A car missing a wheel doesn’t make it any less of a car. Mr. Bean knew that decades ago and look how far that’s got him.
Disregarding all notions of sound engineering practice, manufacturers over the years have continued to build three-wheeled cars which have neither the stability of its four-wheeled brethren or the lean-in capabilities of a motorbike. In other words, they’re usually pretty pointless modes of transport built just for shits and giggles rather than real world transport.
Today we present to you eight of the most oddball (and coolest) to ever be conceived.
If you think you have never seen a Bond Bug before, dust off your VHS of “A New Hope” and have a look at Luke Skywalker’s land speeder. Yep, built off of a Bug. Originally designed from a hacked up Reliant Regal, the Bond Bug was an attempt to make a 3-wheeled car fast(ish) and fun.
With better acceleration than a Mini Cooper and a top speed higher than the limit in England, the 1970 motorist could easily toss around a Bug with a smile on his face. The handling was…well, it didn’t try to flip over, anyway. With a canopy-style hatch for ingress and a sharp wedge shape, it was the future incarnate.
Three wheels, electric-powered, a true vintage nameplate. You read right. The iconic Morgan Motor Company known for their three-wheeled vehicles have released a future three-wheeler in the EV3. First showing up as a concept at Geneva, the EV3 will eventually move into production with just 19 samples to be made for the UK. The heavily sculpted body is definitely a future rendition of a classic and given that the two wheels are up front, handling should be rather fun and tail-happy.
In automotive design, sometimes less is more. Reliant Motor Company’s Reliant Regal took that adage to its logical conclusion by doing away with frivolous items, such as a fourth wheel. The Regal (and successor the Robin), made famous by the likes of the BBC’s “Mr. Bean” and “Top Gear” (and Newton’s “Laws of Motion” for its uncanny ability to topple over at will), is a quaint little tribute to a minimalist approach. Built to be as lightweight and economical as possible, the Regal and its brother the Supervan were a hit in Great Britain, and have grown to become the automotive equivalent of a cult classic.
Little known car maker Davis no longer makes cars today, but during its time of fruition between 1947-1949, it managed to muster out a grand total of seventeen cars. Their production car, the Divian, had three wheels, 63hp and looks like a rolling groin guard. Still, you can’t deny the two-seater convertible’s cool factor. The Divian was the brainchild of used-car salesman Glen Gordon Davis and was based on a custom three-wheeled roadster built by race car designer Frank Kurtis for a Southern Californian millionaire.
Carver One is arguable one of only a few companies who have tried to tackle the handling issue of three-wheeled vehicles using an intuitive pivoting system. The way it leaned into a corner meant that drivers could actually touch the ground if that was their kind of thing whist having fun. After receiving good reviews from Jeremy Clarkson and co., the company set up dealerships in 2006 delivering the vehicles but the fun was short lived when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
Volkswagen GX3 Concept
Forget what you know about Golfs and socially conforming city cars from Volkswagen. In 2006 the German car maker unveiled the GX3 concept at the Los Angeles Motor Show and even went as far as declaring it a production possibility based on its public perception. The three-wheeled dream wasn’t to be though with regulators deeming it too unsafe and expensive to insure. An unfortunate turn of events for what could have been a serious performance three-wheeler with proper German engineering.
Okay we’re cheating a bit on this one. Originally designed by Italian automaker Iso Autoveicoli, BMW’s production of the Isetta began in 1955 and actually has four wheels albeit with a shortened rear axle to make it look like a three wheeler. For what reason we’ll never know. The German automaker redesigned the so-called “Bubble car,” using many of their own motorcycle parts for the single-cylinder engine.
With the line-topping model making 13hp, the Isetta was no runner. It did however, get up to 70mpg while cruising at a comfortable 53 mph, and the forward-swinging door is just plain cool. It’s an undeniable quirky classic, though you might want to consider the social implications of driving Steve Urkel’s car before trading in the Prius.
Another concept that came about at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show was the French-made 20Cup by Peugeot. Rumours floated around that they’d send it into production but like most three-wheeled concepts it wasn’t to be. What it did become was a prototype which looked like a hell of a ride.