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 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 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.