Hooniverse Asks- What Microcar Do You Really Really Want to Own?

microcars

World War II was not only notable for the tragic loss of life and wanton destruction of historic cities, but also for the sheer volume of raw materials it consumed as it was waged. So much went into the making of the fabric of war that when the fighting ceased and the dust settled there wasn’t much left for rebuilding nations to kickstart their infrastructure.

Perhaps the only reason that the world’s economies did bounce back was due to the enactment of the Marshall Plan, which was devised by the US State Department, and infused a devastated Europe with needed cash and export entitlements. Another way that post-war Europe got back in its feet was through transportation- the movement of goods and people across the continent drove industries both new and old. And, due to materials shortages, many of those trips had to be made in tiny, fuel and materials efficient Microcars.

Of course, Microcars are not exclusively the property of post-war Europe, Japan too has had its share of tiny fare – Kei Cars as they are colloquially known – and serving primarily to be space efficient, a demand of so densely populated an island nation. The one thing that all Microcars do share is their cute and endearing nature. Frequently featuring fewer than four wheels, or the kind of bubble weather protection only imagined in Science Fiction, they more than made up for their torpid performance with kitschy cuteness. And boy, were they ever frugal on fuel.

With so many Microcars from which to choose; Italian, German, British, Japanese, and even American – more on that later – which one is your favorite? And more to the point, which Microcar would you like to own?

Image source: ChristineBerrie

126 Comments

    1. That car is facing the wrong direction. Looking at it I think I'm looking at the rear end, then I realize the lights are white and the steering wheel is on this side.

      1. The nose sits higher than the rear, like an enthusiastic pup. Alas, so few were made half a world away that there's a very good chance I'll never see one in person.

  1. Does a Kei car count? If so, a Suzuki Cappuccino. If not, probably a Morgan 3 wheeler.

    1. That recently sold for $92,000, when RM Auctions sold off the Bruce Weiner collection. I think the pre-auction estimate was $100k.

  2. <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Honda_beat3.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>
    Because who's going to say no to Midship Amusement?
    <img src="http://media.caranddriver.com/images/03q4/267348/smart-roadster-photo-9327-s-429×262.jpg&quot; /img>
    That said, as much as I could easily see it's Fortwo brother gracing my driveway (since the early diesel models are getting close to beater money here in Canuckia), I'd dig one of these even more.

    1. About the time Smart wound down production of the Roadster, MG was in a mess. A group wanted to buy the MG brand and use the Roadster as a new MG- with a real engine and manual transmission.
      Imagine the Roadster with a stock Ecoboost engine. That would be a fun car.

    2. There was a Beat at a nearby Honda dealer a few years ago, but I wasn't able to see if I fit in it. I've been keeping an eye out ever since.

    3. Weirdly enough, I have seen both of these in the US, despite both being unregistrable.

    4. I would pawn at least two nonessential organs for a Beat. They wouldn't necessarily be mine, mind you, but that's my offer.

      1. Pawn one essential organ, I can provide an address to register it to, in exchange for getting to drive it a little when you have to bring it back once a year to renew the tags. This is a completely rational plan, trust me.

    1. HA! I had an orange one of these, I got it as part of a sale of another vehicle, it was sort of a 'bonus'.
      I kept it at my auto repair shop and one Monday I arrived to see it tipped on it's side, so the mechanics and I rolled it back over, no worse for the wear.

  3. A Messerschmitt KR200 would be nice, although I'd probably figure out a more modern engine.
    The original Volkswagen 1-Liter Auto concept, with a clutched smog pump (hook the smog pump to the kickdown switch, smog pump kicks in, and you can get more fuel), would be amazing, though.

    1. The idea of a kei truck seems great for a farm truck or something to bumble around on a large piece of property, but most of the ones I have seen for sale in the US are going for $5k+. For that kind of money I can get a used full size pick-up or even a Jeep that would be way more practical on all but the smallest trails.

      1. There are quite a few around here (Manitoba). They're very practical for around town deliveries etc. Sure you can get a full size truck for the same money but you'll also be paying four times the fuel bill and if you don't need the capacity why would you?

        1. They aren't road legal here in the US. Off road use only. You would need a really big ranch for the fuel economy to make up for the more expensive and harder to find parts.
          I remember back in the 1990s my college had a few that the Plant Operations/maintenance guys used. They made sense there because they could easily be driven down the pedestrian paths.

          1. 25 year old ones are. '67 and older and I don't even have to get any inspection what so ever here in my county. Insurance would be the problem.

          2. Actually, in some US jurisdictions they are considered to be road legal. South Dakota allows kei trucks everywhere but the Interstates. North Dakota bans them from highways with speed limits over 65. In both the Dakotas they're considered to be an ATV, and both states allow some classes of ATV to be highway licensed.

      2. How about a kei truck sitting on rockwells and 44s with a 454 sitting in the bed driving everything?
        Crap, sorry, just realized I'm not on Pirate.

        1. HAHAHAHHAHAH
          Oh, Pirate4x4. The well of welded diffs, 60s, rockwells, and square-tube driveshafts will never run dry.

      3. That's kind of a -redacted- "V6 mustang" argument, isn't it? For $5k you could buy many different toys, but none offer this unique combination of great fuel economy, an enclosed cab, go-anywhere ability, and oddball appeal. Fullsize pickup truck instead? Meh, misses the point. I'd cross shop this with a Suzuki Samurai and an ATV.

        1. I was actually having this discussion with my dad. They are fixing up the old lake house and he wanted to get a vehicle up there to go up and down the hill to the dock. This is about a 100' elevation change over 300', probably over 1/4 mile round trip. There is a road there now and way back when we used to just drive the truck up and down the road. Now my dad is 67 and doesn't get around as good as he used to. He was looking for the cheapest option possible. We discussed Kei trucks, Jeeps/Samurai, John Deere Gator type vehicles/side by side ATVs, and full size or S-10/Ranger size trucks. The cheapest option came down to a full size or possibly Ranger size truck. The ability of an extended cab full size truck to carry 4+ adults put that in the lead. He has decided to put off any vehicle purchase for a while and just use his regular Dodge Ram truck.

          1. That makes sense. If he already has a pickup, why mess around with another vehicle.

    1. "electric tuxedo"
      Damn, those words are funny when they're sitting side by side.
      Sounds like some sort of gangster punishment. "Give him the electric tuxedo, Vinny. And the cement shoes."

        1. It would be hard for him to mix the cement himself wrapped-up like that though.

      1. Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series. Sold pretty much everywhere in the world except North America.
        GMC anything = Professional Grade?
        Landcruiser 70 Series = Warlord Grade.

          1. Sounds like we've got a solid business plan for an import business. Or not. Hey, we both like them, and we're both in BC. Close enough.
            I understand that some of the Saskatchewan potash mines use them in RHD, but they can't sell them as licensed vehicles when they're done, so they get cubed, crushed, or shredded. This may be apocryphal.

          2. I'm in. Profit margins should be pretty decent. Even plain old 'yota pickups sell for 1.5-2x the price of an equivalent Ranger around here.
            What's that? I need capital to start a business? Oh…

  4. What about a micro-commercial-vehicle with a scooter engine? Let me introduce you the Piaggio Ape. Available as a van, pickup or with a semi-trailer !
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Piaggio_Ape_Kasten.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/–aZtoQ3zCuc/Td6q5Xvcu5I/AAAAAAAAAXc/1qpb8ljaaGs/s1600/piaggio_ape1.jpg&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Y3b3KdB8RJE/UOgeyM4QEOI/AAAAAAAACjQ/C4GdYkBE9g0/s1600/APE1_OTT.JPG&quot; width="600">
    <img src="http://www.adventuremedia4u.de/images/17apestoria.jpg&quot; width="600">
    Just watch this cool review !
    [youtube 8gdNKWdGIHY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gdNKWdGIHY youtube]

      1. It costs more than my house, yet could fit in my living room.
        Though really the giant pricetag just adds to the sheer absurdity of the thing.

    1. Kicks ass at autocross too, on account of tons of batteries all placed below the level of the axles.

  5. I really find it hard to believe that no one has painted a Messerschmitt to look like an Me-262 and posted pictures on the webs, but I had no luck finding one. But I think in my world of microcars the Messerschmitt would be king.
    And I would have a bumper sticker that says 'My Other Car is a Stuka'.
    <img src="http://carinpicture.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Messerschmitt-KR200-Super-Record-Car-1955-Photo-01-800×600.jpg&quot; width=600>
    I also found this, which does have military styling, but is more fitting for Sidecar Sunday than a microcar discussion. And I am posting it nonetheless.
    <img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ObPy1CUXQDQ/S0AvOkKvsRI/AAAAAAAAAkk/fGoczTQqHEk/s640/Bike+With+Messerschmitt+ME109+Fighter+Plane+%281%29.jpg&quot; width=600>
    <img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ObPy1CUXQDQ/S0AvPiiqXkI/AAAAAAAAAks/_04ZqJuGCAg/s640/Bike+With+Messerschmitt+ME109+Fighter+Plane.jpg&quot; width=600>

  6. I have no idea what ever came of the Corbin Merlin, and I can't find any real info online, (even the Wikipedia page for it has been deleted…) but it would have been interesting. First and last time I saw one was probably about 10 years ago at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco.
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/mcSRgwY.jpg&quot; width="550">
    Since that's clearly not an actual option, the Campagna T-Rex better count. If it doesn't… dealwithit.gif.
    <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-0o7HqnIAzy0/T-M_oQG9WPI/AAAAAAAAAA0/I_7Nx4jQULQ/s1600/T-Rex+Cars.jpg&quot; width="500">
    Hehe, this one is on RPF1s… There's one in Walnut Creek that I see from time to time that just goes tearing all hell through the downtown area, even hitting donuts in the middle of intersections… He's an asshat, but it sure looks fun.

    1. Guy I work with drove one that belonged to a business associate. Said the only thing he's ever done that scared him more was rolling a Jeep down a mountain.

  7. I gave serious thought to attending the recent Microcar Museum auction but ended up passing, which is probably just as well. The prices were far beyond my means. Besides, the museum's Eshelman Sportabout was in rather poor condition:
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8084/8325081794_08d0492b05.jpg&quot; width="450">
    and they had already sold off their Voiture Electronique Porquerolles some years ago (not this one):
    <img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7210/6947487953_9f0a4ca75a.jpg&quot; width="450">
    These were the two items from the collection that would have interested me the most. Their Larmar was a close third, but like the Sportabout, it needed everything.
    Still, all things considered, I'd most love to find a car that's "micro" only by virtue of association with its "manufacturer," the Eshelman Eagle:
    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8529/8586161443_4b5239c240.jpg&quot; width="450">
    It reminds me of a Chevy convertible I used to own….

    1. That Voiture looks awesome. Almost looks like some of the industrial carts Cushman makes today.

  8. At my university, they use Suzuki Super Stalkers as fleet vehicles. I'm actually authorized to use any UW fleet vehicles, the only problem is that the ones used in our department are box trucks and minivans. Anyways, I'm hoping that I'll be in a situation where I'll get to drive one.
    <img src="http://www.usedminitrucks.com/admin/images/MT0522aa.JPG&quot; width="600">
    I couldn't find an image of a UW branded one.

    1. What's wrong with the minivan? Mini Party Wagon! Think about it: Get your friends to class and parties on time, use it for the beer run, and when some radio station does a "How many people can you stuff in a ridiculously small car" contest, you'll at least place second.

      1. Oh don't get me wrong, there are some serious possibilities, but I just would feel all sorts of wrong if I went my whole life without driving a Kei car.

  9. The majority of the time my 7-mile commute is spent alone. A small car would be great fun. According to the Hooniversal calendar, 25 weeks ago Mdharrel sent me down the time-consuming path of exploring this micro car museum website: http://microcarmuseum.com/index.html. After that, I came across a picture of a micro car that I really, really wanted to own. I can't find it now but it turned out to be extremely rare and basically unobtainable. It was British, topless, had two headlights, and advertisements showed it seating two ladies (not topless) on the high-street out shopping. I think it was 1920s or 1930s.

  10. All of them. If I had to choose just one, it would be the Voisin Biscuter. One wheel drive.

    1. Although several of the cars posted here probably don't fit the technical definition, I'll bet that one does. What's the displacement?
      Excellent use of Vega taillights, BTW.

      1. Electric or a 16 hp Briggs & Stratton opposed-twin. Looks like the B&S twin is 656 cc, which would make it meet all modern engine-based definitions of a microcar (the Japanese under 660 cc limit, and the more generous under 1000 cc limit).

        1. According to the Register of Unusual Microcars (RUMcars):
          "The general definition of microcars as economy vehicles with either three or four wheels, powered by petrol engines of no more than 700cc or battery electric propulsion, and manufactured since 1945 was adopted, but this can be varied if justified by vehicle interest."
          Good to go!

  11. Not a really difficult question for me; I already own a Haflinger.
    If it were for a microcar I don't already own, I'd go with the ME TG500 from the carburetor era, or Nissan's Figaro and maybe an AZ-1 for a modern power train.

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