in the back, and if you’re a six-foot dude of medium build like yours truly, you’ll have well enough space in there. With the canvas roof rolled back, I wasn’t complaining about the headroom, either.

Harry justified the Carver to me easily. It’s the best of both worlds, cars and bikes, with a bit of aircraft craftiness thrown into the mix. Compared to the Carver, a car is boring. But a bike requires a special license and a helmet and the leathers and whatnot; with the Carver, you just throw your gear in and drive off. There’s even a rack for your camping gear in the back, under the rear spoiler. “And if your wife, who always controls the money, won’t allow you to get a bike it’s easier to get one of these.” And you can easily head all the way down to Munich, on the autobahn, cruising at 180 all day.

We’ve spent some time around Caterhams recently, and Joe commented he’d really rather get one of these instead. True, you’d possibly want to breathe on the engine a bit, to give it extra oomph; but truth be told, I’d at least practice with the regular version first.

A Carver isn’t super cheap, as it’s 45k euro upwards depending how you specify it. But you can specify it to your taste, no problem. And you wouldn’t buy one with your last euros, as it’s a thing not meant for all seasons. Wintertime is best not tackled as you’ll have a tough time finding a winter tire for the motorcycle tire up front, and the dynamic tilting hardware probably won’t like freezing weather too much. It’s also not available in the States due to US regulations, and they do not want to hassle with by-passing any of them with a kit-car solution as Carver want to get the vehicle perfectly aligned.

After Joe returned from his ride around town in it, chuckling, shaking his head incredulously at the randomness of it all, we shook hands with Harry and thanked for the opportunity to experience the vehicle. It attracts people all the time, while we were talking there at least three people snapped photos and asked a few questions as well. “Super cool”, said the portly businessman who seemed to have driven onto the parking lot just because of the Carver, or then he completely forgot to actually visit the BK due to it.

To end it all, we grabbed a quick video of Harry leaving on his way. As we chuckled at the sight of the Carver just shrugging and turning the corner, I wondered if it had all been a dream. “Did any of that just happen or did I just hallucinate?”

[Images: 2012 Hooniverse / Video: Joe Wilson]

Thanks to Harry Stüdemann! Link: Carver One .de

  • Bought all the tooling and parts, eh? Was it a lien sale?

  • Mike England

    I want one.

  • dukeisduke

    The profile reminds me of a '99 Chevy Cavalier.

    • I was thinking Fiat Coupé.

      • Irishzombieman

        Old Dodge Neon for me.

    • MVEilenstein

      The old NHRA Pro Stock Cavaliers. I defiinitely see it.

    • OA5599

      The curved roofline makes me see Beetle, but of the "new" style, not the Original Recipe like this one.

      <img src="http://www.digitalbiker.com/trike205.jpg&quot; width=500>

    • thomas lewis

      yes I agree,take any car and section it down the middle,you now have a very light weight ,aerodynamic vehicle,tandem seating,add a 3 or 4 wheeled weight shift tilt chassis.This system,by Carver[out of production] is expensive and dangerous,even BMW admitted it.Look at BMW's concept the Simple,nice body design,but it to used the Carver type system.

    • godscountry

      your right ,to save on tooling costs and design,take any small late model car,section it length wise,or pull a plug off the sides.Now you have a narrow track vehicle,low coefficient of drag numbers[small frontal area.Oem lighting,with all the attachment points,so much of the car could be used,even the dash[cut and reconfigured]I could go on and on but I think you get it.That hard part is fitting a good tilt system,the Carver system is flawed,you cant have the steering and tilt so closely aligned,you need a tire store to keep front tires on it.The tilt should be based on the speed of the vehicle,it might feel cool,but you can't be tilting on every turn.Just my 2 cents..

  • OA5599
    • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      Wow! I forgot about those.

    • Single rear wheel drive FTW!

      • randomusername

        Left wheel drive sounds like somthing only the French could come up with.

        • Correct! That would be the Rolux Baby. The US, on the other hand (so to speak), came up with right wheel drive for the King Midget.

  • That does it I am moving to Europe!

  • "Hand on heart, I’ve never had so much fun in a car, really and truly. And I don’t think I’d ever tire of it." – Jeremy Clarkson

    So. much. want. Hand on heart, one of MY top three or four production vehicles — any number of wheels — ever.

    The realities of production are cruel, because from all I've read, it was a brilliant vehicle brought down only by the cost. And if enough people had bought the brilliant vehicle, economy of scale would have made it enough less costly for enough people to keep the brilliant vehicle in production. A sad Catch-22 that so many other manufacturers have found themselves in before.

    And by the way, as tough as it is to impress Clarkson, it must be equally tough to make Hammond giggle out loud…

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/hammond-carver.jpg&quot; width="512">

    • Jay

      A brilliant vehicle for sure, one I'd want to try, but your description is just not how pricing works. It wouldn't have become cheaper just by the virtue of a lot of people rushing out to buy it – quite the opp would have happened since dealers would then jack up the price. A lot of people buying one single car does not make one single car cost less to make (especially for a single-model manufacturer) and does not drive down its price, esp retroactively, for the benefit of the very first buyers. And I doubt they would have passed on those profits to the customers out of the goodness of their hearts. Ducatis or BMW Z4s don't go down in price cause a lot of people buy them. The reason this thing was 30K euros is because it was a small-scale manufacture of a handbuilt vehicle whose "assembly line" moved very slowly, and because they had to recoup the considerable development costs, in addition to a dozen other factors that plague niche manufacturers.

      • "…your description is just not how pricing works."

        "The reason this thing was 30K euros is because it was a small-scale manufacture of a handbuilt vehicle whose 'assembly line' moved very slowly, and because they had to recoup the considerable development costs."

        Um, your latter statement is EXACTLY how I described prices working. Fixed costs such as R&D and tooling DO become cheaper per car when they can be distributed across a greater number of sales. IIRC, Vanderbrink stated at the time the company failed that their sales targets had never materialized, which forced them to price the vehicle higher than they could have once production ramped up to their projected levels.

    • Right there with you.

      Being a total wuss, I claim I can't swing a proper bike for my 10 minute in-town commute.

      This eliminates all of my excuses: I can dress like a grown up, carry more than a backpack, and not necessarily be hamburgered when someone broadsides me.

      Alas, as even something like a CR-Z knows, new small things compete in price with used slightly bigger, significantly more useful things.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Three-wheel Tuesday.

    I'm good with this.

    At the same time, I want a commuter reverse-trike, with A/C & heat.

    … so the obvious solution was to walk to the BK just a stone’s throw from the apartment.

    So you ordered a Royale with cheese, right?


    • OA5599

      Royale with Cheese is because McDonalds' Quarter Pounder is meaningless in the metric system. This was BK, though, and Germany, where they don't have kings. He ordered a Kaiser Roll.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        Nicely played.

  • Mike England

    I am going to ebay – maybe there is an old BMW Isetta –

  • Hey, the Pogues are coming to town!

  • Irishzombieman

    I'm staring at these pics. . . thinking I could build this. . . .

  • MrHowser

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_3017.jpg"width=400&gt;

    I saw this picture and thought, "Machine guns? Man, they really went all the way with the aircraft thing!"

  • Ed Kim

    There is a US chapter to this story too, that I had a peek into (and thus got the opportunity to flog one on California streets too!). There was a group of guys calling themselves Venture Vehicles (and later Persu Mobility) who wanted to adapt this to the US market by licensing the technology from Carver but applying styling done by BMW Designworks USA and using a more efficient powertrain.

    Our company did some consulting work for them and thus I was able to drive it here in California. WHOA. Their working tagline was Fly the Road, and it sure was appropriate. It really did feel like piloting a low flying jet fighter on the road. Or perhaps a really small ekranoplan. The way the horizon would dramatically tilt with any change in direction was absolutely thrilling. Definitely one of the coolest things I'd ever driven.

    • Thanks for your input! The tilting horizon was definitely the weirdest feeling.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    How random, lucky, cool, and awesome! I hope your vacation has even more better in store! The world needs more Harrys!

  • It's amazing that the Can-Am trike is uber tacky, and this, similar in execution (kind of, sort of), has us drooling.

    • CherokeeOwner

      A Can-am doesn't lean like a bike, doesn't have the amenities of a car, and it doesn't look like an airplane cockpit on three wheels. The Can-Am is a good motorcycle for those who want to ride but are paraplegic, but in general, it's a motorcycle for people too scared/lazy to get a normal bike. Even a sidecar is more challenging/rewarding to ride than a Can-Am.

    • I no longer feel any need to apologize for the Can-Am Spyder. Now that I've some seat time on the 2012 Spyder RT my wife bought May 5th, I don't care if it looks tacky. It's one hell of a vehicle.

      Hmmm…perhaps a Hooniverse ride review is in order?

      • MrHowser

        I'd love a review of the Spyder. It's the one non-cage that my wife would consider piloting herself.

      • Yes!

      • CherokeeOwner

        I third this motion. Just for curiosity's sake. I haven't seen too many reviews of a Can-Am; a Hooniversal perspective would be interesting.

  • safetystephen

    As a motorcycle first guy, I'm relatively furious these things aren't as common as mud. It's an outrage, and I am unanimous in that. One can dream I suppose…

  • Van_Sarockin

    It makes a whole lot more sense than that caged BMW bike thing they sold about six of. But $57,000 is an awful lot of cash for a newfangled Messerschmidt microcar.

    • Well, there's always the cheapo Diamo Velux: http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/mcy/3175559360….

      <img src="http://images.craigslist.org/5Hf5M15Jc3L43M13Hbc7v24a1d033ee9d1a8c.jpg"&gt;

      Not mine, just happened to spot it while aimlessly perusing the List of Craig.

      • bhtooefr

        Of course, speaking of cheap alternatives… Honda's done a similar tilting three wheeler to the Carver. Well, kinda.

        Yes, that Honda. And they make it today. (It recently got a 4-valve fuel-injected 4-stroke, having used a 2-stroke since 1981.)

        49 cc, meant for cargo, and you can get either a stripped down base model, a less stripped down "standard" model with a windshield, and a rather different version with a roof and windshield. 358,050 yen for the base model, 379,050 yen for the standard model, 523,950 yen for the version with a roof and windshield. 4.6 hp, 128 (roof version) to 141 (windshield version) miles per US gallon at 18.6 mph (don't ask). Honestly, wouldn't be an awful city runabout.

  • name_too_long

    So jealous.

    I honestly think I'd prefer one of these to [insert mega-buck hypercar] since you could have more fun, more of the time. To really enjoy something like a Ferrari or Porsche you either need a track or a reckless disregard for the safety of other motorists. With something like the Carver, it's fun at normal road speeds.

  • Joe

    Not only was it fun, it was amazingly awesome fun! I have decided that I want one, and that it is definitely my dream machine!

  • bhtooefr

    My main concern with this class of vehicles is that the tilting hardware is EXPENSIVE to do right, it's actually kinda tall to have enough ground clearance (hurting aerodynamics), and on this specific one, the exposed front suspension hurts aero even more. 2F1R is the future of these things due to cost, IMO.

    Odd that they never got sold in the US – their curb weight being below 1500 pounds means that most states other than MA will make it a cakewalk to get certified (IIRC, MA is the only one that's weird about that, not allowing 2-seater enclosed motorcycles). Granted, you'd need a motorcycle license in most states, but still… the damn Chinese can bring in 1499 pound 4-door Daewoo ripoffs with half of a front end and the engine moved to the back, but this thing never made it?

    But it sounds like more fun than 10 barrels of monkeys. And I'd be fine with the stock power, thanks.

  • Gadgety

    Thanks for an excellent article. When the Carver One was launched I tried for months to go for a test drive with the local dealer. But it was never available, and the dealer never called back. Word has it Carver went bust because they were too much at €30 000, but I believe part of it was due to bad dealers. Harry manufactures Gyrocopters. Incidentally, the Carver has re-emerged as a Pal-V – which is a

    GYROCOPTER CARVER! http://pal-v.com/

    However they estimate the price to 270 000 to 300 000 USD, so it's out of my league.

  • Dr. Kale

    Excellent article. Have Harry's contact details?

  • Adebayo Akiode

    Hello Carver company are there any Carvers in USA New Jersey . I want to know how much does it cost to buy one. Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year