The Smallest Car in the World Isn’t All that Cheap
Generally, when buying an inexpensive car one has to make compromises—many times in quality and comfort, often times in size. But where some cars downsize, this peculiar vehicle takes that notion to the nth degree.
If you’ve ever seen the car’s infamous Top Gear segment, you’ll recognize this immediately as a Peel P50—a three-wheeler once verified by Guinness World Records as the smallest production car in the world. When new, the diminutive Peel cost just £199 in the early ‘60s (about $280 in its day). Now, this original 1964 Peel P50 is headed to RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction in March, and it’s expected to sell for between—brace yourself—$75,000 and $100,000. That’s quite a bit of coin, but then again, these are quite special little cars.
Built on the small Isle of Man, between the English and Irish coasts, the Peel P50 was famously described as being “almost cheaper than walking.” Its 54-by-41-inch fiberglass body and beach chair-esque seat only allowed for one passenger, but the Peel could return an incredible 100 miles per gallon, admittedly not at breakneck speed. The three-wheeler housed a 4.5-horsepower 49cc two-stroke engine and matched it with a three-speed manual gearbox (with no reverse), good enough for 38 mph if you had a light breakfast. Interestingly, the P50 was developed initially as a proof of concept to test the limits of just how small a car feasibly could be. A prototype was unveiled publicly at the Earls Court Cycle and Motorcycle Show in 1962 and widespread publicity would push the Peel Engineering Company to produce the concept. Its successor would come in the form of the bubbly 1965 Peel Trident, though the company shuttered altogether in 1969.
Oddly enough, Peel Engineering was reborn a few years ago and the firm still builds genuine P50s, both gas-powered and now electric. The prices are much higher however: £10,699 for a gas P50 and £10,399 for the electric. Across its original two years of production a scant 47 Peel P50s were built. Of those cars, only 26 are believed to have survived to see modern day, making these highly valued. This example is arguably one of the best known and photographed, as it was part of the famous Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Madison, Georgia. The gavel drops on the cutesy Peel P50 on March 12th in Amelia Island, Florida.
Photo Credit: Greg Keysar/RM Sotheby’s