I was going to say that I’ve been on a weird, barely known microcar kick this week, but let’s be honest – that’s my natural state, isn’t it? It is. And that may be why I felt such a deep, visceral delight when I saw this wonderful and perhaps slightly alarming-looking little microcar, which seemed to be called a Honda Caren. A bit more research revealed that the story is a bit more complex; yes, in one sense, the car is a Honda Caren, but it’s not just a Honda Caren, it also seems to be something called a Cydes Car URI-II. It’s a three-wheeled microcar, but, as you may have noticed, the front wheel is not, as you’d usually expect, centered. There’s a reason for this, which, if you’ll just calm down a moment, I’ll explain.
The first key to this strange little car’s layout and name has to do with this, the true Honda Caren:
The Caren was one of Honda’s little 50cc mopeds – a charming little machine, friendly and practical. Like all mopeds, though, it’s just a motor and some wheels nestled in your crotch, so you’re completely at the mercy of the weather and wind and insects and birds and whatever else you may be driving through. It’s an open vehicle, not closed like a cozy car, and for many people, that’s a deal breaker. Most of us like to be indoors while we travel.
It seems there was a company that understood this desire, and somehow felt that there were enough people who simultaneously wanted moped price and performance and the enclosed quality of a car, so they took the little Honda Caren and turned it into this:
A little microcar! The company seems to have been called CydesCar, which is a play on “sidecar” which makes sense, because what they’ve really done, kind of, is added a sidecar to the Caren and then enclosed the entire thing in what is basically a little plastic shed. Here, look, this is how the wheels are arranged:
See what’s going on there? That’s why the lone front wheel is stuck way over on the right side, because the base of the Honda Caren is there on the right side, albeit highly modified and integrated into this new body. The handlebars have been moved to the center of the body, which would be to the side of the moped itself, along with the seat. The left side has the lone “sidecar” wheel, and the whole thing looks gleefully precarious.
In fact, on the green one up there with the huge speakers in the back (from Bruce Weiner’s former microcar collection) even has a little caster wheel, possibly a shopping cart wheel, on the left side, I guess to help keep it from tipping over? This thing had to feel all kinds of unsettling in turns.
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time this sort of layout had been tried; in the early 1900s, some cheap “cyclecars” used a similar sidecar-style arrangement, like the infamous Scott Scociable:
Oh, one more thing about that brochure; I ran it through a translation app, and got some really funny and puzzling results for part of it:
Is that really what that says? “It has the appearance of a girl and a slightly chubby guy?” Is that how you sell microcars, by analogizing them to a pleasingly plump androgyne? Maybe!
The Caren, when converted to a microcar, seems to have been called the URI-II, and boasted some novel features, like a reverse gear of some kind, a little luggage rack, and a turning circle of under one meter!
The brochure here also shows it with the roof removed; I wonder if this was something you could actually do, or if they were just showing it this way to show the interior, which even had some luggage space available.
This is a very clever little thing, about as absolutely minimal a “car” as you could have. In many ways, this feels like a 1990 version of my Changli or similar absolutely minimal automotive solution. Basing the drivetrain on a popular moped like a Honda one is really clever. I can’t decide if this should be considered an add-on to the Honda Caren, or something entirely new, because so much of the original moped gets modified to make this work.
Either way, I’m pretty impressed. It’s not clear at all how many of these were actually made, but there are some pictures of these floating around the web, including that shot of one in the bed of a kei-class truck, just to give a sense of how tiny these things are.
I’d kind of like to try to drive one of these; the asymmetrical wheel layout has to be entertaining, at the very least, right? I mean, until you tip it over.
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