RM Auctions: The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum

Dave Kinney
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Courtesy Of RM Auctions Inc.
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FEATURE CAR

1956 Eshelman Deluxe Adult Sport Car
SOLD AT
$15,525
ID# 29993. Yellow over matching yellow interior. 8.25-hp, 248-cc, one-cylinder four-stroke engine; manual transmission. 5 feet, 4 inches long. The interior matches because it's part of the exterior. A high-quality restoration -- the four pieces of chrome were all very good.

THE STORY BEHIND THE SALE
Two of the four chrome pieces are the rocket-shaped side trim; apparently that's what makes this model a Deluxe. For size comparison, think bumper car. In reality, it looks like a double-sized pedal car. Let's just assume it's called an adult sports car in the same way that a piña colada is considered an adult drink.

Cheston Lee Eshelman was a pilot, inventor, and manufacturer. Among his inventions was an early 1940s wingless, pancake-shaped aircraft nicknamed the Flying Flounder.

The Cheston L. Eshelman Company and its successors built an amazing array of vehicles -- aircraft, boats, motor scooters, garden tractors, snowplows, golf carts, trailers -- at facilities in Maryland. The aircraft were full-size, but the cars were diminutive; for example, this car is ten inches longer and a foot wider than an Eshelman Child's Sport Car.

After the run of minicars ended in 1960, Mr. Eshelman stayed in the car business by ordering Chevrolet Corvairs intended for fleet use, which he retrimmed and rebadged as Eshelman Golden Eagles, in an attempt to make the Corvair luxurious.

Later in life, Eshelman patented an energy-absorbing bumper fashioned from a vehicle tire. He often demonstrated it by running his personal car, with the bumper installed, into fixed objects.

The automotive world has always been full of inventors, dreamers, marketers, and pioneers. Original thinkers have rarely been rewarded, but here's to the guys and gals who gave it a go.

1. 1964 Peel P50
SOLD AT
$120,750
ID# D535. Red over black vinyl interior. 4.5-hp, 49-cc, one-cylinder two-stroke engine; manual transmission with no reverse. At 4 feet, 6 inches long, the P50 holds the title as the smallest production car ever built. Claimed to get 100 mpg (imperial); marketed as "almost cheaper than walking." Well sorted, good paint and trim.

Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear famously drove a P50 around London and through the BBC offices. This is one of about 47 built, of which 26 are known to survive (along with numerous replicas). Instead of a reverse gear, the car has a handle on the back so it be can lifted and rotated by hand. Practical? No. Easy to park? You bet. If small is cool, this baby is ice cold.

2. 1950 Rolux Baby
SOLD AT
$48,875
ID# 25023. Burgundy over biscuit leather. 4.5-hp, 125-cc, one-cylinder two-stroke; manual. 8 feet, 9 inches long. Painted wheels, wide whitewall tires. Excellent paint and chrome. Best unused pickup line ever at the bar following the sale: "Yeah, I just bought a new Rolux, baby. It cost me almost forty-nine grand." This French-built Rolux looks ready for showing on the eighteenth green of the local putt-putt golf course's petit concours d'elegance. The Bruce Weiner Microcar auction is already in the record books for obtaining some of the highest prices ever for the small stuff. Was this miniature motorcar worth the money? At least to someone, it was.

3. 1958 Zündapp Janus
SOLD AT
$51,750
ID# W3571. Light yellow and white over gray vinyl. 14-hp, 248-cc, one-cylinder two-stroke; manual.

9 feet, 4 inches long. A well-restored example with excellent paint, brightwork, and interior fittings. Produced in Germany for less than two years.

A near-perfect answer to a question no one ever asked, the Janus was named after the Roman god with two faces. The car's unique design gave it similar front and back doors, so occupants needed to check whether they stood next to the headlights or the taillights when it was time to get in. Imagine yourself in line at the DMV as the clerk tries to register somebody's Zündapp.

4. 1949 Crosley Farm-O-Road
SOLD AT
$32,775
ID# N/A. Lime green over tan vinyl. 26.5-hp, 724-cc, four-cylinder four-stroke; manual. 7 feet, 8 inches long. Excellent paint, fresh tires, detailed throughout. This example is said to be the original Farm-O-Road prototype from Powel Crosley, a pioneer in both radio and television broadcasting. Under the Crosley name, you could buy a radio, a television set, or a small automobile.

With perhaps the most descriptive model name of all time, the Farm-O-Road was meant to be a multipurpose vehicle, in that one could hook up any number of available attachments -- including plows, mowers, or other agricultural accessories -- yet still drive it on the road. Unfortunately for Crosley, consumers could buy a full-size vehicle that could do the same things only with more room and power. It was called a Jeep.

5. 1955 Iso Isetta
SOLD AT
$37,950
ID# IMI001851. Beige and red over beige vinyl and cloth. 9.5-hp, 236-cc, one-cylinder two-stroke; manual. 7 feet, 6 inches long. Roll-back beige fabric sunroof. Fully restored with excellent paint and chrome. Sunroof and all trim are top-notch as well.

Just to fully complicate things, Iso was an Italian company that allowed BMW, a German company, to build Isettas under license. This one is an Iso-produced example that was built in Spain. Any questions? BMW had great success with the Isetta; that company survived and you may have even heard of it. Iso was not quite as fortunate, but it did build some great sports cars in the 1960s and early '70s, including the Grifo and the Rivolta.

6. 1958 Goggomobil TL-400 Transporter
SOLD AT
$172,500
ID# 08233602. Dark blue with white top over gray vinyl. 20-hp, 398-cc, two-cylinder two-stroke; manual. 9 feet, 7 inches long. Expertly restored, with nearly flawless paint, excellent chrome, and great graphics.

Goggomobil was the successful minicar brand of the German manufacturer Glas, which BMW acquired in 1966. This was one of three such Goggomobil vans in the Weiner auction; the other two had Krispy Kreme and Dubble Bubble liveries and sold for $92,000 and $132,250, respectively. Well-restored examples of almost anything usually bring a premium at auction, and cute cars do the same. Perhaps these Goggomobil vans are the perfect intersection of both cute and well restored.

BEST BUY

7. 1955 BMW Isetta Jagdwagen
SOLD AT
$14,950
ID# 468206. Green over gray and white vinyl. 13-hp, 295-cc, one-cylinder four-stroke; manual.

9 feet, 4 inches long. Excellent paint and seat. A re-creation of the original Jagdwagen ("hunting car") built almost sixty years ago for Kurt Donath, hunting enthusiast and BMW director at the time.

Got a rusty Isetta? Want to sell the windows and trim off of it yet still have a running and driving vehicle? Have we got a set of build-it- at-home plans for you! One of the few sub-$15,000 vehicles at this sale, this thing was worth the price if only to demand a special class at the next all-BMW concours.

8. 1953 Fuldamobil N-2
SOLD AT
$75,900
ID# 360392. Aluminum and teal over teal vinyl with black and gold plaid cloth seats. 9.5-hp, 359-cc, one-cylinder two-stroke; manual. 9 feet, 4 inches long. Built over an ash wood frame, the embossed-aluminum exterior looks like a series of random silver bumps. Nicely restored -- easily the best embossed-aluminum car recently seen.

Nicknamed the Silver Flea, this German three-wheeler is one of just 380 N-2s made, although countless Fuldamobil-licensed derivatives were built from Sweden to Chile to Greece to India. This one looks something like a miniature airplane without wings and a tail . . . or possibly like an old camping trailer. The predecessor to the N-2, the N-1, was powered by a chain-saw engine. With the N-2's upgrade, it has roughly as much grunt as a self-propelled walk-behind lawn mower.

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