Not a lot is known about the 3-wheeler vehicle design. You rarely see them on the streets, and it's imperative to understand the history before you can appreciate this rare automobile concept design.
Three-wheelers first came onto the automobile scene in the 1900s, but it wasn't until World War II that they took prominence. The war had a devastating effect on the economy, and there was an acute shortage of affordable transportation.
Families were looking for cheap transportation to move around, and the conventional motorcycle wasn't enough. There was also a shortage of raw materials after the war.
Car manufacturers like Reliant, Bond, and BWM saw this as an opportunity and took advantage of the tax restrictions by producing three-wheelers. The cars would be produced for almost a century or so and become very popular with the middle-class folk.
The designs were mainly informed by purpose, and a lot of them weren't so good looking. They were economical to own, and a regular family could easily afford them. The weird design saw the three-wheelers become collectibles.
In the 1950s, there were a lot of three-wheelers in production because the price of petrol had soared, and it was no longer economical to the common man to own a regular car. A company like Reliant only stopped manufacturing three-wheelers in the year 2000 after 65 years of manufacturing. Here are 25 of the Ugliest Three-Wheelers Ever Made.
25 Replica Cursor (1985)
The irony with the name of this vehicle is it looks exactly like a computer mouse. It's no coincidence since it was launched at a time when the dot-com boom was starting to manifest and when personal computers with accessories like the mouse were already being manufactured.
The car was produced by Replicar Limited, which is found in Kent, England. The body is fully made from fiberglass and has a tubular steel chassis. The 49 CC single-cylinder was taken from Suzuki, and the car can achieve a top speed of 26 mph.
There were the 2-seater and 1-seater options. Majority of the units sold were 1-seaters, and less than ten 2-seaters were ever manufactured. The Cursor was relatively successful with around 100 units built between 1985 to 1987.
24 Volkswagen Scooter (1986)
The Volkswagen Scooter took a paradigm shift in terms of design and performance. It looked like a normal commuter vehicle with the exception of 3 wheels.
It weighs 635 kgs and comes with a 4-speed manual transmission. It has a 4-cylinder engine that produces 40 hp.
The Volkswagen was designed as a future car that had the sports and comfort package for city driving. The incorporated gullwing doors were seen as a futurist design, as not a lot of practical cars had it. For a sleeker look, the gullwing doors could be removed completely to make the Volkswagen Scooter a convertible. The design might not have been up to par, but the practicability was well executed. The car had a top speed of 125 mph.
23 Grinnall Scorpion II (1992)
The Grinnall Scorpion is still in production up to today. The front looks like a Formula 1 racing car, but the rear is disappointing aesthetically.
The current crop of the vehicle still adheres to the same design principle that was established more than 25 years ago. Grinnal cars were started as modifications.
The engine used is that from a BMW bike, and the front suspension is from Ford.
The vehicle was meant to be fun on the road and give its driver the experience of a racing car in a small package. Even after a quarter of a century has passed, the basics are still the same with the Grinnall Scorpion II. You still get a square-tube steel chassis. If you can see past the looks, then this is a fun 3-wheeler to own and drive.
22 Reliant MKVI (1960)
Reliant Motor Company was one of the early pioneers of the three-wheel car 'madness.' Reliant has produced over 200,000 three-wheelers over the course of more than half a century. The one that really stood out was the Reliant MKV1.
There have been many revisions before the company could arrive at the MKVI. The first predecessor was launched in 1952, but it was very basic in terms of functionality and design.
The performance kept improving with successive models, and the MKVI was a consummation of past work. The Reliant MKVI was also one of the most successful cars ever built by the company as there were 8,478 units built when production ended in 1962. The MKVI was popular because it was sporty and functional.
21 Nobel 200 (1959)
This 3-wheeler gives you the vibe that it's still under construction. The exhaust is hanging under the tires, and it's just an example of a bad design. There's no proportionality between the body and the tires, and it's straight out of a bad animation movie.
In terms of numbers, this German automobile sold 1,000 units until production was stopped in 1962.
It was available in either full-built forms or kit and had 9.5 hp. The Nobel 200 received a lot of publicity with no initial marketing, which puzzled even the directors. It had everything to do with the unique styling of the car's interior and exterior. There was a Nobel 200 that was sold for $10,000 at auction.
20 Peel P50 (1962)
Not only is this car one the ugliest 3-wheelers ever built, but it's also in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's smallest passenger car. If you're a big guy, then you'll probably not fit because even a normal-sized person will have to sit in discomfort.
This car has been in mainstream media for over a century now, and there are plans of developing an electric version.
The vehicle was designed to be a city car that could fit one plus a shopping bag. There were only 50 units to ever be produced, out of which 27 are still alive. There was one that sold at auction for $176,000 in 2013, which goes to show the popularity and the endearment of the Peel P50.
19 GM Runabout (1964)
Most 3-wheelers were designed to be cheap and practical at the same time. The GM Runabout took it a notch higher and introduced sleekness into the design. By "sleek," I mean a 3-wheeler looking like a rocket launcher.
The car was specifically designed for short trips to the grocery store or the supermarket. It literally had 2 in-built shopping carts in the trunk for the purpose. The designers were trying to fill a gap that saw the rise of the middle class that had disposable income and liked to shop a lot.
The front wheels had the capability of turning 180 degrees to make it easy for parking in tight areas. The car was functional in the sense that it could fit 2 adults in the front and had space in the back for one child or two.
18 Peel Trident (1965)
This is another peel vehicle to make it on the list. Bolstered by the early success of the P50, the company decided to introduce the Peel Trident. The Trident looked like a concept car from the Jetsons, and the design must've been inspired by the TV show.
This car has a couple of records to its name, but not all of them are admirable. It's been voted by the Time magazine as one of the ''Top 50 Worst Cars Ever Made.''
It has a three-speed 4.2 hp 49 CC engine and is one of the smallest cars in the world to have been built. The car made a comeback in 2010 and was supplied with an electric motor as opposed to a petrol engine like the earlier versions.
17 ABC Trimini/Tricar (1968)
You know a car is definitely ugly when it has 'Morris minor nose' as one of its key features. It was created by Auto Bodycrafts Ltd. There were only 24 units produced, and they all sold out.
The speed of this car was appealing, given that it was a 3-wheeler. It has a top speed of 135 kph. There was one that was being sold on eBay in 2011, but it was in such a bad state that it couldn't get a seller. An ABC Trimini that's in good condition is likely to fetch more than $50,000 in auction, given that it's a rare car since there are only 24 in the world today. The car sold for £400 when it was first launched in 1968.
16 Bond Bug (1970)
The Bond Bug is a British car that was built from 1970 to 1974. The cars were first produced by Bond cars Ltd until Reliant Motor Company took over. The car features a 700 CC 4-cylinder engine and 29 hp. The car had an upbeat and successful launch, and Reliant was optimistic it would sell since it was a 3-wheeler.
The Bond Bug could manage 76 mph, which was groundbreaking at that time and was faster than some saloon cars in the market.
The value proposition for the Bond Bug was that it was a fun car to cruise around in and had a low, compact seating position. The Bug prided itself on being as fast as some high-performance cars that had launched a few years before.
15 Fuji Cabin (1955)
The Fuji Cabin was built 10 years after World War II. Japan was recovering from turmoil, and a lot of companies were struggling to stay afloat. One such company was Hitachi aviation, which is associated with Isuzu. The company was banned from building planes and resorted to building three-wheelers to survive.
Their first attempt was the Fuji Cabin in 1955. There were only 85 units to be ever produced, and it was one of Japan's most successful microcars despite the limitations in the aesthetic department.
It had a 5.5 hp 2-stroke single-cylinder engine and could manage a top speed of 37 mph.
The car also featured a reverse gear, which was rare for 3-wheelers at that particular time. In 2013, there was a Fuji Cabin that was sold at auction for $126,500 by RM Sothebys.
14 Scootacar (1958)
As the name suggests, the vehicle concept was derived from a scooter. This three-wheeler is beautiful and ugly at the same time, and you have no option but to stare at it if you see it on the road. The design notwithstanding, there were over 1,000 units produced between 1958 and 1965.
The unique design must've contributed to the sales numbers. The history of the scooter car is a rather funny one. According to popular folklore, the wife of one of the directors of Scooters Ltd wanted a vehicle she could park easily. Women with parallel parking! She owned a Jaguar and wanted a vehicle that was small enough to be parked perpendicularly. The designer, Henry Brown, started the design by sitting at the center of the engine so that his assistance could draw the outline of the three-wheeler around him.
13 Berkeley T60 (1959)
The Berkeley T60 makes it on the list because it's one of those cars that could've been a marvel had it been a four-wheeler. There was the Berkeley B65, which was a four-wheeler, but it didn't look as good as the T60 on three wheels.
The Berkeley T60 was an instant success, selling over 1,750 units in the first year.
It was a fun car to drive. Berkeley had one of the shortest life spans for a car manufacturer. They operated for 4 only years between 1956 to 1960. The T60 was a success abroad because of America's obsession with weird-look sporty cars that were cheap and fragile.
12 Reliant Robin (1973)
The robin was designed to replace the regal. The robin was the butt of tasteless jokes and even made an appearance in the popular comedy show Only Fools and Horses.
The Robin is one of Reliant's oldest cars. It was replaced by the Rialto in 1981, but production was again started in 1989, going on for 11 years till 2000.
Over the course of its lifespan, the Reliant Robin was the 2nd-most-popular fiberglass car in the history of the automobile.
The MK2 in 1989 was a renaissance for the Robin. It featured a hatchback, an estate, and a van. The Robin had a 748CC engine for the earliest models. The warm reception and initial success is the reason why Reliant continued with production for 25 years.
11 Stimson Scorcher (1976)
There are lawn mowers that look better than the Stimson Scorcher. The 3-wheeler was sold in 2 options: the kit and the preassembled one. The starting price was £385.
The car was in production for four years, but only a paltry 30 units were produced. What set the Stimson Scorcher apart was that it was able to manage a top speed of 100 mph. This was a result of the Aston Martin Mini engine that was used in the Scorcher.
The Stimson Scorcher has become a collectible, thanks to the unique design that you never see in an automobile. In a 2003 Interview with the Daily Telegraph, Stimson stated the Scorcher was the 'worst seller' but the most iconic of all their vehicles.
10 Badsey Bullet (1981)
The Badsey Bullet featured among the earliest gullwing doors that are in most of today's supercars. The Badsey bullet is also one of the few vehicles that have been, even up to today, coming out of California. Bill Badsey was a South African visionary who claimed that the Bullet could get a top speed of 200 mph.
The car had a 6-cylinder Suzuki motorcycle engine. There only 8 units to have been produced and were either sold in the US or South Africa.
Bill Bradley had planned to import the car to the UK in 1982, but it never materialized. The rear wheels were powered by a shaft drive, and the interior had 2 different cockpits for the driver and the passenger.
9 Ghia Cockpit (1981)
The Ghia Cockpit was all about fuel economy when it launched. The controversial design and space-like architecture did help in the sales.
It's said that the Ghia Cockpit could better 75 miles per gallon, which was exciting, given the price of gas in the early '80s.
The vehicle could only accommodate 2 adults in tandem position. It had an intuitive cockpit, which, according to Ford, was meant to be used in cities with traffic congestion. The canopy structure was entirely made of plastic, which made it lighter than most three-wheelers on the road. Under the hood, there was a 12-horsepower 2000 CC single-cylinder motorcycle engine. The aerodynamic efficiency was further enhanced by the triangular chassis with support bars with state-of-the-art hydraulic shock absorbers.
8 Reliant Rialto (1981)
As if the Robin wasn't bad enough, Reliant decided to come up with another variation of 'ugliness' in 1981.
According to Reliant, the Robin looked dated after a couple of years, and there was a need for a refresh. There weren't a lot of improvements in terms of design. The only 'improvement' to the exterior was it was more of square-shaped than the Robin.
The marketing that went into the Rialto was absolutely phenomenal. There was a 12-month waiting list, and the Rialto is still one of the best-selling Reliant car models up to this day.
There was a reworked engine which was designed with fuel economy in mind. The estate was Rialto best selling trim even when the hatchback had been introduced to the market earlier.
7 Sinclair C5 (1984)
The Sinclair looks like a toy vehicle for adults. The car was developed as a hobby by Clive Sinclair, who was one of the richest people in Britain at that time. He had a long interest in electric automobiles and referred to the Sinclair C5 as a vehicle and not a car.
The C5 was one of the earliest electric-powered vehicles, although you had to use pedal cycles to assist in movement.
There were poor reviews from the British media, which didn't help in the launch of the vehicle. The vehicle had serious limitations. It could only manage 15 mph, which was very slow for even a three-wheeler. There were also issues with the battery, which didn't last for long. The production estimates were slashed by 90% after the first 3 months of sales.
6 Corbin Sparrow (1996)
The design of this vehicle looks like the beak of a parrot. It's a single-seater, although it looks bigger from the outside.
It was one of the few full electric cars in the market in the '90s. According to Myers Motors NMG, the Corbin Sparrow was designed for commuting and urban driving.
There were two models that were produced, and that was the hatchback and the Jelly Bean, which was the original model. The car was in production up to 2003. The company had been trying to improve the performance in terms of battery life and speed.
The earlier versions had a top speed of 70 mph, and the energy efficiency was 4.8 mi/Kwh, which is equivalent to 162 miles per gallon.
5 Carver One (1997)
The Carver One is the perfect example of the 'Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder' saying. To some people, the Carver One was a masterpiece, while to others, it was a sore sight to the eyes. One thing that we all can agree on is that this vehicle is an attention grabber.
The Carver One was in production until 2009, when the company filed for bankruptcy. The price at that time was 30,000 euros, which was ridiculous for a 3-wheeler with limited functions.
What made the Carver One stand out was the body design that could lean into corners like a motorcycle. This was a first for 3-wheelers. There were around 300 units of different models produced before the parent company went under.
4 Mercedes Benz F 300 (1997)
Mercedes-Benz designers were given creative freedom, and the result was the F 300. This is a car that's attracted different opinions with regard to the exterior design.
Its looks are very unique, and it just had to be included on the list. It's a concept car that you'd only expect to see in a Mad Max movie or game.
According to car enthusiasts, the F300 was seen as Mercedes's attempt at creating a car-motorbike crossbreed.
The big question remains whether or not they were successful in their endeavor. The Mercedes-Benz F 300 features a 1.6-liter engine and a top speed of 130 mph. The body is able to tilt up to 30 degrees for those sharp corners.
3 Coronet (1957)
This is one of the few full convertibles to make it on the list. The front design was interesting, admittedly, but the rear was the spoiler.
The car was produced between 1957 and 1960 before production came to a halt. There was the power-drive model, which had been built one year earlier. It was a two-seater that was powered by a 328 CC twin engine.
The car was always in the papers being advertised as the best 3-wheeler at that time. That might've been true for the performance but not for the design. The car had a limited top speed of 57 mph. There were only 250 units produced up to 1960, and the car had a starting price of 250 euros when it launched.
2 Bond Minicar (1957)
The Bond Minicar had a protruding 'nose,' which made it stand out from the crowd. It was manufactured by the British company Sharp's Commercial Limited between 1949 and 1966.
The car was termed as a 'short radius runabout,' which was for short-distance commuting, like going to the grocery store. The vehicle was ideal for traveling within a 20-30 mile radius. Early prototypes could climb 25% gradient with two people onboard. This, together with other factors, gave the green light for the mass production of the Bond Minicar.
The Bond Minicar was very successful and sold over 14,000 units, which saw its founder, Lawrie Bond, become a millionaire. The car had a 246 CC engine and wind-up windows that were included in later models.
1 Brutsch Rollera (1956)
The Brutsch Rollera cars were born out of ingenuity. They weren't meant to be produced large scale. The business idea behind it was to produce different variants in small quantities so that the licenses could be sold to car manufacturers for mass production.
There were 11 different models that were produced by Stuttgart-Baden-Wurttemberg between 1952 and 1958, with the grand total being just 81 cars.
The careless rudimentary design attracted a legal recourse, and one of the Brutsch Rollera designs was found to be dangerous by the court.
The Rollera had an abbreviated chassis, which meant that they couldn't include doors with the design if the structural integrity was to be maintained. Even with the flaws in performance and design, the car has become a collectible and sold for $66,000 in an auction in 2013.