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