Sorry for the late Cold Start, but I’m still on West Coast time as we get ready for our coverage of the LA Auto Show and our shrimp-barrow-fueled party we’re hosting which will be, as you may imagine, life-changing. I wanted to show you a little behind-the-scenes glimpse here, specifically of the microcars I selected to show from Beau’s incredible collection, and I also wanted to coin a term for a group of microcars: a grin. You know how a bunch of crows is a murder or a bunch of lions is a pride or a bunch of Autopians is a dipshit? Well, a bunch of microcars is a grin, because I just decided it is.
And what a grin this is! From left to right we have a Scootacar, the second most popular Spanish microcar, the lovely PTV 250, then the double-ended Zündapp Janus, and then the fascinating Biscúter, Spain’s best-selling microcar, and then the incredibly rare cartoon-car-in-reality Paul Vallée microcar.
This lineup of microcars I don’t think has ever been seen in public before! And I bet this is the highest concentration of Spanish-built cars at the LA Auto show maybe ever?
Here, you can watch us push them in; this is way easier than dealing with real-sized cars.
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Hope to see you at the party, fighting for wheelbarrow shrimp with savage auto-journalists!
“use three fingers if you have to”
A Grin of Microcars. Congratulations, that’s perfect! I’ve been wondering what to call a bunch of motorcycles and I can only think of a Balance of Motorcycles. Please, don’t say gang or freedom.
As soon as I saw the title of the article, I knew 1. that it was Torch, 2. and that he was coining a noun of collection, and 3. that it is perfect.
I look forward to someday attending a dipshit convention.
I also second the grin designation for a group of microcars.
A microcar makes me grin, several together make me giddy! That does make me a confirmed dipshit!
Here’s pics of a microcar I designed and built:
It’s only a prototype. Eventually, it’s going to have a roll cage inside of a composite monocoque. The coroplast body did provide protection when it got rear-ended by a truck and the math I did for that worked out in the real world, but coroplast is NOT an acceptable material for a commercial product and I also got lucky I wasn’t hurt. The cheap flimsy material did allow me to “git ‘r done” in a quick and dirty sense.
*50 mph top speed on flat ground on a full charge with the motor enabled, dropping toward 42-43 mph on a nearly dead battery
*0-30 mph acceleration in under 6 seconds, with the ability to do donuts and burn up the rear tire
*3,000W peak power, plus rider effort
*7 watt hours per mile @ 30 mph w/light pedaling
*9 watt hours per mile @ 35 mph w/light pedaling
*12 watt hours per mile @ 40 mph w/moderate pedaling
*150-200 miles range in real world conditions with cruising speeds of 30-35 mph
At any operating speed with which it is capable, it feels stable and tracks straight. It has been up to 60 mph downhill before I motorized it and felt stable. It is very controllable at 30-40 mph in 30+ mph crosswinds with 50 mph gusts, although one will need a bit of effort to keep it straight in those extreme conditions.
-Weight: 91 lbs
-CdA: 0.20 m^2 derived with coast-down testing via RChung method
-Trike Frame: KMX framekit
-Body shell: Custom corrugated plastic bodywork with aluminum ribbing, mounts, and supports
-Battery: 46.8V 31AH pack of Greenway 18650 LiIon cells, 3000W rated peak power
-Motor: Leafbike 1500W 4T wind brushless PMDC motor, w/10k NTC thermistor and 10-12 awg bullet terminals, laced to 26″ rear wheel w/13ga spokes and double-walled aluminum rim
-Controller: Phaserunner v3, currently set to 3,000W maximum power output, 750W maximum regenerative braking
-Computer: Cycle Analyst v3 DP, currently set to 3,000W maximum power output
-Charger: GrinTech Cycle Satiator HV model
-Torque sensor: Sempu 2-wire w/115mm spindle width, no throttle installed at the time
-Front wheels: Velocity 20″ 32-spoke w/13ga spokes laced to double-walled aluminum rims
-Front tires: Schwalbe Marathon Greenguard 20×1.5″ @ 95 psi
-Rear tire: Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 26×1.5″ @ 60 psi
-Front crankset: Suntour XCT Jr. with 152mm crankarms, modified with 26/39/53T chainrings
-Rear gearing: SunRace 34-11T 7 speed cassette
-Front derailleur: Microshift Mezzo
-Rear derailleur: Shimano Tourney RD-TX35 7/8sp
-Chain: KMC Z7, lubricated with Boeshield
-Torquearms: custom KMX torquearm designed and made by EndlessSphere member dhwahl(left-side), GRIN Torquearm Kit v4(right-side)
-Right shifter: Shimano Revoshift 7 speed index grip shift
-Left shifter: SRAM 3-speed index grip shift
-Front suspension: EXA gas shocks on upper/lower swingarms at 65 psi, suspension designed and made by EndlessSphere member adam333
-Brakes: Avid BB7 calipers with 165mm disc rotors, cable-pull operated
-Right Brake lever: Terratrike dual-pull lever with parking brake
-Left Brake lever: GrinTech ebrake, operated for regenerative braking in the rear
Regarding what specs this will eventually have, I’m in the process of building another battery pack. It’s going to be 108V 25AH, capable of delivering 40 kW peak(I won’t be using nearly that much, as the Leafbike motor I’m using reaches saturation around 10 kW). The controller is being upgraded to a PowerVelocity 144V model, and will be set to 10 kW peak, 250A maximum phase current. I already added a gas shock in the rear, extended the wheelbase, and upgraded to a faster wind Leafbike motor with a 3T winding. I’m currently working on a roll cage which will be welded to the frame. I’m working on a new body shell based upon a Milan SL velomobile I purchased, which will probably be coroplast wrapped in fiberglass, and have about 1/3 the drag of the body that I pictured above, doing away with the outboard wheels, and will be fully enclosed. I’m building up some 16×1.5″ motorcycle rims for all three wheels, and have a set of hydraulic disc brakes now installed, which use rotors from an ATV, calipers and pads from an ebike, thicker seals with more material, a motorcycle brake lever with built-in fluid reservoir for DOT3/4 fluid, and it will have a Mitas MC2 16×2.25″ moped tire on each wheel, which are commonly used on solar race cars for their low rolling resistance. The next body is going to be covered with about 150W worth of solar panels. I also upgraded the motor to a Leafbike 3T wind, and added ferrofluid and a hubsink, and upgraded the wiring to 10 AWG.
You can see pictures of it taken apart, with the new 3T wind motor and rear gas shock added:
Long-term goals are as follows:
*0-60 mph in under 8 seconds
*100+ mph top speed
*400+ miles range at 35 mph, 120+ miles range at 70 mph
*at least 0.9G lateral acceleration in a turn without tipping or losing control
*The ability to be pedaled to 40 mph in a sprint with 500W rider effort and the motor completely disabled on a dead battery, inducing cogging losses, and maintain 25 mph on flat ground in the same conditions with 150W rider effort
*Able to be powered by grid electricity, solar panels, pedaling, generator electricity. A versatile vehicle for what may become a post apocalyptic world. You’ll even be able to prop it up on jackstands and pedal with the drive wheel off the ground to recharge the battery, or pedal it with the motor shut off up a hill, and then use regen going down the hill to recapture potential energy
*The 16″ motorcycle wheels were chosen so that in a pinch, 20″ tires from a child’s BMX bike could be used if the moped tires become unavailable. It won’t be safe sustaining over 35 mph with BMX bike tires, BUT that’s still better than walking, and this BMX bike tire is perhaps the most common tire size in existence within the USA of any kind
For shits and giggles, here was a proposed paint scheme for the body shell I recently removed before starting the upgrades:
I want to give it pentagram wheel disc covers, a fallout shelter sign for a rear derailleur cover, and a silver Baphomet hood ornament. It’s going to look like it belongs in a post apocalyptic science fiction film.
Also, linked below are photos of another project that I assisted in the design of, and a friend of mine bent the tubing and welded it all up. He did 99% of the work. It’s called “The Minion”. We based the design off of my custom pedal-electric microcar, but this is a straight-up car with no bicycle parts. His Instagram account is IdyllicPixel.
I love microcars, but I have a lot of gripes with the ones that have been sold.
For starters, drag coefficient was an afterthought. In spite of that, these low displacement, power-starved offerings can still eek out somewhere near 100 MPGs in most cases. With a focus on streamlining, this could be 300 MPGs for a vehicle with the same size, mass, and engine. Upgrade to modern engine tech with VVT, electronic fuel injection or even direct injection, providing overall better thermal efficiency, and you might more than triple that still. Imagine a 1,000+ mpg car.
Also, performance-oriented microcars are next to non-existant. Perhaps the closest thing we have gotten might be the Goggomobil Dart. It’s not very fast.
I want to build a 2-seater EV of roughly the same size as the Dart, but with velomobile aerodynamics. One could get by using e-bike parts for propulsion due to low mass(< 800 lbs), which could allow a transmissionless hub motor setup with AWD and acceleration that could embarrass million-dollar hypercars, and you'd be able to get Tesla-like range on 1/5th the battery of a Tesla, helping to keep weight down. In turn, it would be inexpensive to produce, if you can justify enough production volume, and if you can't, then it will have performance to justify a hand-built price tag. With modern composites and monocoque construction, it really is low-hanging fruit to be plucked, but none of the manufacturers are interested in such a thing.
A 1-seater microcar is capable of astounding efficiency. Look at the Electrathon race cars as examples of what is possible for EVs, using off the shelf ebike parts and lead acid batteries, and the Shell Eco Marathon entries regarding what is possible for ICEs. Lots of single-digit Wh/mile and 1,000+ MPG examples abound.
As far as performance-oriented microcars go, there’s always the FMR Tg500.
0-60 mph in 28 seconds and a top speed of 78 mph, isn’t exactly what I consider “performance”. But for its day, it was among the best of the offerings available, IMO. It could mess with an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite for sure.
Now a 1955 Frazer Nash LeMans Coupe or perhaps a Costin Nathan, OTOH… is close. Just a bit big to consider either a microcar.
I suppose it’s all relative. For my microcars those performance figures are at best “aspirational” and more realistically “beyond all hope” so I’d call the FMR a high-performance powerhouse.
Motorcycles with 200+ horsepower exist. I’d like to have the same in an enclosed, micro-sized streamliner set up for 200+ mph top speed and 10-second 1/4 miles. It would be more efficient than anything you could buy, and have less than moped ownership costs on s per mile basis. That would make people stop laughing at the fact that you drive a microcar and they’d instead want one.
Never fight any kind of journalist for free food. It’s all that stands between them and malnourishment. Source: I was a journalist.
Slightly off-topic here but what is up with shrimp at trade shows? Last year, I finally watched all 4 seasons of Halt And Catch Fire. One episode of that show revolved around the plucky group of computer builders showing off their new computer at a show, and half the episode revolved around them not having shrimp for their reveal party. Is shrimp the de facto trade show party food? Having never been to trade show parties myself, I honestly don’t know. I get that shrimp is a good finger food that people can snack on, and it has a slightly classy feel to it, but wtf? Why can’t you have some pigs in a blanket? Or White Castle sliders?! I’d fly cross country if you offered free sliders at your little L.A. posh party.
I always thought it was a gaggle, or is that just for Goggomobils?
I can’t wait to be part of a dipshit!
My ex-wife always called me a dipshit. Ha! I get the last laugh…”No, I’m IN a dipshit. So there”
I haven’t had other microcars to ride with, or I’d be part of a dipshit. Being a part of a dipshit would be wonderful!
That P. Valee is one of my favorite things in the world. Paul Valee was an interesting fellow. He formed a legendary racing team before the war and then had the foresight to manufacture a cheap scooter just after the war was over. He didn’t sell too many copies of the microcar, but it has to be the most whimsical looking vehicle ever put into production.
I like the 2 tone grey convertible. But the other ones look like bumper cars or playskool toys. Why push when you can druve or is that just Beau? And in this context shouldnt it be a bunch of autopians ARE dipshits? Just having fun.
I think that one needed a driver because there was no way to push and steer at the same time, what with the door placement.
I love mini and micro cars so much. They just strike me as making so much sense.
They also make me think about Bugs and Minis, both very accessible cars that were the basis for so many variants. To wit, I wonder, can we ever have another “people’s car”? You know, very cheap, and acting as the platform for times of variants.
Before the push to eclectic, if have said no. But with the skateboard, I’m wondering again. Will price make it impossible to Troy be the people’s car?
I’d love to read an article (series?) by the Autopian staff for all their perspectives.
Ugh. So many typos. Your patience and an edit button, please
Well coined, that: the Janus certainly elicited a grin from me.
The Biscúter! Also known as the Biscooter, quite literally two scooters. The brainchild of Gabriel Voisin of the 1920s-30s luxury automibile company Avions Voisin which produced glorious Art Deco masterpieces such as the 1934 C25 Aérodyne:
The Lane Motor Museum has a lovely example (as well as at least one Biscúter.)
That PTV250 is a great-looking little thing. Can we haz more about it please?
I get the feeling I posted my “I once exhibited a microcar at an auto show” comment a day early:
Also, was that Jim Janecek’s Janus? I recall he had his for sale a few years ago and it looked very much like that one. Mostly, though, I wanted to take this opportunity to type the phrase “Jim Janecek’s Janus.” Twice.
This was Bruce Weiner’s Janus which I think then was Jim’s Janus before Beau bought it. Jim loved that Janus. It’s a shame he sold it.
Dammit I wish I was there.
My favorite microcar will always be the Kleinschnittger F125. It’s the one they famously parked in the back of an Escalade in a (now ancient) Cadillac commercial.
Man, I wonder what Cadillac paid for the use rights to “Rock & Roll?”