Saturday, May 31, 2008

Microcars at AutoRAI (1958 - Amsterdam)

An interesting newsreel from the 1958 AutoRAI in Amsterdam. I don't speak Dutch, but it's easy to follow from the video. Features include: Zundapp Janus, Vespa 400, DKW, DAF (including a description of the belt transmission). And what 1958 auto show would be complete without the Edsel?

Club of the month - American Austin-Bantam Car Club

Who doesn't like those little American Austins and Bantams. Half the size of a typical American sedan, it was an economy car when you could pull into the gas station and fill it up with your spare change. They also had a real variety of body styles to choose from. With their club's 45th Annual National Meet coming June 16-19, 2008 we choose the American Austin/Bantam Club our car club of the month -

Friday, May 30, 2008

Why Settle For Just One?

With little cars -- just one doesn't seem like enough. But sometimes they can be hard to come by. And, despite their diminutive size, it can be a challenge to find the space to park a fleet of microcars.

BUB (diecast miniatures) seems to have come up with a solution. They are offering a 5 year anniversary set -- a 1:87 scale Mercedes-Benz L6600 Pickup Truck with 4 Isettas. How can you pass up a quartet of bubblecars, complete with a car-carrier?

And if that's not enough...Premium ClassiXXs has is offering a pair of 1:43 scale Zündapp Janus miniatures. Check them out at SunRich Toys & Hobby.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bugeye at 50 (1958-2008)

The "Bugeye" "Frogeye" or whatever you call that cute little Austin Healey Sprite, has turned 50 this year. From a fun sportscar, to a racing machine, the Sprite has always had it's share of fans. It's quirky nature and smiley face looks attract even the uncar people. Here are a few anniversary meetings for the big 50 celebration.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Be a hit at parties with your Microcar

A recent study, sponsored by GM and the Department of Energy, indicates that the best way to meet girls is to have a fuel-efficient car.

Say what!!! Do you mean all those years of sports cars were wasted -- and that a VW Beetle or a Honda was what I should have been driving?

Well...that seems to be what the results of a recent survey, conducted by Challenge X, a collegiate engineering competition indicate.

Reported by Motor Trend, the study revealed that 88 percent of women would prefer to talk to a man with a new fuel-efficient car than a new sports car. You'll be more popular at parties too, as 80 percent of car buyers would prefer to talk to someone with a fuel-miser.

The survey also found that 36 percent of Americans on the fence about buying a hybrid would be pushed to seriously consider one if gas rose to $4.00 a gallon, and that rising fuel costs will be a factor when choosing a car for 73 percent of car buyers. There's also apparently lots of interest in a reality show similar to "Project Runway" that is about designing stylish fuel-efficient and emissions-free cars, with the nearly three quarters of survey respondents saying they'd tune in.
On a broader front, 86 percent of car buyers say that the country has some catching up to do when it comes to fuel-efficient cars and 97 percent agree that the spirit of innovation should be encouraged in young people because they often bring a fresh perspective.The Challenge X Survey was conducted by Kelton Research. In total, 500 interviews were fielded online that surveyed U.S. consumers, ages 18 or older, who plan to purchase or lease a car in the next two years.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Morris Minor progress

Thought I'd give an update on the Morris Minor progress. It's coming alive. We actually drove it under it's own power. The frame worked out great. It steers fine. The engine runs fine but the transmission is grinding. It seems like it doesn't fully engage in all gears and pops out under load and holding it in makes it grind. I have a feeling I'm going to learn a lot about these transmissions soon.

Isetta "Six Pack"

We've seen Isettas restored, in drag racing mode, as dune buggys and other forms. Here's one that's a bit different, a go anywhere all terrain vehicle. The Microcar and Minicar Club is always looking for pictures of interesting and unusual micros. If you have an extra photo, send it in. The address is in the column on the right.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

High Gas Prices Bring Out Little Cars

The first cruise-in of the season at Hemmings was attended by more small cars than usual, possibly in response to the over $4/gallon prices that we are seeing at the pumps.

Among the cars we consider as small (micro or mini) was a 1962 King Midget that attended the Vermont meeting from Tennessee (we'd like to know whether it drove up or was hauled) and a 1962 DAF Type 304 pickup. (The pickup belongs to John deBruin, head of the DAF Club of America, and a friend of the Microcar & Minicar Club.)

Hemmings is planning its next Cruise-In for May 29th. Maybe we'll see even more minicars at that show.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

A regular feature of MINUTIA (the quarterly print version) is a page reviewing articles from ten years ago. And as I was working on the next issue I came across this photo of a Nissan concept car -- that looks an awful lot like the concept car that Hoop featured in a recent posting.

Some might call it copying, others would say that great minds think alike.

Personally, I think both cars look a little "goofy", but that's coming from someone who used to drive a Crosley Station Wagon and now motors around in a Berkeley -- so who am I to talk?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Vanity Tag

This tag actually helps me out. This car never gets the impatient honks that other Trabis get tooling up those long hills. You know the hills that sap your "ramming speed". I really think the tag boggles peoples minds long enough that they ask themselves, "Does that car really have only 26hp?", "Man, no wonder!" and before you know it, I'm at cruising speed again. In fact, this car gets the HP question at filling stations and I admit that it's actually an earlier model that only has 23hp. Of course, that was when it was new. Oh, and being pink messes with their heads too. We call it our "Neapolitan (ice cream) Trabi", having chocolate, vanilla and strawberry colors. I guess you have to be self confident to drive little cars in general. They don't exactly convey the macho image a souped up Camaro projects. The funning thing is, these cars are the REAL chick magnets. But, that can be our secret.

Hey, Is that a Clown Car?

Most of us that drive microcars have heard an expression like that at one time or another. Although we know that we are driving important historic vehicles, our passengers might not get the picture. Convincing your significant other or date that you are not driving a clown car, is sometimes not so easy. So I suggest leaving the big red nose at home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Gas station visits are especially interesting in a Trabant. More often than not, I'm approached by someone either ex-military with great stories or a former East German who tells me their first car was a Trabant or their parents still have one in the garage back home. There is sometimes some embarrassment on their part to admit it though which of course I don't share. After all, I drive one in the US. Which, by the way, used to get a lot more snickers than today with gas prices the way they are. As with any mini car, one of the first questions asked by people is, '"How much mileage does it get?" But Trabis really get ...Smiles per gallon.

Motoring "J" Style

Motoring J Style, America’s festival of Japanese cars, returns to the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, California for 2008.

On May 24th, the fairgrounds will again become a car guy’s dream come true: 400 classic Japanese cars will be on display - you’ll see Toyota Corollas, Coronas, Datsun 510s, Roadsters, rotary Mazdas, flat-four Subarus, and 2-cylinder Hondas alongside twin-turbo NSXs. They’ll all be there. And a few surprises, too.

New for 2008, a “J Style Swap Meet” – a place to buy and sell aftermarket parts, automotive accessories, rare Japanese old-school wheels, your collection of old Tamiya kits – whatever you have around the house that needs a new home!

And don't forget the Drift Competition, where Northern California’s best drifters compete to be the MJS 2008 Drift Champion. Add some good beats, some good food, and a rally demonstration put on by WORKS – not a bad way to spend a Saturday with the family.

This is Northern California’s most talked about and most anticipated car show of the year – don’t miss it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

31st Annual Ault Park Concours d’ Elegance To Feature Microcar Display

CINCINNATI, OH – The annual Ault Park Concours d’ Elegance car show will be held Sunday, June 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at historic Ault Park, benefiting The Arthritis Foundation, Ohio Valley Chapter.
The event draws automobiles, enthusiasts and collectors from across the country and has become one of the most anticipated automobile events in the United States. This year’s theme “Grand American Classics” features American classic era cars of all makes and a special display of historic Indy Cars. Janet Guthrie, first woman to race in the Indy 500, will be honored as Grand Marshal, and is to be reunited with her 1976 “Lightning” Indy Car.

Event highlights include:
- Over 200 rare automobiles ranging from brass era antiques to modern exotics and racecars.
- A special display of Indy Cars featuring the first-ever Indy Winner from 1911.
- The ex-Elvis Presley 1929 Duesenberg along with the 1965 289 Cobra from his movie “Viva Las Vegas”
- Numerous rare automobiles including a 1928 Isotta Fraschini Boat-tail, TV’s Batmobile, President Herbert Hoover’s 1931 Hudson Phaeton, and a fantastic display of unique Micro Cars
Additionally, the event will feature an automobile-themed art show displaying the works of several national automotive artists, and a fashion show presented by Cincinnati Magazine, with fashion expert Bette Sherman highlighting Classic Fashion from 1920 – 1950. The June 8 Concours d’ Elegance will be accompanied by a Gala fundraising event on Friday, June 6 at Greenacres Arts Center in Indian Hill, and a Countryside Tour and Garage Party on Saturday, June 7, 2008.

To find out more about the 2008 Ault Park Concours d’ Elegance events, call 513-321-1951 or visit Tickets to the June 8 event can be purchased for $ 20 in advance or $ 25 day of show; children are free.
The 2008 Concours d’ Elegance Grand Gala is sponsored by Gillette Body Wash, Coppertree Ltd., Mercedes- Benz of Cincinnati, and James Free Jewelers.
Presenting Sponsors of the Concours d’Elegance weekend include TOYOTA, Beechmont Automotive Group, Carl H. Lindner, Jr., and Cincinnati Magazine.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Morris Minor Frame Rust

Recently, I bought a rusty 1960 Morris 1000. Now I've worked in body shops and have fixed some stuff but this was something I would have normally passed over. The difference this time was that it included the replacement parts to fix what I was told was typical rust, so I bit.
Now, this wasn't just rust, this was Frame Rust! Take a look at the photo and you'll see it isn't for the faint at heart. My courage came from knowing that I'd part the car if it got out of hand. I have a Riley One Point Five that needs the rear, a Bugeye that needed a transmission and an A35 the engine would find a home in. ( I've found a Bugeye trans at Import Carlisle since then). But, all that became unnecessary and it was actually fun cutting out the frame and fitting the new parts. The Morris restoration manual was also a source of courage and now I feel confident welding Morris frames. The seller told me he spent the extra couple bucks for the NOS panels so I can't vouch for the cheaper stuff but the fit was perfect. (unlike repop fenders etc.)

Where are they now?

So many cars have disappeared only to be discovered again years later, residing in some old farmer's chicken coop or other odd location. Here we have a photo of the famous (in the micro world) 1954 Stationette built by Captain James Vernon Martin. This car was seen on ebay in 2005 after a long sleep somewhere. See it at a wonderful site with a passsion for three wheeled vehicles.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's a concept

Concept cars have been around since the beginning of the automobile. We remember the rocket shaped rides and sleek show sleds. We are now seeing more and more micro and minicars in the last few years.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Micro North 2008 - June 20-22

Micro North 2008 is almost upon us. If you feel like the folks down south are having all the fun, that's because you haven't made it up to Coldwater, Ontario, Canada -- the site of Micro North 2008.

And where else can you find a show with no registration fees, no judging, and free camping. It's a bring what you got and come as you are meet.

Hosted by Ralph Hough, details on the meet can be found at Micro North 2008.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Microcar Ascent of Bear Mountain - June 8th, 2008

A troop of enthusiastic Micro & Minicar drivers will scale Bear Mountain on June 8th. This will mark the Second Annual Ascent of Bear Mountain.
Interested drivers are encouraged to contact Bruce Baker for specifics.

There is plenty of time to get your cars ready! We’ll start off from Bruce's house in Montvale, NJ at 9:00 AM. Coffee & bagels will be ready at 7:00 AM and participants are welcome to arrive then to share some stories and make their final inspections. The convoy will head north on the back roads of Rockland County and head into the park from the east. Along the way we’ll make a stop at a deli to pick up sandwiches for our lunch atop Bear Mountain. We should reach the summit between 11-12, stopping for a relaxing lunch at the scenic Hudson River overlook. From there we will head northwest through the southern portion of the West Point Military Reservation before taking a decent into Woodbury. We’ll make some photo op stops along this route, but no stopping at the Outlet Malls. From there we’ll head back into the park in search of the big white rabbit, and then head south back to Montvale. A stop at one of the various ice cream shops may be in order. We should get back to Montvale around 3:00 PM. Contact Bruce if you plan on attending, and please encourage everyone you know to get their cars ready and join us for the fun. These are great roads for our cars with little traffic, low speeds, and fantastic scenery.

Don’t hesitate to contact Bruce if you have any questions.

Bruce Baker 270 Chestnut Ridge Road, Montvale, NJ 07645 phone:201-476-0177 email: bb600[at]

Let other M&M owners know about the cruise and encourage them to become a M&M driver.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is Fiat Planning a New Topolino?

According to Autoblog, Fiat may be looking to recreate the success of its original Topolino microcar.

Autoblog: If you told us a year ago that Fiat was going to sign a deal with the government of Serbia, we'd have laughed. But that was before the country announced that it was accepting tenders for investment in the state-owned automaker Zastava, makers of the famous Yugo (aka Skala 55). The process started back in December when the Serbian government made the announcement, sparking interest from various automakers. But even as recent as last week, the Fiat stance was that it was still considering the proposition. Well, it appears the Italian auto giant has done thinking, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Serbia to establish a joint venture that involves Fiat investing a staggering 700 million euros (!) into Zastava's manufacturing facilities in exchange for a majority stake in the company, known in full as Zavodi Crvena Zastava. The Serbian government, meanwhile, will contribute some 200 million euros through tax incentives and similar measures.
Fiat has revealed that it will use the Zastava plant to produce the upcoming Topolino microcar. The vehicle will be based on the same platform as the 500 and Panda, but even smaller and positioned below either model, and share the same name as the concept car that previewed the new 500 and originally used on the 1936 runabout pictured above. According to reports, the new Topolino will be a compact two-seater measuring just 3150mm (124 inches) in length, slightly longer than the Smart ForTwo at 2692mm (106 inches). A four-seater version is expected to follow, in addition to an upscale version for the Lancia division.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Midget Car" from 1938

Popular Mechanics and similar magazines always had little items about homemade cars and the like. They usually called them "Midget Cars" or "Baby Cars". The clever folks that made some of these homebuilt vehicles had real imagination.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Big star in a tiny car

Here's a nice shot of a good lookin' guy in a good lookin' car. It's the King of Rock & Roll with the King of the Microcars. (or is it queen) Elvis gave an Isetta to Col. Parker too. See some more photos of Elvis and Isettas at

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dukes of Hazzard - In Miniature

The Dukes of Hazzard (the TV show, that ran from 1979 to 1985) was based on a 1975 film titled, Moonrunners. Moonrunners featured a Plymouth stock car named Traveler (named after General Lee's horse). When it was turned into the Dukes TV show, Traveler was turned into "The General Lee," a 1969 Dodge Charger.

But you have to ask yourself . . . since the late 70's were a time when people still remembered the 1973 oil embargo, and the resulting lines at the gas pumps . . . wouldn't it have made more sense for "The General Lee" to be a microcar?
Thanks to Hemmings for finding the images.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crosley Radio

Powel Crosley, the entrepreneur responsible for Crosley Automobiles really got around. He made his fortune in the radio and appliance business (Crosley owned WLW in Cincinnati, the first "mega" station, broadcasting at 500,000 watts), and was the owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. (Redland Field, home to the Reds from 1912 to 1970 was renamed Crosley Field in 1934.) And in 1930, Crosley launched the first car radio -- the "Roamio."

So its probably not surprising that Crosley cars were among the most popular "Mobile Units," taking reporters to events, and generally publicizing the station.

This 1948 Crosley Station Wagon was probably the first mobile unit for WROD, a station broadcasting out ot Daytona Beach, Florida. the station went on-air in November, 1947, with 1,000 watts, and broadcasting a MOR ("Middle of the Road") format.

And Daniel Strohl (Hemmings Motor News) found another Crosley Mobile Unit at Hershey back in 2006. His find was another 1948 Crosley Wagon, this one with WTAO lettered on the front and sides. (WTAO went on-air in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1948.

If you see any others, let us know.

(Adapted from MINUTIA, Volume 16, Number 4)

Friday, May 9, 2008

More on a new Isetta from BMW

Autocar reports that BMW is close to announcing the development of a new electric car, possibly to be sold under the Isetta name.

BMW is poised to give the go-ahead to a tiny Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) that will help to revolutionise city-centre driving. The rear-engined city car could be called Isetta and will first arrive in American showrooms in 2012.
The project was created because of new Californian regulations (soon to be copied by 12 other US states) which require big car makers to sell between a few hundred and a few thousand ZEVs every year from 2012.
However, global sales of the new model are also likely, because BMW has decided that the concept will be ideal for sale in cities all around the world. Indeed, many European cities have already established low-emissions zones.
BMW chief Norbert Reithofer recently said the company “would be obliged to sell a Zero Emissions Vehicle under the US regulations and that a battery car was “the most likely answer”.
Reithofer also said that BMW could have built just a few hundred cars to meet the US regulations but admitted that the company was also wondering if it could use the basic concept “not just for an electric car but also for a range of city cars”. These cars would use petrol and diesel motors, and could even feature BMW motorcycle engines.
The Californian regulations state that ZEVs can either be a fuel cell or battery-powered vehicle with a range of over 200 miles, or an Advanced Technology, Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) powered by a hybrid powertrain, by compressed natural gas (CNG) or by a methanol fuel cell.
BMW has yet to decide what badge the new Isetta will wear. “It could be BMW, Mini or another name,” Reithofer said. He also said that “co-operation [with another car maker] is possible” but stated that BMW would decide by the end of 2008 “whether to go it alone”.
Because the volumes are relatively low and the potential investment is high, sources in Germany say that BMW could also team up with Mercedes’ Smart division to work on a new vehicle.
BMW is said to be looking seriously at basing the new Isetta on a small zero-emissions concept developed by Austrian engineering powerhouse Magna Steyr. Magna already builds the BMW X3 and will build the Aston Martin Rapide.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Is it Microcar or "Voiture Micro"?

The consolidation of two microcar manufacturers in France is in the works. The Bénéteau Group has entered into exclusive negotiations with Philippe Ligier, the majority share holder in Automobile Ligier, and its financial partner, 21 Centrale Partners, with a view to selling off Microcar, its company that produces and markets light quadricycles for the European market.
This project, which will shortly be submitted for approval, is in line with the Bénéteau Group’s strategy to invest in and develop its two core businesses: boats and leisure accommodation.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

G-Wiz Electric Car: Road Test versus a Table?

We're not completely convinced of the authenticity of this match-up, but it's certainly entertaining.

The G-WIZ micro electric cars are a common site in the city of London. Apparently there are 200 charging stations around the city. Two of these little cars fit in a single paking space. Although Jeremy of Top Gear doesn't have good things to say about the car's features and performance, they look like a good choice to zip around in the city.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tiny Trucks

Over the last 15 years in "The Micocar and Minicar Club" we have devoted a good number of pages in our award winning magazine "Minutia" to tiny trucks. Personally I always liked the small van vehicles like the Subaru or the Fiat Family. Who doesn't need a box on wheels once in awhile. If you would like to see a good variety go to

Monday, May 5, 2008

Microcar Class at Mamaroneck Car Show (September 7, 2008)

The Microcar & Minicar Club has arranged with the organizers of the Mamaroneck Kiwanis Antique Car Show to add a Microcar & Minicar class to the show this year.
The addition of the class will allow mini and microcars to park together on the field (hopefully we'll be able to stake out a shady spot).
Also, trophies will be awarded to entries in the class -- so Berkeleys won't be competing with Jaguars, and King Midgets won't be in a class with Mustangs.
2008 is the 35th anniversary of this popular Car Show. As always, the show takes place on the first Sunday after Labor Day (September 7th, 2008) in Harbor Island Park, Mamaroneck, New York. If you are interested, post a comment to this listing, or send an email to: ed.minutia(at)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

244 mpg - Was it just a Shell game?

Shell oil has long been associated with milage runs. Here in 2008 it's called Shell's Eco Marathon, but if you were around in the 1970's you might remember some of their high milage claims. The little Fiat 600 pictured here was tested and achieved 244.35 mpg. The plans are to restore it and compete again. If you would like more information, start your search for the book "Fuel Economy of the Gasoline Engine" look up (ISBN 0-470-99132-1) published in 1977 by some "In the know" workers at Shell. And if 244 mpg isn't enough for you

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Success of 500 leads Fiat to plan launches of two more small cars

Reported by Motor Trend: Fiat's iconic new 500 has thus far been a success, with a four-month waiting list and plans to produce nearly 200,000 vehicles this year. Now, to keep the momentum going, the Torino-based automaker has plans to introduce two completely new small-car models in the next two years.

Fiat's Chief Technology Officer Harald J. Wester said in a recent interview that both cars will fill gaps in the automaker's lineup, the first being a B-segment car to slot between the Panda and larger Grande Punto. Tentatively called the Uno (revitalizing a name from Fiat's past), the car will be a low-cost vehicle targeted at developing markets such as China, South America, and India, and serve as a replacement for Fiat's current world car, the Palio. It will also be offered as a small wagon.
Fiat is hoping to build the Uno locally in some developing markets, focusing on countries where more than 100,000 vehicles could be sold yearly. In addition Wester brought up the possibility of selling the B-car under a different brand in order to preserve Fiat's current image. Speculation is that of the nameplates in Fiat's stable, the new world car could potentially be launched under the defunct Innocenti brand name.
In addition to the Uno, Fiat is also planning a new microcar that would be even smaller than the current 500 and Panda. Little is known about this car at present, but it could possibly see production as soon as the end of 2009 or early 2010.With recent reports of an investment in hybrid technology and possible plans to open a U.S. plant, Fiat has come a long way from when GM was willing to pay $2 billion just to dissolve a partnership with them. Hopefully the company's continued success will encourage them to bring the frisky 500 over to American shores. Oh, and a few more Alfas as well, please.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Small World of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

Ed Roth has played a defining role in hot rodding and automotive customizing, but he doesn't tend to be associated with minicars. (If you are having a tough time "placing" him, it might help if I describe "Big Daddy" as the creator of Rat Fink, Drag Nut, Mother's Worry and Mr. Gasser.) He started with custom paint work in the late 50's - then moved on to the design of one-off, custom hotrods.

"The Original Rat Fink" was an exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Among the featured cars was a 1973 Honda 600 that Roth turned into a rolling billboard for his painting and pinstriping business. But a favorite "Big Daddy" minicar is the Surfite. the Surfite is a true concept car, demonstrating how a "hipster" surfer could get around. Under its unique custom surfboard carrier body is an Austin Mini Cooper chassis.

Power is supplied by a 1269cc Austin Mini Cooper chrome-plated engine, described as an Austin Sidewinder. The fiberglass body is by "Dirty Doug." (And one can only imagine who he is.)

Ed tried to get Surfite in a movie that he heard was being filmed in Sportsman's Cove in Malibu, and even though it was only a split second, Surfite made a brief appearance in Beach Blanket Bingo.

(Originally appeared in MINUTIA Issue 15, Number 2.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Electric present

The HOTTEST electric car to come out so far has to be the TANGO. 3,057 lbs. - 2,000 amps at 300 sizzling volts 0-60 in 4 seconds - top speed 150 - 170 mph - Tango-go Safety is built into the design features of this mini rocket. It's got a tandem seating arrangement and the narrow width makes for easy parking. Check out the details at -