A his­tory of wee ve­hi­cles

Popular Science - - CONTENTS - 8

CARS ARE GET­TING BIG­GER—THE bet­ter to pro­tect you with, my dear. But back when fuel was scarce and safety wasn’t a con­cern, tiny ma­chines thrived. These wee rides filled a niche for decades, but to­day, some com­muters still de­mand ex­cep­tion­ally small ve­hi­cles.

1/ 1953 BMW Isetta

The best-known “bub­ble car”—post–World War II whips that were so small that their win­dows looked huge—had a sin­gle front door, two seats, and no mean­ing­ful stor­age.

LENGTH: 90 inches

5/ 1998 Smart For Two

At less than 100 inches long, two of these city cars could fit in one park­ing spot. A steel cell sur­rounded pas­sen­gers, but the ride lacked cru­cial crum­ple zones.

LENGTH: 99 inches

2/ 1957 Fiat 500

This two-door sported a more con­ven­tional de­sign, but its en­gine sat over its rear wheels. A sta­tion-wagon ver­sion turned the block on its side for in­creased stor­age space.

LENGTH: 117 inches

6/ 2001 REVAi (G-Wiz)

The REVAi was the best-sell­ing elec­tric car for nearly a decade. How­ever, early models lacked safety fea­tures like a re­in­forced chas­sis and failed crash tests at as slow as 25 mph.

LENGTH: 100 inches

3/ 1962 Peel P50

Cer­ti­fied by Guin­ness as the small­est pro­duc­tion car, the P50 had one rear wheel and no re­verse. To back up, driv­ers pulled the 130-pound auto by a han­dle on its derrière.

LENGTH: 53 inches

7/ 2012 Re­nault Twizy

The Twizy is what the REVAi should have been. Driver and pas­sen­ger sit pig­gy­back along the cen­ter. The en­tire steel ve­hi­cle struc­ture could pro­tect the oc­cu­pants in an ac­ci­dent.

LENGTH: 92 inches

4/ 1973 Re­liant Robin

Known as the “plas­tic pig” in British pop cul­ture, thanks to its fiber­glass body, this three-wheeled ride had a sin­gle tire up front, which made it prone to tip­ping over.

LENGTH: 131 inches

8/ Now/fu­ture: Elio

A U.S.-based startup has plans for its new three­wheeled, $7,450, sin­gle-seat com­muter car: The com­pany claims 84 mpg from its three-cylin­der en­gine.

LENGTH: 160 inches

A 123.7-inch­tall Volvo VNL 760, for scale Trac­tor Trailer

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