For a lover of the best classic cars, there is nothing quite like four beefy tires hugging the pavement while a massive big block V8 rumbles under the hood. While you certainly won’t get very far riding a first-generation Camaro with only three wheels, there have been several cars over the years that were actually designed to be top-of-the-line street machines and people movers despite only have three wheels on the gravel.
Of course, a three-wheeled design is hardly practical when it comes to making truly effective classic sports cars – after all, evolution has proven that when it comes to travelling on the land, either two legs or four are the way to go. But in some capacity, this strange layout has been extremely effective in one way or another, whether it was increased handling capabilities, improved fuel economy or simply got people having a conversation.
Here’s a look at a few three-wheeled cars that have hit the market over the past century and have made their mark on automotive history, for better or for worse.
One of the more hilarious looking vehicles on this list hardly even deserves to be called a car, given the fact that it is about the size of a battery powered remote controlled Escalade. The Peel P50 is familiar to anyone who has even a passing interest in the hit BBC series Top Gear, as one of the more memorable episodes had host Jeremy Clarkson literally driving this thing from the streets of London then through the network’s main offices in one of the show’s most memorable segments.
Only about 50 of these cars were built by Peel, a company located on the Isle of Man that had previously only constructed fiberglass boats. It was clear from the outset that they should’ve stayed exclusively in the boat business, as the car was hardly even embraced on the the island it called home. To date, this creature holds the record of smallest car ever created, as well as one of the rarest in the United Kingdom.
While this car is hardly a looker – and you’ve probably never seen one driving around stateside – it is arguably one of the most significant three-wheeled models ever built. Mazda emerged as a true player in the now booming Japanese auto market once it created this pint-sized pickup. It was a huge sales success in its home country and gave Mazda the kind of clout that would help the company establish a presence in the North American auto market.
Before this car, most Mazdas were essentially three-wheeled motorcycles that had more in common with rickshaws than they did automobiles that were being sold in the states. This car wasn’t powerful and it wasn’t pretty, but it was perfectly functional and a sales hit for the brand. Today, these trucks are collectors items and can be found in a wide array of vibrant colors and trim levels. In order to seat one and a half middle school children comfortably, the tiny engine on this thing was put behind the cockpit at the head of the truck bed, which actually can be blamed for more than a few spontaneous fires back in the day.
Morgan 3 Wheeler
This ride is another classic that fans of Top Gear are likely familiar with, as the Stig famously made one of these classics do doughnuts on the lap in a 2012 episode. Morgans were racing aficionados favorites more than 100 years before the car made its television debut on the BBC. The Morgan Motor Company was founded in 1910 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, and for the company’s first 26 years they exclusively made only three wheeled cars that seemed to have more in common with jets – at least looks wise – than traditional racing vehicles.
The V Twin Engines that sit right between the headlights on these cars – exposed completely so that they wouldn’t overheat – give this thing a fairly strange snout. The design is simple even by turn of the century standards, as the cabin is exposed and to drive the thing you needed much more training than simply just a drivers license. But once you mastered how to navigate one of these beasts, you probably had more fun behind the wheel than any other driver on the road.
Do you think three wheels are better than four, or are you strictly by the books when it comes to the cars you drive? Leave your thoughts below:
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