Saturday, January 31, 2009

How About Product Placement of a Microcar?

Well...a Segway isn't really a microcar, but it is about the closest thing to one that is getting "product-placement" action in the movies today.

The new movie, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop", starring Kevin James, has run up the numbers at theaters this month. The Seattle Times gives the Segway co-star billing with, "(Kevin James) is a skilled physical comedian, and he handles the Segway like it's a comedy-team partner, swooping around corners like a uniformed bird of prey."

This bird of prey is the Segway Personal Transporter -- that two-wheeled platform that looks so cool, but costs so much, and isn't legal to drive in so many places.

While the Segway (imagined and designed by Dean Kamen) seems futuristic, we found what looks like an early ancestor of the mobility platform in the archives at the Petersen Automotive Museum. the Arbib Monoscoot is a 1965 design by Richard Arbib. Pretty neat!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Racing across the country

Gus Pezel racecar driver, made a run at a cross country trip from
San Francisco to New York in what was dubbed "The World's
Smallest Automobile". Here he's stopping off at Yosemite Park.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Worth Repeating: Citroën 1, Joel 0

Pulled from the archives of MINUTIA (Volume 13, Number 3 - 2004):

BAYVILLE, NY - What began as a Sunday trip to the pizza parlor ended with the Piano Man parked in the side of a Long Island house. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Billy Joel, had taken his vintage 1967 Citroën to fetch a pizza pie from a Bayville, New York pizzeria, but the accident-prone pop star lost control of the vehicle on a rain-slicked road and plowed into the residence of a 93-year-old woman.

Joel had been driving solo on a tricky stretch of Bayville Avenue when his 1967 Citroën skidded off of the wet road at about 4pm, cutting through some bushes before smashing into the residence of Maria Dono. The impact left a gash in the small house's foundation wall and siding, as well as six-foot skid marks across the sand by the road.

Joel, 54, reportedly walked away from the crash relativeley unscathed, declining medical attention for a cut on his left ring finger. There was no evidence of alcohol or drug involvement and Joel was not suspected of any crime. "What you got here is basically a simple accident," said Nassau County Police Leutenant Kevin Smith. "He lost control on slippery pavement... There were no signs that it was anything other than a minor accident due to slippery road conditions." Dono returned from a shopping trip Sunday afternoon to find Joel speaking with police outside her house. Although she had never heard of the Long Island singer before the accident, she expects him to pay for repairs. "He hit my bushes and the wall. He'd better come fix it," Ms. Dono told the New York Post for Tuesday's editions. "I'm sure he has money." His car was towed away with only minor damage. Witnesses say Joel was not exactly in a happy state of mind afterward.

Compiled and edited from AP News articles.
And Joel isn't the only celebrity to wind up with a smashed car on this site. Check out the Jerry Seinfeld/Fiat 500 story from April 2008.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Go down to electric avenue

Are you in India, Asia, or living a Euro lifestyle? If so, the Reva is
available to be your vehicle of choice. The two middle letters tell
us it's an EV (electric vehicle). It was designed in California but our
many many many many rules and regulations - well you know -

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Have You Seen This Car?

This article appeared in MINUTIA almost four years ago -- and it seems interesting enough to reprint here:

It all started in 1961 when I bought the BMW Isetta 300 from an Airman who worked for me at the Air Force Station at Syracuse, NY. He had this 1958 Isetta, a nice little car but not very conducive for courting in it, as you can surmise as you look at the picture! I heard it was for sale and I bought it.

At the time I was living on Folar Beach Road on Oneida lake about 4 miles from the base. I got about 60 mpg on the 298cc motorcycle engine it had. It had a top speed of around 55 mph, downhill. The fellows in the Minicar Club I am sure will dispute this claim but that was the best I could get out of it? It was ideal for commuting to the base. I made a set of chains for it and bolted some water skis on the front wheels so that we could use it for getting it on the lake for ice fishing.

One evening we decided to drive into North Syracuse to visit friends who had just bought a new home there. In the car was myself, my wife, two kids and our dog. As we pulled up the fellow next door was mowing his lawn, and he stopped when he saw us pull up. I opened the door and out came the dog, two kids and my wife and then me. He walked over to ask if we had driven it from Michigan? While in the service I kept Michigan plates on my vehicles. I told him sure, and we have a trailer that we left at the campgrounds! Well he was buying it till I told him about the trailer? One too many lies!

Well there are many cute and funny stories about the times we had with it. It was in the spring of 1964 as I was getting ready to retire fromt he Air Force and was talking about selling the car. My wife said don't sell it! We can take it back to Laurium and I will use it to go back and forth to the golf course? Her friend Rita was going to teach her to play golf. I told her that with the two of you in it there would be no place for the golf clubs. I didn't really want to sell it so I started to figure out how I could handle the golf clubs? There are two very stout pipe bumpers on the back the only place that I could mount something on. I bolted two pieces of pipe upright on them about 30" at the top. Across these pipes I bolted a piece of hardwood about 24" by 8".

About this time my friend Don showed up and says " this looks like a good place to carry an outboard motor." With this in mind Don says lets put a motor on it and take a ride around the lake. So we clamped a 7.5 Johnson on it and started out. I had forgotten that the Isetta at that time had a blown muffler and was quite loud. Well we got many looks, laughs and applause, so it just mushroomed from there. I had all the pieces and parts that I needed after buying out the remains of an outboard agency in Matydale, NY. I had a bow plate for an aluminum boat, red and green bow lights, chocks and bits and several stern lights. I filled in the open areas at the stern. Mounted the flow plate and tilted in the bow as you see it. Then added the lights. Bronzed the bottom and painted a water line on her. She had a sun roof, so I put a plexi-glass windshield on the top and a stern light up there also.

Well now it was about time for a name, but we decided that a number was better. So we decided on the EXP I. Till now there has been no EXP II. When I retired in November 1964 we came across Canada with a truck with a 4-wheel trailer and the Isetta among other things on it. Behind me was my car with the wife, the kids and the dog, and it was loaded down. Then behind us was my Jeep with a V plow on the front and a two wheeled box trailer behind it. Well at Buffalo we had no problem and the Canadian Customs just waved us through. While we were crossing Canada on the Queens Highway which (in 1964) was just two lanes. This three vehicle caravan was something to pass. We had CB radios in each vehicle and I told them to fall backa nd leave a space between us to allow vehicles to pass one at a time. Because as they passed my truck and trailer they would see the Isetta and slow up to my speed to get a better look at it. I thought I was going to cause an accident. Well we made it to Windsor and Canadian Customs. I showed them my retirement papers, but all theywanted to see was the title to that little car which had quite a crowd gathered around it. We than moved on to US Customs. Well, Tim and I got stopped by Barb was waved through. This nice young Customs Officer was trying to show his authority and was going to make us take everything off so he could inspect it. I showed him my retirement papers and told min these were all my household goods that I had acquired during my stay in Syracuse. Whild we were going around a Senior Customs Officer showed up and asked what was going on and I told him. He asked to see my discharge papers. He took a copy and stamped it and said to get going and that was it.

Well there was some other excitement on the trip but it didn't have anythign to do with the Isetta so I won't bore you with that! I was supposed to have an Evenrude Agency, but, that fell through so I set up a small boat ride in Copper Harbor called Harbur Cruise. Hence the name on the sides of the car. I had it in several parades and then would park it by the stop signal at the junction of US 41 and 14-M-26. It wold send people looking for the Boat Ride. The boat business only operated for two years wile I was driving a school bus in the winter. I then took the job of Street Commissioner in Laurium, so I put the car in storage. It was in storage for many years while I was in my boating phase, going to Arkansas two years to operate a cruise boat, spent a couple of years on a research vessel on the Great Lakes, then to the Gulf, Baltimore Harbor, Bahamas, Bayfield Wisconsin, and a stint with the National Parks System in the Apostle Islands.

I finally settled down starting another business in Laurium, building portable buildings. It was then that I got it out of storage and built a special trailer for it. Then I decided to sell it by putting an ad in MINUTIA, The Microcar & Minicar Club Newsletter. Well a Dr. (podiatrist) from Cheboygan was up here on vacation and saw it and took my number, called me to ask the price, and he bought it. Cambe back that Saturday and took it away. Well I thought that was the end of it. Not so.

About three years ago I received a call from Don Campbell of CM. He had seen my ad int he 1995 MINUTIA and wanted to know if it was still for sale. I told him that I had sold it to a podiatrist from Cheboygan, Michigan. He then asked me if I would build him one like it. I still had enough of the pieces so I asked him if he had an Isetta. He said no but he was going to buy one. I told him to call me when he had one. About a year later he called an said he had a 300 and a 600 Isetta. He said the 300 was too nice to modify but he thought he would like to modify the 600 and would send me a drawing. Well I got the drawing but it was to be a Car/Airplane, with folding wings, twin booms and tails with the engine on top of the car with tractor and pusher propellers. I told him that I probably could do it but that I wouldn't even make one of those for myself.

Think that's the end of it? Oh! No!

Well another year or so goes by and I get a call from a fellow from down in the Cadillac area and he wants to know what I know about the Isetta. Don has him looking for it or to build one for him. I started to tell him about the Dr. from Cheboygan but told him to forget it, and that I would see what I can find out. I called the Cheboygan Chamber of Commerce, the lady that I talked to was very helpful. She knew of the Dr. and informed me that he died but she gave me the phone number of the present podiatrist. He knew nothing of the car but his receptionist checked some records and found the names and phone numbers of the former podiatrist, which has been a great help. I made several phone calls and found out that the fellow that had bought it from me was dead. I contacted his widow and she did not know what happened to the Isetta. My next move was to contact the Microcar & Minicar Club, asking about putting an ad in MINUTIA. Yes...I could do that, but it was suggested that I write this article.

If you have ever seen or know of this car -- please contact the editor.

Ray Berghefer

Laurium, Michigan

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Viper may be faster - but the Velomobile gets better mileage

OK...Velomobiles may not be true microcars. They are probably closer to bicycles than to cars - but we thought that anyone interested in small cars should take a look at them as well.

We found this image on a Velomobile site from Norway,

As it turns out, Veolmobiles and microcars do have some common links. Charles Mochet (France) is credited as the developer of the first velomobiles...recumbent bicycles that he named Velocars. And microcar enthusiasts will recognize the Velocar and Mochet as light French microcars (engines were fitted on some models). French versions of what the English referred to as cyclecars.

So, there you have it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Cars at the Detroit Auto Show (Gee, that looks like a Corbin Sparrow to me)

From the North American International Auto Show:

A new ride and drive element highlighting the green future of the automotive industry has been added to the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). During the NAIAS press preview (Jan. 11-13) and Public Show (Jan. 17-25) attendees will be able to experience the latest in technology in a ride-and-drive format on a track built in Michigan Hall. NAIAS organizers have set aside 70,000 sq. ft. of floor space to feature this initiative in panoramic nature surroundings. Photos from the 2009 North American Auto Show. Detroit, Michigan.

Pictured is the Myers Motors NmG (No more gas), electric vehicle. It retails for just under $30,000 -- with a range of ~45 miles. If it looks a lot like a Corbin Sparrow that's probably because the MM NmG was built to fit the Corbin's body

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Deal to Bring Fiat 500 to US

"Bailout" seems to be the word of the season for US carmakers -- and Chrysler is looking to Fiat as its new protector. In addition to the $4 billion that Chrysler has received from the US government, the carmaker will gain access to Fiat's "highly fuel-efficient powertrain technology" in return for a 35% stake in the company.

Part of the deal seems to be a conversion of one or two Chrylser plants to begin manufacturing the new Fiat 500 for the US market. (Maybe they will call it the Plymouth 500.)

It's interesting to remember that Fiat exited the US market about 20 years ago, shortly after an unsuccessful attempt to team up with Chrysler.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Harbill Microtruck: At the "Bloody Tower"

Small utility vehicles don't get a lot of attention. They go about their work...often unseen and ignored. We think they deserve to be noticed -- whether they are the trucks that work underground at Grand Central Station in New York, or the Harbill Microtruck that covers the grounds at the Tower of London.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cushman Matchboxmobile

One day the doorbell rang and it was a couple of young women from the promotion
department of Mattel. They were doing a big Matchbox convention in New York City
and wanted me to build a special vehicle for them. I created this Cushman Truckster,
it was a big hit at the show. There are about 1500 Matchbox cars on the surface.
It's one of my favorite "Hoopmobiles". After that it was on display at an art show in
the FusionArts Museum in NYC.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Microcar moving pictures

We ran across this site
of short videos with microcars and micro slot cars on the go.
Take a gander at these vintage microcars putt putt putting merrily along. A trip back in time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is a Topolino a Topolino a Topolino?

The Fiat 500 (either the old ones or the new one) is the car that usually comes to mind when someone mentions Fiat minicars -- but that wasn't always the case.

The Topolino is the earlier Fiat minicar, and they made a ton of them over many years.

But you shouldn't be fooled into thinking that they are all the same. Take a look at two Fiat Toloplinos that are currently for sale on the Prewar and Postwar car sites. They are both Fiats and they are both Topolinos -- but they are very different.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Strut your stuff

You'll be the fashionista at your next car show wearing a Honda hat,
Berkeley bib and Fuldamobil thong. Strut proudly through the crowds
and show off your colors. This microwear is available at -

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let the sun shine in

This 600 lb. vehicle was constructed by the students and faculty of the Salisbury School in Salisbury, CT to compete in the Tour de Sol, a race for solar powered cars. The car is powered by an electric motor with a battery pack. the solar panels maintain the battery charge. If the motor were connected directly to the solar panels and the sun was shining bright, the car would run at 10 mph forever.
The car was constructed in 1993 by 10 teams who each specialized in an area of construction. The areas of construction included areas such as suspension, body, powerpack, and solar panels. The solar panels produce 70 volts DC which runs to a transformer and is converted to 100 volts DC.
This solar powered car won the Tour De Sol in 1994 and 1995. the Tour De Sol ran from a route of approximately 320 miles from Philadelphia to NYC in 1994, and a 500 mile route from Waterbury, CT to Portland, ME in 1995.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Beat Becomes the Spark

Chevrolet showed three global microcar concepts at the 2007 New York Auto Show and then held an online contest to gage the public’s interest. Over 2 million people responded positively to the Beat which is now being called the Spark and will be produced for Asia, South America, Europe and the US as a 2011 model. The car was developed in conjunction with Daewoo Motors in Korea.The Spark will make its world debut in full production form at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2009. Sales begin in Europe in the first quarter of 2010, followed by other markets around the globe.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dang! It's a 'Stang/Smart

This version of the Smart looks like it's revvvved up and ready to burn rubber.
To view some more shots of building this bomb, or if you just want another
pic of the pinup -

Thursday, January 15, 2009

They may think it's a smart forone -- but we think it's an adaptation of the Cyclops

We were killing a little time, surfing for images, when we came across this photo on the Smart Car Pictures website. (Proof that there is a website for pretty much anything.)
They found the image on the web (don't know where), and they didn't have any information on it -- but thought it looked like it could be a smart forone.

That's an interesting idea, but as lifelong readers of Road & Track magazine, we have a different opinion. In the late 50's Stan Mott developed the Cyclops and chronicled the success of the car in the pages of Road & Track. We think this unknown car could be a Cyclops "knock-off".

What do you think?
(3D rendering from the Cyclops Home Page)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If that's a T-Rex, we must be in Jurassic Park.

If you stand long enough on Hollywood Boulevard, everything will go past you.

I was wading through the crowds near the Chinese Theater when this T-Rex drove by. (The quality of the photo suffers from the time of day, and the fact that my filter was cracked from a "camera drop" earlier in the day.)

I'm hoping this T-Rex has better eyesight than it's bigger brother. It would be awkward to drive a car like this in Hollywood traffic if you could only see things if they moved.

The Campagna T-Rex is a three-wheeled motorcycle with a 1.4 liter engine. It is said to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds. Wow!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Life for this "Crosley on a Pole"

We've all seen them...the signs and roadside attractions from the 50's (or 40's, or 30's, or 60's). The cement Teepee motel, the Paul Bunyan figures, Dinosaurs. (Back in Michigan, where I grew up, there used to be a Giraffe in front of a hardware store.) Anything to draw the attention of passing motorists.

This Crosley on a pole is in Mechanicsville, Virginia -- in front of Atlee Auto Service. Plans for a new Walgreens store seemed to signal the doom of this landmark, but there is a happy ending in sight.

The guys at Hemmings tracked down the story, and it seems that the Crosley on a Pole will be moving to "Field Days of the Past", a site about 15 miles outside of Richmond, Virginia. So if you miss it in Mechanicsville -- look for the Crosley on a Pole in Richmond.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Citroën 2CV vs. Boeing 747

This is a match-up that you seldom see -- a Citroën 2CV up against a Boeing 747.
It just goes to show you that you should pick on someone your own size, and that a proper crash test should be conducted against a vehicle of comparable size.
(We are certainly happy that the two basset hounds in yesterday's posting weren't anywhere near this event.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Citroën Club of North America Assures Us That No Basset Hounds Were Injured in the Taking of this Photograph I'm confused.

French wasn't one of my best subjects in school, but I was always led to believe that the 2CV was an abbreviation for deux chevaux...literally "two horses", from the tax horsepower rating given to the car. How do you say "two basset hounds" in French?

This photo is on the Website/blog of the Citroën Club of North America. If you like little cars, you'll love their site.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pulse: Back to the Future at Universal

Over the holidays I took my kids to Universal Studios in Hollywood. While my family voted the new Simpson's virtual rollercoaster as their favorite ride, I was the traditionalist -- favoring the bus tour of the studio's back lots. And my favorite site was a line-up of cars from various Universal movies:

The Deathmobile from "Animal House"

"Doc" Brown's DeLorean from "Back to the Future" -- complete with its Flux Capacitor

And...yes...a minicar. A Pulse from "Back to the Future II"

According to Wikia Entertainment: "Bob Butts of Fantasy Cars leased seven Pulse cars to Universal Studios for the filming. One of them, known as #74, was originally red but rolled over in an accident and was repainted white. This same car was later used in the films Hologram Man and Lawnmower Man II, and was modified for the television series Seaquest DSV."

The Pulse (early production vehicles were known as Litestars) was manufactured in Owosso, Michigan by the Owosso Motor Car Company. There were about 347 of these made between 1985 and 1990. A Pulse is a motorcycle. It rides on 2 main wheels and has 2 outrigger wheels (one on each side). It is classified in most states as a 3 wheel motorcycle. It has a 123" wheelbase and an overall length of 192" X 76" width X 54" height and weighs about 1000 lbs.

According to the Internet Movie Cars Database, the Pulse appeared in three movies.

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

L.A. Story (1990)

Jan-Gel 3: Hillbilly Monster (2003)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tour de France tour de force

The Tour de France pre race caravan has been a tradition for years.
Many advertise products, business ventures or just have fun. The car
on the top depicts a romantic candlelit pizza dinner. The tablecloth has
the name of the restaurant. We all know what the car on the bottom is -
well if you are a microcar fan you know - Don't you?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is it a Cushman Truckster...a Mailster...or a Scooter Truck?

We love these little utility scooters, even if we don't always know what they are, or what they were originally made for.

This one looks like it has a fiberglass shell (won't rust out), and the seller says that it has a reliable Onan engine. (NOTE: The reliable engine isn't running right now.)

If you crave the unusual -- and you are close enough to Oregon for it to make sense -- this might be a fun fixer-upper. Check it out on eBay.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

People are strange - Vehicles too

Yesterday we searched the internet for "funny little cars", today we
looked for"strange little cars". We came across a website that has all
sorts of strange goings on, with many odd cars.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Scanning the world

Sometimes what we like to do is make an internet search in images.
We found these two pics by searching "funny little car". They were
taken by people that just shot them and put them on their sites
with no info. I'd also list them as cool little cars.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Remember when

Do you think fondly of your first car?
This fellow did, he searched it out and
after some money was exchanged he
was reunited with his first love after 50 years.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Drive your fruits and vegetables

Last year we featured the Outspan Orange car. Now we've found a
Peamobile that seems to be similar. The Jolly green giant would
never be able to fit in this round roller.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Some people just can't leave a car alone.

The guys at Hemmings have been doing their homework, and found this Crosley-powered, whatever, in the photo files of the Crosley Club.

It's got fins, and a shark mouth -- and pieces from about every make and model available. All powered by a Crosley engine. Cool!