Saturday, February 28, 2009

The next issue of MINUTIA is in the mail

Another issue of MINUTIA is back from the printer and should be hitting your mailbox soon.
This issue has some terrific articles – featuring part one of a two-part story about the racing exploits of a team of Fiat-Abarths in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Team Roosevelt demonstrated the performance and reliability of these little sedans, and supported Roosevelt’s sales efforts. Other articles include reviews of a couple of shows, part three of the “Mud and Glory” series, and a piece on Austin Sevens tackling a challenging trial hill in England’s Lake District.
And the issue includes regular features such as Mystery Minicar, Ten Years Ago, Events and Classifieds. If you are a member of the Microcar & Minicar Club you can expect to receive your issue soon. If you aren’t yet a member, download the membership form to join.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Austin 7 Racer

While most people's inclination would be to preserve a pre-war Austin 7, there are folks in the UK who make their own version of an Austin 7 "Hot Rod", tweeking the engine, transmission, suspension, and pretty much everything else, to make it a real "go fast" car.
This Austin 7 racer is an example of that kind of work. The car is described as:
This well developed Mk11, styled on the lines of a 1925 Austin Works racer, is one of Tim Myall’s well known Pigsty series of Austin 7 racing specials and incapsulates his years of experience building competitive racing cars which use semi-monocoque construction whereby the chassis and floor are riveted together with a very rigid aluminium. The 1930 crankcase has a 1.5 inch Phoenix crankshaft with Renault pistons and rods and a lightened flywheel with an aluminium clutch. The ported and gas flowed block has a Pigsty full race camshaft and followers and the high compression Austin head is dry-decked for extra integrity. Fuel is fed by a 1.25 inch HS2 SU carburettor, the ignition is fired by Lumenition electronics and the exhaust is Pigsty’s own multi-branch design. The car has a 4 speed close ratio synchromesh gearbox and power is transmitted to the 5.25 back axle by a Hardy Spicer u/j’d prop shaft. The back axle is suspended on lowering brackets and the front axle and spring have been inverted to reduce the frontal area and overall height. The ride is controlled at the front by twin front Hartford type dampers made by Tim Myall. The car is stopped by Morris Minor hydraulic brakes. The engine is reasonably estimated to give 38 bhp at the flywheel and the whole car probably weighs just over 300 kilos (660 lbs) so you get a very good BHP per Ton ratio. This is a real racing car for really competitive drivers. It has successfully competed for over five years in Triple Challenge and Bert Hadley Championship events amongst others. It has had a VSCC buff form showing it as a 1929/37 Special (all major components were dated as pre 1930 apart from the back axle) so it would be eligible for their events if the current electronic ignition was replaced with a conventional system. It is a well developed and proven competition car which offers fast and competitive motor sport for a small financial outlay!
And there is even proof on YouTube that this car can move.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hop to it - Remembering the Frogster

The Frogster was a little green machine from Opal. A cute concept that
would be fun to cruise by the swamp on a summer night.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

South America here I come

Small old truck on the streets of Uruguay

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Suzuki sleeper

The little Suzuki X90 was only imported here for a couple of years. I guess
the 1.6 powerplant is a bit big for our club, but the size is about right. It never
made the grade in the sales department, but with 4 wheel drive and 95hp you
would think it's populartiy would have been better.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Was that a Goggomobil in "The Reader"

Since this is Oscar season -- I want to post a question. At the beginning of The Reader (set in 1958) a car drives by in the rain. You can't see all of it, but the rear fender looks an awful lot like a Goggomobil Limo.

And there were several cars driving by at other times that looked like they could be Goliath's or Lloyds. I don't know those cars well enough to be able to tell -- and since the movie isn't in video yet, I'll have to wait.

Do you know?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Happy Morgan Racers at the 1st International Cycle Car Race (Detroit, Michigan ― July 4-5, 1914)

Have you ever seen a happier pair? The Morgan mechanic doesn't appear to be looking forward to the race. (Maybe he knows something about his driver's skills that we don't.)

And get a load of the official in black, standing between the two cars. I think his job is to keep our mechanic from heading for the hills before the race begins.

In all seriousness...this photo, found on a German Morgan site, shows a close-up of two of the 16 cars competing in the 1st International Cycle Car Race held in Detroit in 1914. More images and some questions about the outcome of the race can be found on the site.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We've attained the status of fine art

La siesta de la Venus del Renault 4 - by Marvilla

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lonely little Mini

?????????????Maybe someday this little Mini will be rescued. ????????????

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Miss Tacoma Home Show of 1958 ― in an Isetta

On March 11, 1958, Miss Tacoma Home Show of 1958, Marilyn Ganes, was photographed leaning out of the front door of a BMW Isetta 300 parked near the Tacoma Totem Pole. The small car, quite an oddity with it's door that opened from the front where the engine normally would be, was introduced to compete with the Volkswagen "Beetle". The Tacoma Home Show presented its annual week long collection of new ideas for the homeowner at the College of Puget Sound Fieldhouse. Each year a new queen was selected as Miss Tacoma Home Show. Marilyn Ganes was 17 at the time of her selection; she was a junior at Franklin Pierce High School. Photograph ordered by National Home Shows, Inc. (TNT 3-16-58, A-1)

Who knew that Tacoma was a "hotbed" of microcar activity? Another great photo from the Tacoma Public Library's South Sound Photo Album.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hold your ears

Sometimes we bring you the latest in microcar news and sometimes some antiques.
We'll show art cars, Smart cars and close to your heart cars. Here's a heart stopping
ride. As Jan and Dean sang "Burn up that quarter mile".

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Richard Arbib - Industrial Design

Richard Arbib was a popular designer from the 50's into the 80's and 90's. His work was heavily influenced by science fiction - making it perfect for the products of the 1950's.

Despite successful design work for GM (working with Harley Earl), Republic Aviation, and the Hamilton Watch Company (Arbib designed the legendary Hamilton Ventura I), Arbib went bankrupt in 1994, shortly before his death in February of 1995.

His Cyclar design was commissioned by a New York-based vending machine company. A new company, Convenient Machines, was established to develop a one-passenger vehicle. The Cyclar was never produced, but a subsequent design -- a three-wheeled car called the Cub was produced in limited quantities in 1982.

This, and many other design studies, appears in the book, Richard H. Arbib 1917-1995: Visionary American Designer, written by Frederic A. Sharf.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Midget Racer at the Tacoma Speedway (1936)

Elmer Lock sits behind the wheel of his midget racer in this photograph from June, 1936. In the 1930's, midget racers like this competed regularly under the arc lights of the Tacoma Speedway Royale at South 14th and Sprague. The races varied in length from 3 laps for a "helmet dash" to 30 for a class A "Main Event". (T. Times 06-01-1936 p.11)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remember when

Now that most of us have grown up - in size anyways - we can recall the days
of kiddie cars. Mine wasn't nearly as fancy shmancy as this buggy. It was just
a few baords nailed together with a set of wagon wheels so I could coast down
the street. But that's what started this lifelong car thing. And come to think of
it those weren't the only days I found myself coasting to a stop. Know what I mean?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It makes you smile

If it looks like a car and it fit's the microcar size qualifications - you'll see it here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jay Leno's 1932 Morgan Three-Wheeler

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time imagining what it would be like to own various cars -- and what it would be like to drive them.
That's one of the things that sets Jay Leno apart from you and me. He doesn't have to imagine. He owns them, and he drives them. And, luckily for us, he likes to share his love of cars through his website
A favorite is his 1932 Morgan.
Ken Gross, Contributing Editor to Edmunds described the Morgan:
"For cash-strapped working-class British families, a Morgan was an affordable step up from a motorcycle and sidecar. Enthusiasts realized the Super Sports roadster, with its lusty 42.5-horsepower JAP (John A. Prestwich) or Matchless V-twin, was as quick as an MG Midget."
"Starting a Morgan trike is a lot like getting ready for a dawn mission in a WWI fighter plane. Valve lifter up, fuel on, tickle those twin floats, switch on, contact (don't forget to retard the spark), a swift upward pull on the crank handle and the big twin bursts into life with a distinctive plonkaplonkaplonk. You vault into the cockpit, over the twin chromed exhausts, turn off the choke, tug up on the throttle (all controls are on a steering wheel quadrant that turns with the wheel!) and accelerate bravely away."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Speedy Motor-Cycle Car Runs on Two Wheels

WHETHER it’s a car or a motor cycle would be hard to say, but the inventor of the novel vehicle above declares it has the advantages of both. In motion, it rides upon two wheels, guided by a steering wheel. The driver experiences a pleasant swaying sensation as the machine tips like a plane or motor cycle for the turns. When the driver stops, a pedal lowers a pair of small auxiliary wheels at the sides for support. The photograph shows the odd gas buggy being driven by a mechanic in a tryout run at Miami, Fla. Another model has a seat for a passenger mounted behind that of the driver.

From the Modern Mechanix Blog. This article appeared in 1939.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Street Smart Scooter

Several three whhelers are available in a dealership not far from New York City.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

That's the Smallest French Microcar I've Ever Seen

Caricato da microcars
The label of "MICROCAR" is given to a wide range of cars. (Some cars that should probably be classified as minicars, or even mid-sized cars, occasionally get labeled as microcars.)
So it is refreshing to see a car that is truly a microcar.
I don't have any idea what kind of car this is -- whether it was actually produced, or if this is a one-off prototype. (And the fact that I don't speak French doesn't help.)
If you know what it is, please let us know.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cash for Clunkers: Good or Bad?

A recently-introduced bill, designed to stimulate auto sales by offering payment vouchers to individuals who scrap older, less efficient cars has been met with some opposition.

As a not-for-profit, the Microcar & Minicar Club isn't taking sides -- but we are interested in knowing what you think of the legislation.


  • Stimulate sales of new cars

  • Improve overall fuel efficiency

  • Reduce pollution


  • Current trade agreements may not allow the vouchers to be limited to US auto purchases

  • Destroys older cars (eliminating potential as vintage/collector cars)

  • Questionable whether the environmental impact of manufacturing a new car outweighs the improved emmissions

Decide for yourself. This is a recent article from Automotive News.

Cash-for-clunkers hits roadblocks

Details snag bill designed to restart sales, cut pollution

Harry Stoffer and Amy Wilson

Automotive News February 2, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

Automakers and dealers are pushing federal legislation that would pay motorists to trade in old gas-guzzling cars and trucks for more fuel-efficient new vehicles.
But the measure is running into trouble, government and industry sources say, because of disagreements over its details.
As written, the legislation appears to favor companies that build large numbers of hybrids and small cars.
Proponents say the scrappage measure would promote new-vehicle sales, cut fuel consumption and curb air pollution. Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally told Automotive News that such fleet modernization would help "revitalize the industry."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., are sponsoring virtually identical measures. Their legislation would offer vouchers of as much as $5,500 to buyers of highly fuel-efficient vehicles that replace cars and trucks that get less than 18 mpg.
Supporters estimate the program could cause as many as 1 million vehicles a year to be scrapped.
In an interview last week, Mulally said Ford would "be in a good position" to benefit from the measure because of its fuel-efficient offerings. General Motors and Chrysler LLC also support the legislation in principle, industry sources say.
Import brand automakers like the scrappage concept but want to ensure that all manufacturers are treated "equitably," says Kim Custer, spokesman for the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers.
The UAW wants to restrict the vouchers to sales of vehicles made in the United States, says Alan Reuther, the union's legislative director.
Six states have experimented with similar measures, also known as cash for clunkers or accelerated retirement. California and Texas are leading examples. Some state programs do not require motorists to apply the money they get from retiring their old vehicles to purchases of vehicles.
The Texas and California programs aim to get older, polluting vehicles off the roads in areas that don't meet air quality standards. California's program pays motorists as much as $1,000 to retire vehicles that fail a smog test.
Unlike California and Texas, a nationwide cash-for-clunkers program would be primarily an economic stimulus.
But hobbyists and makers of aftermarket parts and accessories say scrappage destroys a valuable resource — vehicles for collectors, restorers and low-income households — while doing little for the environment.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association, which represents aftermarket suppliers, helped keep scrappage provisions out of the economic stimulus bill passed by the House last week, says Brian Duggan, SEMA's director of congressional affairs.
David Regan, vice president of legislative affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association, says fleet modernization language could be added to the stimulus bill in the Senate this week.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cycle Car Racing at the Tacoma Speedway (1914)

In September of 1914, racing fever over miniature racers and their junior drivers took Tacoma by storm. The "cycle cars" were in town for Labor Day races scheduled at the Tacoma Speedway. Most of the cars and drivers were from California, although Tacoma boys Joe Rovegno, Clarence Healy, Phil "Babe" Sullivan and "Swift" were scheduled to race. All the boys were feted by Tacomans and felt that the city "sure did treat a fellow fine." Six of the cars and drivers are pictured on A Street. At the left rear is the Park Hotel, at 802 A St. The building at the front left may be the J.F. Hickey Motor Car Co., at 812-14 A St., and a streetcar provides the background. In the front row are: (l to r) veteran junior driver Mott Haynes in his Mercer and novice driver Walter Gossman in his Red Devil. In the center are Homer Loudenclos, in either the Puegeot or the Hudson he designed, and Al Bruce in his National. In the rear are an unidentified car and Shirley Williams in a Theim. The cars were designed and built, in most cases, by the drivers themselves. They were in some cases backed by the motor companies whose names they carried. It was common for companies to bankroll race cars as advertising.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day Glow Driver

The Alif from TMC is available in car, delivery or pickup models.
They come in a variety of bright colors. Check them out here -

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

From the Land of Misfit Lit

From the pages of MINUTIA (Volume 3, Number 2 - 1994)

Automobile companies regularly retain the services of famous racing personalities to act a "consultants" in the development of their various new models. In reality, of course, whatever small contribution they might make to the design or engineering of a particular car is overshadowed by the aura and prestige championship racing can give to the manufacturer's entire line of cars. Jackie Stewart had been associated with Ford Motor Company for many years and could be seen in television commercials describing the superior handling of the 1983 Thunderbird!

Perhaps one of the more bizarre alliances ever formed was that between World Grand Prix champion Mike Hawthorn and York Nobel Industries, Ltd., manufacturer of the Nobel 200 bubble car. In publicity material issued February 11, 1959, Mr. Hawthorn is pictured examining the bare chassis of the Nobel on display at the Earls Court Motor Show. In this issue's cover photo, he is shown with a beaming smile, standing with his head sticking out of the open sunroof!

These photos may have been the last taken before Mr. Hawthorn dies in a fateful road accident, which occurred while racing some friends on a country road in England.

The publicity release continues..."Amongst the photographs which we are sending, there will be one or two showing Mr. Mike Hawthorn, who became our Technical Director just before his very tragic death three weeks ago."

What valuable contributions York Nobel were to gain from the consultancy of the 26-year -old Mr. Hawthorn will never be known. Nor will it be known what drove him into such an unusual alliance in the first place.
Article submitted by David Kayser, Metuchen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

O Solo Auto La La La La

If you can't get enough of Italian cars I've got the site for you.
From old to new they've got it all. Here we feature a couple of
rather rare models. Up top is the Mitzi by Siata. I still long for
the days the wind whipped through my hair driving while driving
my Spring. Below we have a derivative of my old Fiat 600. The
600D Record was a product of Vignale. That's a sleek sled.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Goin' to town

The Town Life is a mini Italiano by Torino Lamborghini. Gas, electric or
diesel power gets this baby around town. And hey you teenagers, you can
drive the low powered version if you lived in the land of pizza and you're
14 years old.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A "Complete" Car Wash for Your MINI

I don't know about you, but the MINI commercials seem pretty crazy to me.
This is a spot that was put together to promote the launch of the MINI Cabrio. Don't try this at home!