Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ever Wonder How They Do That? (Movie Camera Cars)

I don't know about you -- but I had this image in my head of a couple of guys with a camera laying down on the hood of a car filming the people driving. (Don't stop too fast or we're going to lose the sound guy -- and be careful on those corners.)

And, of course, we all remember the classic movies, with the backdrop looking so obviously staged, and with the leading-lady's hair staying perfect -- even in a convertible.

Well...the folks at Autoblog must have been asking themselves the same question. The difference is -- they went out and got the answers. It turns out that it's not nearly as easy as you might think, and the vehicles used to make those great action driving scenes are quite elaborate.

From Herbie (The Love Bug) with a camera boom to a monster Hummer with a custom front end, the movie cars are pretty neat.

Monday, September 29, 2008

California Commuter 157MPG

Way back when in the 1980's Doug Malewicki built a car that was the milage king. The California Commuter gained entry into the Guiness Book of World Records with a gasoline run of 157MPG and a diesel record of 156MPG. These weren't perfect condition track runs either, but road runs on the highways of California. Read more, or buy plans for yourself -http://www.canosoarus.com/03CalifCommuter/CalCom01.htm

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Racing Apes


Ape - the little delivery trucks are also involved in racing. Hot motorcycle engines and oversized tires can really get them moving around the track. For some three wheeling fun check out the site for racing Apes -

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Messerschmitt Kabinenroller included in "Cold War Modern" Exhibit at London's Victoria & Albert Museum

In examples of how the Cold War influenced design, the Victoria & Albert Museum will have a Messerschmitt Kabinenroller and a P70 Coupe (described as an early version of the Trabant).

These cars will be in good company -- with designs by Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin, Eames furniture designs made of ‘modern’ materials such as fiberglass, and movies -- including; Goldfinger, The Ipcress File, Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Modern life after 1945 seemed to promise both utopia and catastrophe. By 1949, both of the world’s superpowers had acquired the capacity to annihilate one another with nuclear weapons. Twenty years later, man had walked on the moon.
"Modernist artists and designers responded to this dual vision, searching for ways to build a new and hopeful future and deal with the anxieties of the present.
"This exhibition explores modern art, architecture, design and film in the period 1945-70, highlighting the ways in which artists and designers responded to the conditions of the Cold War."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flip top chop Isetta

I don't know if what's under the hood (excuse me - sidepanel) of this Isetta is as hot as this flamin' paint job indicates, but what the heck. This custom job shows what you can do if you ever roll your Isetta.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chrysler Announces New Microcar -- GEM Peapod


Chrysler officially announced a new GEM microcar on September 23, 2008. The "Peapod" will be the newest addition to the GEM line of electric vehicles.

A decade after its launch and with 38,000 zero-emission electric vehicles produced and in use, Chrysler's GEM brand has launched the first of its next-generation designs - the Peapod. Scheduled for production in 2009, the low-speed neighborhood commuter can cover up to 30 miles without recharging at a top speed of 25 mph. In keeping with the company's "lots of love" slogan, the new fully-enclosed pod design uses eco-friendly recycled and recyclable materials in its construction and should keep a lid on road rage by virtue of its smiling facade (both front and rear), as well as keeping those inside the car happy with new ergonomic mesh seating and a freshly designed center console featuring (the almost mandatory) iPod integration and hands-free iPhone support.

GEM cars are street legal in more than 40 states and currently there are six models: two, four and six-seater passenger cars plus three utility vehicles. All share a top speed of 25 miles per hour and a range of up to 30 miles per charge assisted by regenerative braking. Recharging is via a standard 110-volt outlet and takes around six to eight hours.

The new Peapod design will be the first in a series of product launches. “With this next generation GEM, we will broaden the market for this clean, emission-free technology,” said the company’s CEO Bruce Coventry. "In addition to the 2009 GEM Peapod neighborhood electric vehicle, GEM has plans to market a new light-duty, battery electric commercial truck and a larger city electric vehicle, with more range and performance. These vehicles are scheduled for production within the next year."


NO GAS. NO EMISSIONS. LOTS OF LOVE.

Eco-friendliness gets a fresh new face with the GEM Peapod. And GEM takes on new meaning as GreenEcoMobility. Building on 10 years of battery-powered innovation, the GEM Peapod brings groundbreaking style and modern functionality to a gas-free, emission-free vehicle.

The Peapod doesn't pollute and doesn't take up any more space than it needs to, making it the perfect way to get around your neighborhood or commute to school or work. Every inch of interior space is thoughtfully designed, too. The center console offers an iPod dock and allows for hands-free operation of your iPhone. The seating is both ergonomic and eco-friendly (made from recycled and recyclable materials).

GEM is already USA's number one zero-emission electric vehicle, with 38,000 of its six models in active use today. The Peapod will be available for purchase in 2009, with more redefining models to come from GEM soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Politics of Cars

In this election season, it seemed like a good idea to look at the cars that all the candidates drive -- to try to figure out which one is most likely to be "microcar-friendly."

McCain:

It seems that the McCain's win in the contest of who owns the most cars. According to Newsweek, John McCain owns 13 cars. (Apparently 12 of the cars belong to Cindy McCain, while John only owns one.) The McCain cars include -- a Toyota Prius, a 2004 Cadillac STC, a 2005 Volkswagen convertible, a Lexus, a 2001 Honda sedan, a 2007 half-ton Ford pickup truck, two Jeeps, a 2000 Lincoln, a 2001 GMC SUV, and three GEM neighborhood electric vehicles.
Obama:

Obama has one car registered in his name -- a 2008 Ford Escape hybrid. He went car shopping last year when his previous car, a Hemi powered Chrysler V-8 drew some criticism. The Ford Escape hybrid seems to be the unofficial political candidate car. It is driven by John Edwards, Sens. Christopher Dodd and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Govs. Mitt Romney and Bill Richardson.
Palin:

It's probably not surprising to hear that Sarah Palin can often be seen driving a Chevrolet Suburban. It's hardly a microcar (or even a minicar, or a "politically-correct" hybrid), but it is the car the state of Alaska provides the governor. And with a family of seven in Alaska -- it may not be a bad choice. Her other vehicles include a VW Jetta TDI (42mpg -- not bad) and an Arctic Cat F6. If you aren't familiar with that last one, it's because it isn't a car . . . it's a snowmobile.


Biden:

Biden is the guy with the most interesting cars -- perhaps because he is the son of a car salesman. He was given a 1967 Corvette (in 1967) as a wedding gift from his father, and he still drives it. Despite having a classic Corvette (Bill Clinton preceded him as a classic car owner, with a 1967 Mustang), Biden's choice of rides doesn't seem to be as public as that of the other candidates -- although one posting cited him as also owning a classic pickup truck.


So...it's time to tally it up. Who is the best microcar candidate?

We certainly have to give McCain credit for his three GEM electric cars (even if they actually belong to his wife, Cindy). But we aren't a big fan of his "car of choice," the Cadillac CTS.

So, let's look at his running-mate, Sarah Palin. She gets one negative for the Suburban (sensible, perhaps...but not a very microcar-friendly choice), but she gets a positive for the Arctic Cat. It's not a car, but it is small -- and probably a lot of fun to drive.

On the other side we have Obama. His choice of a hybrid is a good thing, but he managed to pick one of biggest hybrids out there -- and it seems to be his second choice, after the Chrysler 300.

Barack's running-mate, Joe Biden wins on the coolness factor. (It's hard not to like a 1967 Corvette -- even if it's got a gas-guzzling V-8 under the hood.) But, between the Vette and a pickup, he doesn't seem to be driving small.


What's our conclusion?. . . a draw.


But we couldn't resist posting some photos of politicians doing what they do best -- looking foolish at the wheel.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let's go camping!

Who says we can't carry a load? With a single wheel trailer, anything goes. Go camping, boating, or carry your groceries home in a handy manor. For more single wheel trailers than you knew there were - go to -

Monday, September 22, 2008

The GIZMO is GONE

The Gizmo made by the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Company is no more. But if you hurry you might just be able to pick up a used one from thier website. This car of the future is now in the past. http://www.nevco-ev.com/index2.html

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another Iteration of the Fiat Jolly...the Castagna Tender Two


Not too long ago we came across a Fiat concept car that looked a lot like a reincarnation of the Fiat Jolly. A fun “plaything” for the rich and famous – complete with a fringe on the top. It seemed odd, however, that the base of the concept was a Fiat Fiorino van, and not the new Fiat 500.
Well…that error has been corrected by Castagna with the Castagna Tender Two. And with this iteration of the “Jolly” tradition, the car has been rendered as an electric vehicle. (The electric innards of the car were designed in cooperation with the Swiss firm Mes-Dea, which hopes to build a long-distance hybrid giardinetta-style Fiat 500 by the end of the year.)
The Fiat 500 has been converted to a two-seat, teak-decked beach buggy, capable of 80mph and a range of 75-85 miles between charges.
Beyond the teak decking and the wicker accents, the interior is covered in its entirety with salt-water and abrasion resistant synthetic leather. Nautical touches are found throughout the cabin, from polished steel handles to the below-deck storage for beach towels and other sundries. Even the overhead shade is reminiscent of the canvas bimini top found on so many boats.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A trike called a TWIKE

Elmer Fudd would call it a twike, the Fine Mobile company does too. This electric/human powered vehicle might be what you are looking for if you'd like a little workout with your commute. And you might havee to work overtime to save up the base US pricetag of over 30 grand. But this might be a way for you to live long enough to collect your pension if you have a widening waistband. http://www.twike.us/

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Return of the Isetta?


BMW has been "batting around" some ideas about a new electric car for some time -- generating a wealth of rumors. Among the ranks of microcar enthusiasts it is particularly interesting that the project has the working title of "Project i".

Does this mean a resurrection of the Isetta brand?

In an interview with Die Zeit, a German newspaper, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer confirmed that BMW is working on a tiny ‘mega city’ car. “It’ll be a car with a completely new look, with two engines available. One will be a very efficient combustion engine and the other will be a purely electric model.” Reithofer said that the electric-powered car will meet California regulations which call for a range of 200 miles for fuel cell or battery-powered cars by 2012.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spy Photos of a Fiat 500 Cabrio

Apparently Fiat has confirmed that they are working on a Cabrio version of the new Fiat 500 -- so the spy photo guys hit the streets and have been able to snag some shots of prototype cars.
According to reports from Global Motors, Fiat is working on two versions of a soft top 500:
"One will have a classical cabrio roof just like the new Mini has and the other will be a cabrio coach or semi-convertible that has a retractable textile roof. Last one is more of a targa and the cars usually don’t need a redesign of the body at all."
The photogs from Next Autos also spied the drop-top 500, taking this shot (below) of what is apparently the Cabrio "coach" version.


Now...if they would just introduce the car here in the US.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From Suranyi to Solo


The Hungarians have come a long way in automotive design from the tiny Suranyi to the futuristic Solo. Like the rest of the world the Hungarians are playing with prototypes. See more of the Solo and try and forget the Suranyi.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Car Club of the Month - R.U.M Cars

We here at the Microcar and Minicar Club have had a long running relationship with the Register of Unusual Microcars in the UK. It is a fine club and within the pages of it's club mag it hosts pages from a number of other smaller clubs. They always have interesting features and updates in microcar news. Take a look -
http://www.rumcars.org/

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Prospect for Alternative-Fueled Vehicles in Hawaii is Positively Electric


Hawaii may be an early player in a trend toward the reduction in the reliance on oil for transportation.


While the single electric car plying the roads of Molokai hardly seems like the start of a trend -- it is the activities of Shai Agassi's "Better Place" that makes the island state a likely location for the launch of electric cars in the US. The most recent issue of Wired magazine describes Agassi's ambitious plans for electric cars (starting with inroads in Israel, Denmark, and yes...Hawaii). According to the article, representatives of Better Place have met with business and political leaders in Hawaii to discuss the possibility of setting up an infrastructure for electric cars in the state. (Hawaii is a logical jumping off point. As an island state, driving distances tend to be short -- consistent with the capabilities of electric cars -- and Hawaii spends a huge amount to oil producers, an amount equal to 14% of the state's gross domestic product.)


So what about that single electric car in Molokai? According to the Molokai Times, the Dynesty Sedan was shipped from British Columbia and can travel 150 miles for the cost of about $5 of electricity. Pretty good when you think of the cost of a gallon of gas.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let's Try Again: Mamaroneck Car Show Rescheduled for September 14th


The sun came out, and the rains of Tropical Storm Hanna were gone -- but the fields were too wet to hold the Mamaroneck Car Show this past Sunday. (The first time in 33 years that the show had to be rescheduled due to bad weather.)


And this is a show we were really looking forward to. This year was the first time that a microcar/minicar division was added to the show. So Crosley's, King Midgets, Isettas, and other minicars will be judged together, instead of being lumped together with large fields of full-size sedans and imports.


But we are in luck. The rain date is this Sunday, September 14th. Cars can enter the field as early as 9am, and the judging starts at 12:30pm. We hope you can come.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Singer sews up the race

Lionel Martin was successful using a Singer car in the Aston Clinton Hill Climb in the early 1900's. Soon after that the first Aston - Martin was produced. Pictured here is a race car version of a Singer Chamois of much later VP (Vintage Production). The 875cc Singer was really a Hillman Imp with different badges. For information go to the site -

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mystery Microcar or Mystery Minicar

We've run across many strange and unusual microcars and minicars over the last 15 years or so that our club has been around. This month we decided to put up a mystery microcar on our blog, as we occasionally do in our quarterly club magazine. Does anyone out there have an idea what it could be. If so just click the comments on the bottom of the post.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Suzie the Little Blue Coupe"



It's not often that I find material from Autoblog that is appropriate for MINUTIA Online. Most of the Autoblog features cover new cars and muscle cars -- but they recently uncovered a couple of old Disney cartoons that fit MINUTIA perfectly.

"Suzie" is a 1951 Walt Disney cartoon that features a town of animated cars. The animation of the cars is similar to that used in the movie "Cars", but the short is developed from hand-drawn and colored cells -- the traditional method of animating from the 50's. And it's a cute story of the life of a car.

It is unclear what make or model Suzie is, but she is clearly a mini or microcar, and would be welcome to join the Microcar & Minicar Club.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Get in and go (Microcar Replicas)


Wow! What a great lineup of microcars, and these can be daily drivers. No need to worry about where you're going to get those rare parts to keep your microcar on the road now, Andy has solved the problem. With his modern microcar replicas you can take a cruise anytime without the headache and concern that some unreplacable part might break at any minute. Just get in and go go go. Find out more about cars and engines at

Monday, September 8, 2008

ECO extreme (Go Green FAST)

The Peraves ECO is a bubble bike/car. It's jet like look also speaks of it's speed. A variety of engine choices and options put this beyond the category of "one size fits all". On the low end the standard ECO can do 150mph, but I suggest trying out the Super turbo at 195+. Milage varies too, ranging from the 40's to 50's in mpg. For more info -
http://eco.peraves.ch/ndexe.htm

Sunday, September 7, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT: Mamaroneck Car Show Postponed (September 14 Rain Date)

The fields were too wet this morning for the show -- so it is being moved to the rain date of September 14th.

Could the TH!NK city be the platform for the new CityZENN?


Well...we found out a couple of days ago what can happen if you get some of your facts wrong. We cobbled together a brief posting on the planned CityZENN -- incorrectly assuming that ZENN would be using components from French manufacturer Microcar SA. (The current ZENN Neighborhood Electric Vehicle [NEV] utilizes the body and chassis of a Microcar MC2.)


As it turns out, ZENN hasn't yet announced an OEM for the CityZENN, although a lot of press has covered their negotiations with EEStor to use their innovative Electrical Energy Storage Units.


We caused a bit of a stir among the folks following the activities of ZENN and EEStor. The inadvertant byproduct of all of this is that we spent some time reading websites and blogs, trying to figure out what's really going on. And as Tom Villars, the administrator of a discussion group on EEStor stated, we'll probably all find out when ZENN breaks the story in a press release.


But that certainly doesn't keep people from speculating. One candidate as a "body-donor" for the CityZENN is the TH!NK city. The company has had some ups and downs since its founding in 1991, but, as pointed out in a posting on TheEEStory, it might make sense as a companion to the Zennergy drive. In a April press release announcing the establishment of TH!NK North America, this point was made:


“The TH!NK city is the world’s only crash-tested and highway-certified EV and is ideal for markets such as California where we will initiate demonstration projects offering an exceptionally safe and fun car to drive” says Jan-Olaf Willums, CEO of Think Global.


Maybe a highway-viable electric car will be here sooner than we TH!NK.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Everything Old is New Again: A Return of the Fiat Jolly?

Back in 1958 Fiat sent a shipment of Fiat 600s to the Italian design house Ghia for an unusual conversion. The resulting cars (or toys) were called the Fiat Jolly. Featuring wicker seats and the option of a fringed top to shield its occupants from the Mediterranean sun, these cars were originally made for use on large yachts of the wealthy. (According to Wikipedia, Aristotle Onassis once owned one.)

Very few of the cars were made, and fewer still are believed to exist. (Beware of imitations -- the value of these little cars has led to many conversions of standard Fiat 600s.)

Autoblog recently reported on a similar conversion. Fiat Fiorino vans have been chopped and converted into Portofinos. They are considerably larger than the original Jolly -- and it seems even less likely that a Portofino will ever appear atop a yacht -- but they are looking to capture some of the "vibe" of the original. It's only a concept, so don't hold your breath.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Smart Cars May Have Some Company: CityZENN


A joint effort by the Zenn Motor Company (Toronto, Ontario) and France's Microcar SA may hit European streets as early as 2010.
[NOTE: See comments below. We probably "jumped the gun" on this story. While ZENN contracts with Microcar SA for their current NEV, no announcement has been made as to who ZENN will work with on the CityZENN.]

The new model, the cityZenn will be capable of speeds of up to 80 miles an hour, with a range of 250 miles. These advances are expected, based on new technology being developed by EEStor Inc. of Cedar Park, Texas.

The standard Zenn (zero emissions, no noise) is currently on the market in the US as a NEV (neighborhood electric vehicle). The car plugs into a conventional electrical outlet and runs 30 to 50 miles on a single charge, depending on the speed and whether the air conditioning is used. Average battery life is about eight hours at an operating cost of only two cents a mile.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quno - Electric Amusement (Japanese Microcycle)

The Quno is classified as a one passenger, four wheel motorcycle in Japan. Pushing it you can get it up to 50km/h. The range depends on your speed, but you will max out at 80km. The fun factor of this car (motorcycle) would rival that of an Isetta. Hop in and amuse yourself.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

OK...We Forgive The Daily Telegraph

A couple of days ago we voiced our displeasure with the some of the choices made by the readers of The Daily Telegraph in their feature, "The 100 Ugliest Cars of All Time."

Why were we unhappy? Because they chose an inordinate number of minicars to heap insults upon. The cars we love were being defamed.

Well...we went through some of the archives of The Daily Telegraph, and were pleased with a feature that ran back in May. The article was, "Definitive Cars: 50 Definitive Drives. Our guide to the 50 cars that you should try and drive before your licence expires."

And the editors had the good sense to include several minicars on the list -- even if they tended to make snide remarks about performance in many of the descriptions. Included on the list were:
  • Austin Seven
  • Austin Mini Cooper
  • Citro├źn 2CV (also appeared on the list of 100 ugliest cars)
  • Fiat 500
  • Messerschmitt KR200
  • Morgan Super Sports Aero three wheeler

So the score is -- one article in my "good drawer" and one in my "bad drawer." Let's see what they come up with next.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

100mpg Subaru - 30 years ago! (High Milage Car)

Today we have the 10 million dollar X prize to develop a 100mpg vehicle. Over 30 years ago Subaru acheived that with a 500cc engine and powertrain combo out of a totally stock production vehicle. Designer Alex Tremulus headed this ambitious project. Get more details and pictures at -
http://www.rongineer.com/x100.html

Monday, September 1, 2008

APTERA - wingless flight

Aptera is off the drawing board and prototypes are being tested. Variations of electric and hybrid models are in the works. The look conveys a rocket on wheels with low drag efficiency to the max. The word is out on "Green" sites and magazine writers have gone for a spin. Take a look at the videos -
http://www.aptera.com/about.php