The smallest car ever made

the-smallest-car-ever-made

It measures just 1372mm long, and 991mm wide, and stands 1000m tall. It tips the scales at just 59kg (without driver) and its 49cc engine (not a typo) helps it reach a top speed of 61km/h. Oh, and it only has three wheels.

Meet the Peel P50, officially the smallest production car in the world, recognised by the arbiter of all such things, Guinness World Records, in 2010.

The Peel P50 hails from the Isle of Man, famous for its annual Tourist Trophy motorcycle races, and was in production from 1963-65.

It cost £199 when new in 1963, yet despite the relatively low price, only 50 are believed to have ever been produced. Of those 50 original Peel P50s, it’s believed only 27 still exist.

Perhaps that’s why original examples are now commanding big money at auction, with one keen collector paying over US$176,000 at Sotheby’s back in 2016. That’s over AUD$227,000 in our money, the type of money that today will buy you a lot of Porsche Cayman GT4 or almost an entry-level Porsche 911.

The Peel P50 was the brainchild of engineer Cyril Cannell, the founder of Peel Engineering, whose brief was to design a car with the minimum possible dimensions while still remaining functional.

He unveiled the prototype at the Earls Court Motorcycle Show in 1962. The original showcar featured a single wheel at the front and two wheels at the rear. But by the time the microcar went into production the following year, the layout had changed to two wheels at the front with a single driven wheel out back.

With a fibreglass body draped over a welded tube chassis, the single-seater was advertised as being capable of carrying “one adult and a shopping bag”.

A Zweirad Union (DKW) single-cylinder 49cc motorcycle engine, making a monstrous 3.1kW, was mated to a three-speed manual gearbox, sending drive to the single rear wheel.

Crucially, all three gears were forward gears. There was no reverse. Instead, thanks to its light weight, owners could simply turn the car around by picking it up, something Peel Engineering marketed quite heavily back at the P50’s launch.

Thanks to its diminutive stature, asthmatic performance and svelte figure, the P50 was said to have a fuel consumption figure of a piddling 2.3 litres per 100km. Not too shabby.

Today, the P50 enjoys a scarcity many vintage supercars can only dream about. Maybe that’s why London-based P50 Cars started making what it calls ‘a homage to the originals’.

Available as an electric vehicle or a more traditional petrol-powered Peel, the modern P50 is a faithful continuation of the original P50 microcar. And just for fun, there’s also a P50 cabriolet which can be optioned in funky two-tone paint. Prices start at £14,995 (approx. AUD$19,000).

And for those wanting the true P50 experience, the company is also offering a £24,995 limited edition model which features a German-made DKW 49cc engine, just like the original.

The company sells around 15 P50s per year, with the petrol-engined the most popular. It’s priced at around £15,000 (approx. AUD$19,000) and is powered by a single-cylinder, four-stroke Honda motorcycle engine which makes 3.6kW at 10,000 rpm, sent to the rear wheel via a CVT. Unlike the 1960s original, the modern iteration now features a reverse gear.

And the tallest person to have successfully shoehorned themselves into a Peel P50? According to P50 Cars, someone measuring 203cm (6’9”) has fitted inside one of its microcars. Photos, or it didn’t happen 😉

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