Sometimes size matters
Tiny cars offer advantages that their bigger cousins just can’t match. These include convenience, economy and sheer cuteness. So here’s a look at five autos that could find ample room in your heart as well as your back pocket.
Released in 1957 by the Italian automaker Autobianchi, the Transformabile was one of five versions of the same vehicle, the Bianchina. Each had a 0.479-liter engine that turned out 18 hp; some versions were capable of 21 hp. They were just big enough for a quick trip to the market or a Sunday jaunt across the countryside.
The Peel P50
Ideal for parking in cramped spaces or for drag racing lawnmowers, until 2009 the Peel held the record for smallest auto ever built. The design took simplicity to the extreme. As the transmission had no reverse gear, the driver simply got out, grabbed a back handle and spun the vehicle around. A pair of entrepreneurs recently obtained venture capital to build a modern version of the Peel. The new model has an official top speed of 28 mph, making it the perfect choice for spoiled, speed-addicted teenagers in need of a way to school.
The Messerschmitt KR200
Banned from building aircraft in the aftermath of WW2, German company Messerschmitt turned its attention to building automobiles in the 1950s. The KR200 was known as the Kabinenroller in the Deutscheland. The term literally means “scooter with cabin,” which pretty much sums up this adorable little machine. The company sold approximately 40,000 units from 1956 to 1964.
The Heinkel Kabine
Built from 1956 to 1958 by the Dundalk Engineering Company in Ireland, the first model of the Kabine used the same .0174-liter, 9 9.2 hp engine that powered the company’s tourist scooters. Later models featured a larger engine that pushed the Kabine to a top speed of 56 mph, giving it muscle car status among its peers.
This is a modern effort at a microcar that’s set to be released in the fourth quarter of 2014. Powered by a 2.8-liter engine, the vehicle’s backers claim it will get 84 mpg, be capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph and have a sticker price of $6,800.