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World's smallest production car gets a new lease on life

By

March 19, 2012

Originally manufactured in the 1960's, the world's smallest ever production car, the Peel ...

Originally manufactured in the 1960's, the world's smallest ever production car, the Peel P50 (right) and it's stablemate, the Trident (left) are getting a limited production run with updated powerplants

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The quest for more fuel-efficient vehicles has seen a shift from the gas-guzzling behemoths of yesteryear to smaller and smaller cars, such as the Volkswagen up!, Toyota iQ, and Tata Nano. The smallest currently in production is the smart fortwo that measures just 106.1 inches (269.5 cm) long and 61.4 inches (155.9 cm) wide. But for the world’s smallest ever production car you’d have to look back to the early 1960’s and the Peel P50, which measured just 54 inches (137 cm) long and 41 inches (104.1 cm) wide, and weighed 130 lb (59 kg). Now replicas of the P50 -and its bigger brother, the Peel Trident - are getting a limited production run and will be offered with a choice of gasoline or electric powerplants.

Originally produced on the Isle of Man from 1962 to 1965 by the Peel Engineering Company, the Peel P50 is a three-wheeled microcar with one door, one headlight, and a single windscreen wiper. Powered by a 49 cc engine coupled to a three-speed manual transmission, the car has a top speed of around 38 mph (61 km/h) and no reverse gear. It was designed by, Cyril Cannel, the owner of Peel Engineering Company which focused mainly on making fiberglass boats and fairings for motorcycles. Designed to accommodate a single adult – and a shopping bag – only 50 of the original Peel P50s were produced and sold for GBP199 (approx. US$315) each.

The Peel P50 is a three-wheeled microcar designed for the urban commuter

The original Peel Engineering Company was dissolved in 1974, but in 2010 Gary Hillman and Faizal Khan started a new company – with the same name – in the U.K. and they've begun a limited production run of replica P50s. The company is offering both gasoline and electric models, with the former powered by a 49 cc four stroke CVT engine generating 2.5 kW and 4.2 Nm of torque and boasting fuel economy figures of 118 mpg (50 km/liter). The electric model is powered by a DC brushless CVT electric motor also generating 2.5 kW, but with 14.4 Nm of torque and the removable battery pack providing a range of 20 miles (30 km). Both models have a limited top speed of 40 mph (65 km/h).

But the P50 isn’t the only pint-sized vehicle from the original Peel Engineering Company getting some love from the new Peel Engineering Company. A replica of the bubble-domed Trident, which was originally produced from 1965 to 1966 and sold for GBP190 (approx. US$301), is also getting a limited production run. Like the P50, the original Trident was a three-wheeled microcar that was powered by the same 49 cc engine as its stablemate, providing the same 38 mph top speed. However, at 72 inches (182.9 cm) long and 42 inches (106.7 cm) wide, the Trident was designed with two seats – or one seat and a detachable shopping basket.

The three-wheeled Peel Trident microcar

The updated Trident gets the same choice of gasoline or electric powerplants as the P50, and despite the gasoline-powered two-seater being some 80 lb (36 kg) heavier than the gasoline-powered P50 (198 lb/99 kg to the P50's 118 lb/54 kg), the Peel Engineering Company lists identical perfromance specs for both cars – it must come down to the improved aerodynamic performance of that bubble dome.

Like the original P50 and Trident, company says the replicas will be fully road legal in the U.K. and European Union – where they are classified as Three Wheeled Mopeds – and in the U.S. – where they are classified as a Motor Driven Cycle. The company will also custom build the P50 to road legal specifications for other countries. Prices start at around GBP8,000 (approx. US$12,676) with reservations now being taken on the company website.

Source: Peel Engineering Company

Note: Thanks to the readers that pointed out that the smart fortwo is the smallest car currently in production, not the Tata Nano. The article has been changed to reflect this.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
30 Comments

PEEL, for peel you off the road when a truck runs over you.

Denis Klanac
19th March, 2012 @ 02:52 am PDT

It's a pity they are not being made "more arrow like".

The little brick shape is Mmmmmmmm tacky.

Mr Stiffy
19th March, 2012 @ 03:23 am PDT

US$12,676!!!! Where! What! How! That's insane. The original cost was US$301. And now using all the advances in productivity and technology it costs 40 times as much???

I just don't understand this modern world.....

DemonDuck
19th March, 2012 @ 04:47 am PDT

Who saw the blue one on Top Gear?

He wheeled it around the office by hand... No paying for parking.

Better question: why not just get an ATV and wear thick clothing, get a sealed basked on the back of the ATV and store your riding clothes there? You could also get a top speed closer to 60 mph on a good ATV that is large enough for a basket on the back.

Alex Lekander
19th March, 2012 @ 07:19 am PDT

re; DemonDuck

The dollar is a lot smaller.

Slowburn
19th March, 2012 @ 07:35 am PDT

Let's see....$12,600....ummm....no. I can get a real car for that. What too many of the trinkets offers fail to realize is that one of the main reasons people bought these back in the day was price. Even a VW Beetle was around $1500, when these sold for $320. Now they was as much for this as I can pay for a normal car? Get real.

VoiceofReason
19th March, 2012 @ 09:10 am PDT

The $12k cost is reasonable when you remember that it is hand built for now.

If they sell enough, then the price will drop by more than half from the efficiencies of scale through mass production. And remember that something like this could virtually last forever, getting 120 mpg when gas prices are bound to quickly go over $5/gallon.

What we need is for a lane to be set aside for bicycles, mopeds, and commuter cars like this. The transition to vehicles like this must happen eventually. There is no other possible solution.

Rigby5
19th March, 2012 @ 09:37 am PDT

There might be a market for this at 1/4 to 1/3 the price, in an urban/suburban setting where parking is a problem: it is, after all, a glorified shopping cart (I think it needs storage for at least 4 bags) yet would still be unable to find a parking spot close to the WalMart entrance. And yes, I could get 3 or 4 used Buicks for the same price and have extra capacity for hauling more people and groceries.

William H Lanteigne
19th March, 2012 @ 09:45 am PDT

What's the latest with the Vauxhall RAKe? That, and other enclosed tandem three wheeled vehicles, are what I think would have real appeal if they don't price it out of reach of their market—those stepping up from scooters and motorcycles.

yrag
19th March, 2012 @ 10:05 am PDT

Might I suggest a well-maintained 2000-2006 Honda Insight for half that amount, which seats two comfortably, tons of luggage/groceries, has A/C, and still get 70 mpg...!!!???

Seriously, this PEEL offering is for idiots.

Matt Rings
19th March, 2012 @ 10:08 am PDT

You could make a Moonbeam (Google it) for under a thousand bucks and have a better vehicle. If they sell more than a couple of these at this insane price it will convince me further that the world has truly gone mad.

Neil Larkins
19th March, 2012 @ 10:55 am PDT

This thing would not be legal to drive on most US roads. And you have to be somewhat crazy or stupid to do so! And with no windows to roll down or open, this will get *VERY* hot on an August day in almost any state in the nation. This is nothing more than a novelty.

Ed
19th March, 2012 @ 11:05 am PDT

Oops. My bad. Hadn't checked with Jory Squibb's Moonbeam site for a while. His build cost $2500 in 2006 (not $1000 as I had originally stated). Probably be up to $3000 today. Still, that's about 1/4 of what these little pods cost...and he's vetted his creation. It's been proven out many a time to do what he says. But it's a d.i.y. People, you want to save money on fuel, it's not going to happen cheaply when you expect someone else to do it. In order to truly bring your fuel cost down you've got to put some sweat equity into the mix. That, or get creative about your transportation needs versus your wants. Plenty of options out there. It's just a matter of finding them. And these days with the Internet, a whole lot easier.

Neil Larkins
19th March, 2012 @ 11:26 am PDT

The price is ridiculouly high, would have bought one, but not for what they will be asking.

GREED GREED GREED

Richie Suraci
19th March, 2012 @ 11:37 am PDT

Alex,

Unfortunately ATV's are illegal in most states in US (not street legal). Trust me, if they were legal, they would be my main mode of transportation year round.

Vadim
19th March, 2012 @ 11:39 am PDT

I think you will find that the smart fortwo is just 99 inches long, so the iQ is a couple of feet longer.

fearlessMA
19th March, 2012 @ 11:45 am PDT

While I find this car ridiculous and clown-like (great for circuses) those who are saying they can get a "real" car for that price must be talking about used cars. There are very few cars left under $20,000 these days, and of those few, only the crappiest models are under that $20k figure.

This is the modern equivalent of the Yugo, as far as price, features and quality is concerned. The great exception between the two is that at least with the Yugo you could see over the next guy's trunk. With this all you'll be seeing in front of you is tailpipe and bumper. I'd have more fun in a peppy go cart and pay a tenth of the price.

Dave Andrews
19th March, 2012 @ 01:00 pm PDT

In reply to Rigby5, "...when gas prices are bound to quickly go over $5/gallonl"

In the real world, not the subsidized US price, they did so years ago. In Australia for instance we pay more than $1.50 per litre, which equates to about $7 gallon!

And the UK fuel price is higher than ours :o(

As to the price, who on Earth would be crazy enough to drive a deadly little mobile coffin like these are at ANY purchase price!

Even free would be too much to pay :o)

FrankR
19th March, 2012 @ 06:00 pm PDT

$300 in 1960s dollars is worth about 7 times as much today, so about $2100. Why does this car cost 42 times what it did in 1960?

Michaelc
19th March, 2012 @ 08:18 pm PDT

The new Prius C is road legal, gets 53 mpg on a standard course, and is 15k with AC. The iQ is overpriced.

Ormond Otvos
19th March, 2012 @ 10:13 pm PDT

Please, PLEASE! align with a solar canopy or rooftop installer to eliminate gasoline and utility bills for the life of this vehicle (and beyond). Design it to allow a quick change battery to completely eliminate charge time waiting. Follow the San Francisco rental program so consumers can "rent" the solar charged vehicles for a small fraction of the cost. Provide an "app" so the driver can find the nearest solar charged battery exchange station.

Take a closer look at the current design of solar assisted robotic powered manufacturing plant for inexpensive production of millions of these vehicles. Go for volume profit (like the Chinese) not a single unit price gouge.

electric38
19th March, 2012 @ 10:51 pm PDT

There is one of each of the originals in the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN = a place full of micro cars. Neat place. GM in LL

GAMICK
20th March, 2012 @ 07:00 am PDT

Thanks for the acceptance to Gizmag.

JimJim383
20th March, 2012 @ 07:32 am PDT

This exists is purely because Jeremy Clarkson drove one on TV once and had a chuckle at it. Some people will pay $12,000 for a laugh, what the hell. It's only about 2x what a good lawn tractor costs, even if the lawn tractor is a better machine. In practical terms the Peel is superior for safety to every single motorcycle ever made; however some unsavory individual in a rusty pickup won't appreciate the humor and will murder you in cold blood.

Grunchy
21st March, 2012 @ 12:12 pm PDT

TOY, overpriced toy, not road legal toy and it is still a motor vehicle, requiring all those licenses and registrations....why?

Walt Stawicki
21st March, 2012 @ 03:10 pm PDT

@ fearlessMA...if you want to be so specific about Smart length verses Toyota IQ get it right. The IQ is 11 inches longer than the current Smart for two and will seat two extra passengers in a pinch.

dgate
22nd March, 2012 @ 03:19 am PDT

This would be perfect for Santa Catalina Island or a like community. However I just don't get the 12,000 price tag.

Paul Anthony
23rd March, 2012 @ 09:23 am PDT

Are the Peel P50 and Peel Trident going to be on the market for sell? Same as they are here on the pictures? Hate whenthey said oh the Fiat 500 will be on the market again, yes it is but comletely different thiny little as used to be didn't like it. I ama crazy perosn about little cars, think they are never going to release one of does little cars again just need to buy one of the oldest that are so expensive.

mariaan
21st January, 2013 @ 03:28 pm PST

I don't see these being very affordable to say the least,besides don't forget the import tariffs that will be levied on this product on arrival in the U.S.

Keith Gardner
22nd January, 2013 @ 10:34 pm PST

I love these little cars, and would like to own one, but the price is very steep for such a car. If they reduce the price I think they would really sell.

Fritz Tomacari
4th June, 2013 @ 09:04 pm PDT
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