My three wheeled obsession
Don't know how it happened, I just woke up one day and decided three wheelers are awesome
There is no logic to them and I sure as hell didn't like them when I was young, three wheeled cars, they carry a certain stigma thanks to popular culture over the years which in my youth I was definitely a believer of. To be honest I don't have many childhood memories of them except for the numerous times kids at school would shout expletives at the one local who collected them, or the time my dad said the next family car was gonna be a Robin and 12yr old me took it unbelievably badly, I dropped to my knees in the middle of the dealer forecourt crying and inexplicably shouted "No please, my mates will call me a sheep sh****er" (don't ask me why children of my generation at my school thought this to be the case, the playground holds no logic)
In essence I have no fond nostalgic memories of any cars of this kind and so really shouldn't be suddenly having an interest in them now, but against all reason I've become obsessed with many of them. From failed production cars to vintage pre-war classics, I'm determined to own one before I turn 40 (still a few years away... seriously) There has been too many attempts by manufacturers to list of tiny little tri-wheeled machines. Most have fell into the ditch of history, yet some have surprisingly managed to stay in production.
My ideas of what a Scammell was involved heavy duty 6x6 monsters, this wee fella would be a hoot driving to the dump
Out of all the different variations on the concept over the years, there's four I'm most interested in. Obviously the Reliant Regal/Robin does deserve more praise as a peoples car than is usually given, it was a car that practically populated Sheffield, in every way imaginable. But as much I personally have began to respect the preferred vehicle of steel workers and Derek Trotter, I've found I'm mostly interested in those that came before it (or after it in one case)
1- Morgan F4/F2
Don't get me wrong, the current and soon to be unveiled replacement three wheelers from Morgan are without a doubt brilliant little toys, but finding these pics online whilst googling the current model got me curious, especially the van. Yes they'll be constantly braking down and yes the bodies really are made of wood, but god help me I love them and would even entertain the questionable idea of having that tiny trailer to go with it. These weren't the first three wheeled Morgans, but they certainly where a radical change from the original (which the current Morgan takes much of it's design and layout from)
The van with the trailer could make for a fun, albeit slow and unpredictable, camping holiday. Plus like any of the cars I mention here, they'll get far more attention than any Lamborghini or Ferrari (without any resentment either) If I had to choose one, it would be the van. It may not handle like a new three wheeler and it's safe to say carrying anything more than the Christmas turkey would be dangerous, but I don't care about these potentially life ending issues.
The F4 was introduced in 1933 with a four-cylinder Ford side valve engine instead of previous V-twin. The two-seater F2 arrived in 1935 and sportier F Super, with cycle-type wings and louvred bonnet tops, in 1937. Production of these Ford-engine cars continued until 1952.
2- Raleigh Safety Seven
With an incredibly optimistic name and only one wheel at the front, this car is the original ancestor to not just the Reliant Robin but the whole company itself. It's incredibly basic and by todays standards is underpowered and slow (on paper at least) but with it being based on a delivery van, only one wheel for steering and being close to 100 years old, who'd want to do more. I'm sure this little air cooled V-twin powered roadster will feel quick enough at 55mph on a country lane. I doubt it's trailer safe (I could be wrong) but it would certainly be good for summer drives to somewhere for a day out and then head home (couldn't go very far though)
There was almost a hardtop version but production was halted when Raleigh decided to concentrate solely on bicycles. This decision resulted in two company workers, T. L. Williams and colleague E. S. Thompson, going off with the equipment and remaining parts to build their first vehicle in a back garden in Tamworth, resulting in a company that lasted 65 years. Interestingly, those leftover parts from Raleigh had an "R" stamped in them, so Williams chose to cleverly use the name: Reliant.
3- Volkswagen GX3
Now we're getting modern, this would have been an amazing machine that is so far from the other two above I wasn't even sure weather to categorise them as similar. As close to a motor bike as humanly possible, it used the engine from a Lupo GTI and came with a six speed manual gearbox, but best of all was the chassis development was done with Lotus. Yes that's right this was essentially a Lotus/VW collaboration that almost hit production. With a claimed 0-100 km/h of 5.7 seconds and an apparent top speed of 200 km/h these would've sold like hotcakes.
If you know someone who buys any three wheeled vehicle for its "safety" slap them and find their car a better owner
Alas VW got scared and pulled the plug in middle of development, believing it to be too costly to build when the planned price was around $17000 (a Morgan costs $44000 and people still buy them) They gave the official statement saying that concerns about safety and lawsuits meant it wouldn't make production. The only consolation is that several vehicles similar to this have since hit the markets (though sadly most are in the US only) weather or not they were directly influenced by this car, remains a mystery, but its good to know that the spirt of this VW lives on.
4- Piaggio Ape 50
Much like similar TukTuks, these little things are in truth... awful. They are not safe plain and simple, how in gods name have they lasted as long. However if you have one in the UK at least (I sadly don't) and know its limitations, you'll be very aware of the other trait it shares with other TukTuks. They are inexplicably cool, people love them. How many of us have bought a coffee from one of these. There's nothing you couldn't sell out of these that would have people concerned, be it Ice Cream, Waffles, Wine or even Heroin, not a blink from anyone (well maybe the last one, but still if Ice Cream vans in Glasgow can do it) It's a guaranteed way to generate business.
Methadone, come and get your Methadone!
These have been in production for so long that it's too much to list how many different types of these there is. People use these for everything from daily drivers to delivery trucks to an alarming number of camper vans. Also popular culture has given this vehicle the false credibility of being a perfect post-apocalyptic vehicle, obvious bollocks that may be but still adds to it's appeal.
Honourable mentions and hopes for the future
Obviously I've mentioned the Regal, of which can trace it's roots back to the Safety Seven but there really is nothing I could add about them that hasn't been said many times before, except maybe that it's a shame that so many of us aren't willing to give it the recognition it deserves instead of making fun of it's comedy legacy.
The EV3 from Morgan would've been good to see and who knows what the new 2022 Three Wheeler is going to be like, maybe it could be an EV, though I suspect it'll be BMW powered regardless (be it a motorbike Boxer, Mini 3cyl. Turbo or i3 motor) The BMW Isetta is a fun little microcar too. I would've also added a fair bit on the Nobe 100 but at this point in time I don't even know if they are real.
They will have their own espresso machine apparently
There are so many of these quirky little machines going about, either as restored classics or new recreations. The only question I need to ask myself is what should I plan to buy/build in the future if ever.