The Top Ten Wackiest Microcars Up For Auction In February

1955-fuji-cabin-front-three-quarters-view

>One of the biggest automotive auctions of the year – or February, at the very least – is hinged on some of the smallest automobiles the world has ever seen. For the past few decades, Bruce Weiner has transformed his passion for microcars into one of the world’s greatest collections of bubble cars and, perhaps more important, an outstanding public museum.

Unfortunately, all good things apparently do come to an end. The Microcar Museum’s doors are now shut, and nearly 200 cars – along with an incredible array of automobilia – will be sold by RM Auctions on February 15-16. Here’s a quick rundown of ten of the weirdest, wackiest, and wildest microcars that will be up for bid later this month.

Photos provided courtesy of RM Auctions/ Darin Schnabel

1949 Voisin Biscooter Prototype

Length: 8’5”

Seating: 4

Power: 6 hp

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000

An aviation engineer (and pioneer) first and foremost, Gabriel Voisin cut his teeth in the automotive industry with a rash of opulent – and occasionally unusual – luxury vehicles. The simplistic nature of the Biscooter is a far cry from, say, a C25 Aerodyne, but it was a reflection of its time. Voisin, having been forced to sell his company as a result of a weak European economy, continued tinkering with cars and emerged with the Biscooter in 1949. The minuscule car boasted basic, riveted aluminum bodywork, a sparse interior, and a 125-cc engine sourced from Gnome et

Rhône, which had merged with Voisin’s firm after his ouster. Voisin built roughly 15 Biscooters in 1949, but SNECMA – the company that controlled his former firm – had no interest in pursuing the idea. Instead, Voisin sold the design to Autonacional, a Spanish manufacturer, which went on to build some 12,000 examples.

1951 Reyonnah

Length: 9’6”

Seating: 2

Power: 8.5 hp

Estimate: $75,000 - $100,000

The Reyonnah’s calling card was not its three-wheel design, its boat-like nose, or its 175-cc single-cylinder engine. Instead, the French microcar’s claim to fame only became evident when it was time to park the car, as the nose could be lifted and the front suspension arms tucked beneath the body to decrease the vehicle’s overall width. Not only did this preserve space when parking on crowded city streets, but it also allowed owners to carry the car through garden gates and potentially into their house. Very few actually did, as only about 17 Reyonnahs were ever built.

1953 Fuldamobil N-2

Length: 9’4”

Seating: 4

Power:  9.5 hp

Estimate: $40,000 - $50,000

No, that’s not a severe case of the mumps or a rash of orange peel in the paint – the Fuldamobil’s skin is bumpy because its body panels were made from embossed aluminum. These bumps not only visually tied the N-2 to early prototypes that were clothed in leather, but they also served to hide any dents or defects incurred during assembly. These unpainted panels lent the car its “silver flea” nickname, although smooth, painted panels were optional. Power came from a two-stroke, 359-cc single built by Fichtel & Sachs – crude, perhaps, but a big improvement over the engine used in the earlier N-1, which was little more than a bored-out chainsaw engine. 280 N-2s were built, but its basic form and format lived on in subsequent Fulda models through the late 1960s.

1955 Grataloup

Length: 8’0”

Seating: 1

Power: 7.5 hp

Estimate: $20,000 - $25,000

Ever wish you could just build your own car tailored to your personal needs? That’s exactly what the mysterious Monsieur Grataloup did in the mid-1950s. His homemade three-wheeler had a 247-cc single-cylinder Villiers engine – allegedly cribbed from a BSA motorcycle – placed alongside the driver, where the passenger would normally sit (interestingly, it’s easily accessed from outside the car by way of a hinged panel). The nose looks a bit Citroën 2CV-ish, but the boxy roofline and stubby rear tail are unique. On that note, so is the Grataloup, as it’s the only one ever built.

1955 Inter 175A Berline

Length: 9’8” Seating: 2

Power: 8.5 hp

Estimate: $40,000 - $50,000

The Inter looks a bit like a Messerschmitt Kabinenroller, albeit with a boxier body and a single headlamp. The two microcars share more than just looks, as both were crafted by companies with aeronautical roots – in this case the French Nord Aviation firm, which would later become part of Aerospatiale and, ultimately, EADS. When first shown at the 1953 Paris show, Nord proposed a folding front suspension like the one on the earlier Reyonnah, but that idea was ultimately abandoned in favor of a fixed design. A two-stroke, 175-cc single-cylinder engine gave 8.5 hp and was fired by way of an unusual manual gyroscopic starter. Fewer than 300 cars were built, and because the firm was constantly tinkering with the design, few were truly alike.

1955 Fuji Cabin

Length: 9’7”

Seating: 2

Power: 5.5 hp

Estimate: $75,000 - $100,000

The Fuji in Fuji Cabin doesn’t stand for Fuji Heavy Industries – Subaru’s parent company – but rather Fuji Motors Ltd., a company that primarily helped build engines and other mechanical pieces for various Japanese automakers. In 1955, Fuji began stuffing little 125-cc single-cylinder engines into a teardrop-shaped three-wheeler with fiberglass bodywork. If the Cyclops nose isn’t enough to draw attention, the ovoid roofline and engine compartment doors certainly do the trick. Fuji priced the Cabin at only a couple hundred dollars more than popular two-wheeled scooters and hoped to build 500 copies a month. Unfortunately, teething issues with fabricating the fiberglass body meant only 85 of the little Cyclops-like Cabins were ever built.

1957 Iso Isettacarro

Length: 11’6”

Seating: 2 (more, if you relegate them to the pickup bed)

Power: 9.5 hp

Estimate: $45,000 - $55,000

We know, we know; you’d totally rock an Isetta if only it had more cargo space. And by more cargo space, you’re talking more than the little tray on the back of the factory-built Isetta pickup. Well, you’re in luck. In addition to building the Isetta in three- and four-wheel coupe forms, Iso also hacked its little bubble car into an elongated, half-ton truck it called the Autocarro (or, when built under license in Spain, the Isettacarro). The stock Isetta body was cut behind the front bench seat, placed atop a custom tube-frame chassis, and gifted with a van, flatbed, or pickup-like cargo body. The Isetta’s 236-cc split-single engine remained intact. Some 4900 Autocarro/Isettacarros were ultimately built.

1958 Zündapp Janus

Length: 9’4”

Seating: 4

Power: 14 hp

Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000

This East German motorcycle company couldn’t have picked a better name for its foray into microcar manufacturing. The Roman god Janus bore two faces, and so too does this little microcar. The single front door swings open much like an Isetta; a single rear door does the same, allowing access to a rear-facing bench seat. Power comes from a little 14-hp, 248-cc two-stroke single stuffed between those two seats. Zündapp built only 6900 cars before abandoning the project a year after its inception, but the Janus may be more widely known because it played the villain in Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2.

1966 Peel Trident

Length: 6’0”

Seating: 2

Power: 6.5 hp

Estimate: $40,000 - $50,000

Believe it or not, this zany-looking contraption was the most practical vehicle built by the Peel Engineering Company, which was based on the Isle of Man. After all, the company’s P50 – the Cozy Coupe-esque microcar featured in an infamous BBC Top Gear segment – had but a single seat and room for perhaps half a person. The Trident, billed as a “saloon scooter,” was wider, longer, and offered room – or seating, at least – for two people. It also had a bit more power than the P50, as it cribbed a larger 98-cc single-cylinder engine from a Triumph scooter. Production records are sketchy, but it’s rumored that somewhere between 45 and 80 examples were ever built.

1985 Sinclair C5

Length: 5’9”

Seating: 1

Power: 250 watts (electric motor)/ one human

Estimate: $3000-$5000

Sir Clive Sinclair built his fortune in the early 1980s through a range of pocket calculators and home computers, but he ventured into vehicle production with the awkward C5. It’s hard to call the C5 a microcar, as it’s more like a recumbent tricycle with plastic bodywork and an electric motor. To avoid tax and licensing problem, the C5 could only travel 15 mph and had a range of only 6 to 10 miles on a single charge. Travel further, and the driver (rider?) was forced to start pedaling. That the riders were left fairly vulnerable when in traffic further hurt the Sinclair’s chances at success.

 

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