Those that know me, know that my favorite cars are micro cars. I love a good original Mini Cooper S, which are rather tough to find where I’m from. I’m also partial to a Fiat 500 or an Isetta, especially when they considered turning it into a pickup truck.
My absolute favorite micro car though is the Messerschmitt. Technically, there are four models; the KR175, the KR200, the rare KR201, and the FMR TG500. The 175 was the first model, built from 1953 to 1955 and, though I have a special affection for three wheeled cars, the last model, the four wheeled TG500 is the one I like best and, technically, it isn’t a Messerschmitt at all.
Fritz Fend, a former Luftwaffe technical officer, started designing micro cars after World War 2 as mobility aids for older people and for those that had lost limbs in the war. When the Morgenthau Plan, preventing German companies from building planes, was introduced, Willy Messerschmitt partnered with Fritz Fend and the Messerschmitt KR175 was born soon after.
The two had touched on an important post war market and, though they sold well, when the bans were lifted, Messerschmitt decided to get back into the plane business. Fend started a new company, Fahrzeng und Maschinbau GmbH Regensburg, which was shortened to FMR.
It was 1957 and Fend had already begun work on a new model; one with four wheels instead of three. This new model would prove to be one of the most valuable classic micro cars; the FMR TG500, also known as the Tiger. Like its predecessors, it had tandem seating and a bubble canopy, but there were also big differences.
The Tiger was bigger, with an adjustable rear suspension. The engine had 100 more ccs than former Messerschmitts and now had reverse gear. Top speeds were between 75 and 85 miles an hour and The TG500’s powerful cornering ability and rear seat center of gravity made it a popular rally car, especially with British racer, Ken Piper.
Ken Piper rallying in the Tiger. Photo by Mike Webber
The engine design had been at the designers, Fitchel and Sachs, office for years and was originally designed to be a starter motor for an airplane.
Though the TG500 became a popular racer and later classic micro car to own, it was only produced for four years because it was much more expensive than its predecessors and the fourth wheel eliminated the tax breaks of three wheeled cars. Approximately 300 were produced, but fewer than 100 are thought to still exist.