Good cars never die, even if they’re barely large enough to qualify as more than your child’s Hot Wheels. Jalopnik reports that the Peel P50 and Peel Trident mid-engine microcars from the Isle of Man have returned from the automotive grave. Neither has been built since 1966, but a new company has taken up the mini-tools to make the microcar a macro-success once more.
Money from the Dragon’s Den
Peel three-wheeled urban microcars have returned, thanks to seed money from a reality television program. The BBC show “Dragon’s Den” gives budding entrepreneurs three minutes to pitch their business ideas to five multimillionaires willing to become someone’s angel investor. One contestant managed to convince the investors to give Peel a try.
Street-legal fiberglass marvel
Street-legal in both the U.S. and the U.K., a well-maintained vintage version of the three-wheeled vehicle with no reverse gear can be had for $16,000. The Peel P50 is the world’s smallest-ever production car, while the Peel Trident is a slightly larger, sportier-looking model.
Internally, the Trident actually has many of the same specifications, such as a 49cc, 4.2 hp engine. The 1950s-style sci-fi bubble top set the sport model apart, however. Another major difference is that the Trident seats two, the major size difference between it and the P50.
A $16,000 mistake?
Rather than hold on to the old three-speed manual transmission with no reverse gear, the new Peel P50 and Peel Trident will use a continuously variable transmission, and feature a 3.35 hp motor that can move the 198-pound Trident or 240-pound P50 at speeds of up to 28 mph. In order to appease the green contingent, there will be electric Peels with roughly the same specifications, with a caveat: you’ll have to recharge every 15 miles. The internal combustion version achieves 118 mpg, which allows the driver lengthy traveling distance between fuel stops.
According to the Peel Engineering Company’s 1960s-era slogan, driving a Peel is cheaper than walking. At 118 mpg, that may actually be true for long trips, considering the added food and lodging costs. Yet Jalopnik questions whether people will be willing to pay $16,000 for the novelty of such a small car. Yes, it’s adorable to have a car with a 50-inch wheelbase in your garage, or even under the stairs. If people could pay $4,000 for a Peel P50 that’s 134 cm, 99 cm wide and 120 cm high, perhaps they would. A serviceable vintage P50 costs about $2,200, so perhaps the owners of the new Peel brand have slipped on a banana peel and sprained their sense of proportion.
BBC page for “Dragon’s Den”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006vq92