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|3rd August 2010, 12:37||#1|
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MICRO CARS (Pictorial of small cars)
This is where it all really began. The Bond Minicar kicked off a pint-sized revolution back in 1949, though it really didn't get going until well into the '50s. The model shown here is from 1957, and came with a 246 cc 11.5-hp engine which gave it a top speed of 83 km/h.
When you think of AC, you're likely to think of the Cobra muscle-car roadster spruced up by Shelby, not this abomination. With a tiny 346 cc engine good for just eight horsepower, the Petite was far from a speed demon. It could only hit 78 km/h.
The car pictured is the sole surviving convertible; all other Torpedoes were fitted with a side-hinged canopy to keep the elements out. Akin to modern exercise equipment, those front wheels could be tucked underneath, so the car could be stored more easily.
One of the nastiest cars ever created, the Gordon was dreamed up as a prize for winners of the Vernors football pools; were it not for the bets, we doubt anyone would have bought one of these two-seat, three-seaters. The unusual box protruding from the side was its 197-cc engine.
The classic bubble car, BMW's Isetta was a very popular machine but not one that BMW was very good at making profitably. Made in three and four-wheeled forms, the Isetta featured a unique single front door where the steering wheel was mounted.
One of the most recognizable of all microcars, the KR200 is a true icon with its aircraft-inspired design. Offered in open or closed forms, the latter came with a side-hinged canopy like the one on the plane of the same name.
A contender for least practical car ever made, the Mopetta provided seating for just one. Powered by a 49-cc 2.3-horsepower engine, it couldn't even manage 50 km/h. Despite its neat looks, just 14 examples were built by this Opel offshoot.
An endearing car if not an especially usable one, the Frisky was made in England and featured Villiers two-stroke engines. Being the Sport, this got the "big" engine - a whopping 324 cc. Lesser models got dinky 197-cc units.
Arguably, this is the prettiest microcar on our list. It provided the power and performance from Glas's T400 sedan, but in a more stylish two-door bodystyle. Though it was small, the TS400 could be had with a sophisticated albeit unreliable semi-automatic gearbox.
Much better known for its scooters, Vespa also built the 400 microcar. A neat-looking machine, the 400 was built in France despite Vespa being an Italian outfit; the company didn't want to upset those nice people at Fiat.
You can think of this as the great, great, great, great grandfather to the Impreza. Subaru has come a long way since the mid-1960s; its 360 didn't pack turbochargers or all-wheel drive and it wouldn't have been much fun in world rallying with its 360 cc engine that gave just 25 hp and an 80-km/h top speed.
Here's another creation from Lawrie Bond, the man behind the Bond Minicar. The T60 could be ordered with three wheels or four. Those feeling adventurous opted for the former, with its four-horsepower engine.
The first production car to come from Mazda, the R-360 was a great-looking coupé that packed a 16-hp 356 cc engine. With its 2+2 configuration it was an instant success, with over 23,000 sold in the first year of production.
What you're looking at is the micro-est of microcars. Officially the smallest car to ever be offered for sale anywhere in the world, the P50 could accommodate just one person - as long as they weren't too big. Made in the Isle of Man, and powered by a 49 cc two-stroke engine, it received a boost in popularity after being featured in a segment of Top Gear.
The Noble 200 was created and sold as the Fuldamobile (yes, the tire manufacturer once made a car) during the '50s, but was modernized and brought up to date with sleeker bodywork. It was powered by a 191-cc engine, and had seating for four.
By the time the Bug appeared in 1970, Bond was owned by Reliant. It thought that this weird-looking three-wheeled wedge would bomb, but instead, it sold pretty well. It would later come back to life during the '90s with four wheels.
The Trio represented the future of city motoring when it appeared in 1983. With a three-seat capacity and a length of just 2.41 metres, it was a very neat design that packed a two-cylinder 250cc engine. However, Ford didn't see the light and the little concept city car went nowhere.
Japan loves its microcars (locally called kei cars), and they come in many different shapes and forms. The Beat was one of the coolest models of the '90s, with its 656 cc mid-mounted engine. This little roadster produced just 64 horsepower, but its small size and light weight made it a blast to drive.
Here's another example of a quirky kei car from the '90s - the Mazda AZ-1. Even more extreme than the Beat, it had a pair of gullwing doors, and cool supercar-inspired styling. Performance was a little less impressive - it was powered by a 63-hp 657-cc three-cylinder engine.
Unlike pretty much every other car on this list, the Smart fortwo is a car you can buy today, here in Canada. Strong, safe and frugal, it is quite possibly the most successful minicar of all time.
COURTESY: 1949 Bond Minicar - Smaller is better: Top 20 microcars
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