AR123 Tiny Wheels: Micro cars and City cars


SKU: AR123

Product Description

By Rod Ward

Here we describe and picture all kinds of tiny cars. The ‘microcar’ description has been applied to all kinds of vehicles, often defined by an arbitrary engine size cut-off, perhaps 500cc. But this allows inclusion of many ‘proper’ cars, such as the Citroen 2cv at only 325cc, which are hardly ‘micro’ in any other way. Engine size alone cannot be the determining factor; AR94 described cars which were produced with the aims of simplicity, economy and cheapness, like the Trojan, but these were not necessarily small cars. Indeed, they were mostly ‘full-size’ cars which just had simpler mechanicals or lighter bodywork to achieve their aims. Similarly, AR35 looked at British-made three-wheelers, which were mostly smaller than the average car, but by no means ‘micro’. For inclusion in this publication, the intentions of the designer are all-important. The aim must have been to make the vehicle as small as possible, while remaining practical in normal use. The ‘city car’ was a theme pursued by automotive designers for decades, its inclusion in this category defined by very small overall dimensions.
Bubble cars were so-called because of their curved and fully-glazed appearance. They were very small because in the 1950s buyers had little money to spend on a car, or its fuel. Japan had a punitive horsepower-related road tax (in 1933 no private car was permitted above 750cc, and as late as 1958 the limit was 1.5 litres). A very favourable tax rate was available for ‘Keicars’, or midget motors (ie cyclecars) with engines no bigger than 360cc. Japanese manufacturers became adept at squeezing the most out of small-engined vehicles. Other countries had favourable taxation rates for very small cars, or for young drivers. In France this led to a crop of tiny cars like the Aixam and Ligier. The Smart car was a more sophisticated interpretation of the idea. In this publication we therefore include microcars, city cars, bubble cars, Keicars and any other vehicle where the designer’s aim was to produce Tiny Cars.