Peel P50

The Peel Engineering Company is the only noteworthy automaker to have ever emerged on the Isle of Man, located between England and Ireland. Their most famous product was the smallest production automobile ever built, the Peel P50, which originated as a project to evaluate the minimum possible dimensions needed for a functional car. At first it was nothing more than a fiberglass box on wheels displayed at the 1962 Cycle and Motorcycle Show at Earls Court, but the publicity that the prototype attracted allowed Peel to develop an actual product.

The P50 featured a molded fiberglass cabin enclosing a single beach-chair-like seat for one, with two tiny wheels in the front and a third driven tiny wheel in the back. It was amazingly simple and minimal in its construction, described as being “almost cheaper than walking.” Because of its diminutive size—roughly that of a small refrigerator—it can literally go anywhere that cars are not supposed to go. The fuel economy is hard to beat, as well, with 100 miles to the gallon. There was no reverse gear; the P50 was so light that the owner could simply grab a handle mounted at the rear and turn the car around and then hop in and drive away.

Only 47 original examples of the Peel P50 were made; 26 are known to exist today. The example here is an original, which was formerly part of the renowned Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Madison, Georgia. Renowned as the foremost expert in microcars, Mr. Weiner had his team perform an exquisite restoration of the Peel. Today, its bright red paint exhibits a deep shine with only minor bubbling appearing on the right fender. All of the chrome pieces were re-plated and still show well, with only minor pitting and flaws, while the natural white rubber bumper strips on all four corners show only slight aging. The interior is clean, as is the nicely refinished steering wheel, and the fuel system has recently been serviced.

Certainly one of the nicest P50s to survive today, this car benefits from a quality restoration and notable provenance in the Weiner collection. However, its highest value is as incredible entertainment, as seen in use by Jeremy Clarkson during an episode of Top Gear featuring the model. It is the conversation piece to end all conversation pieces, and its fun factor is as astounding as its fuel economy. There is nothing else quite like it—or quite as small!

Source: RM Sotheby's

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