Micro cars were not confined to Europe in the 1950’s. Even in the USA, home of the land barge, there were US made micro cars One such was the King Midget, made by Midget Motors of Athens Ohio, between 1946 and 1970.

The original King Midget was a single seater kit set, designed to accommodate any single cylinder motor. However within a couple of years, Midget Motors were producing fully assembled cars.

In 1951 the Model 2 was introduced, a two seater convertible with 7.5 horsepower 400cc motor, and a top speed of about 45 mph (72 kph) It had a two speed automatic transmission, with reverse, that had been developed in-house by Midget Motors.

The Model 3 followed in 1957, with a 9.2 hp motor, and 4 wheel  hydraulic brakes.

In total  almost 5000 King Midgets were made

From a 1930 Chevrolet brochure showing the car on Oriental Parade, Wellington.

 

Looking through a 1935 Automobile Association Guide and Handbook provides some interesting details:

The main road north out of Wellington followed around the Paremata Inlet and over the Paekakariki hill road. There was a tearoom at the summit with access to an Emergency Telephone.

The road was probably gravel, in fact in 1935, less than 1% of roads were sealed, and that included urban streets.

In 1935 there were 50,000 miles of road in New Zealand – in 2015 there were 58,000 miles (94,000 km), which doesn’t seem a huge increase in 80 years. However in 2015 64% of roads were sealed.

By contrast, there were 128,000 cars in 1935 (1 car for every 9 people), compared to 3.9 million in 2015 (1 car for every 1.2 people!)

A car journey out of town back then probably would encounter few other vehicles, a good thing considering it was mostly on dusty gravel roads.

The open road speed limit in 1935 was 40 miles per hour ( 64 km/h) which was probably more than adequate given the state of roads. The town speed limit was 25 mph (40 km/h).

 

 

The 40 mph speed limit did not stop Chevrolet promoting their 80hp / 80 mph car. This ad was in the 1935 AA Handbook and Guide.

What were “knee action wheels” ?

A form of independent suspension used by General Motors at the time.

The Mochet K Type was one of the earliest post war micro cars, built in France from 1947 to 1949. The Mochet company began making childrens pedal cars and progressed to lightweight pedal powered cycle cars in the 1920s and 30s. A motor was available on some, but the pedal function was retained.

The K Type was the first Mochet vehicle without pedals. It was powered by a 100cc two stroke engine delivering 3.5 hp with top speed around 40k/h.

A brand new Mochet K Type cost 108,000 Francs (£100) or about $8,000 today. For the luxury of weather protection, a hood would cost an extra 6,000 francs (£5) – not sure if that included the fine wooden door seen in this picture,

Here’s a video of one of the few remaining K Types in action

Classic Cars & Beautiful Wairarapa Wedding

Last weekend Classic Rides provided classic transport for a beautiful Wairarapa wedding on a glorious summer afternoon. The wedding cars looked splendid driving down country roads to deliver the bridal party to the stunning rural location.

Our thanks to Nat and Matt for inviting us to contribute to their special day.

Want to drive an interesting classic car? Don’t have a day to spare?

 Classic Rides cars are also available on an hourly basis – a fun thing to do anytime, perhaps on a long summer evening after work, or during a holiday break or weekend. We can provide printed short itineraries to guide you on the country roads in the area, with information on some of the points of interest along the way.

The hourly rate is only $50 for any car, and includes fuel. We can also arrange comparative drives if you want to try two or more cars (if available) over the hire period.

NB: Short hires are subject to car availability and Terms & Conditions are the same as for longer hire periods

The Biscuter was manufactured in Spain, between 1953 and 1960. Simple and cheap, it sold more than 10,000 units.

Although it had an aluminium body, rack & pinion steering and four wheels, it was very minimalist in design. There were no doors or windows or reverse gear, although these amenities became available from 1957.

It was powered by a single cylinder, 197cc two stroke 9hp engine, with drive to the right front wheel only. It was capable of about 70 km/hr

The BIscuter was a common sight on Spanish roads in the 50’s. It became part of local culture and was known as the Zapatilla, after a small shoe or clog worn by peasants. “Ugly as a Biscuter” was a popular joke of the time.

Summer is almost here. Time to drop the top, wind in your hair and sun on your face!

This summer, hire a convertible from Classic Rides; for an hour, or a weekend.

Book for the summer this month and save – any booking made in November will save 25% on the hire fees.

S E Opperman was an engineering company located at Boreham Wood, Herfordshire, England. They made a large range of engineering products including a popular small 3 wheeled tractor, the Opperman Motocart, produced from 1949 to 1961.

With the boom of micro cars in the 50’s, Opperman saw an opportunity to apply their expertise to this new market. In 1956 the Opperman Unicar appeared at the London Motor Show. With a 320cc 2 stroke engine and no bonnet or boot lid, it was the cheapest car at the show – although it did have four wheels. It was produced until 1959, a total of 200 sold.

No doubt buoyed by this success, in 1958 Opperman produced the Stirling, a larger more attractive vehicle, with a  500cc Steyr motor. This advertisement appeared to show considerable optimism for the new design, a “family speed saloon”

Unfortunately the advent of the Mini in 1959 killed the micro car market, and only two Opperman Stirlings were built.

 

The Velorex was a three wheel micro car, constructed on tubular steel space frame, The bodywork was made from vinyl, stretched over the frame and fixed with turn-button fasteners.  Power was from a two stroke Jawa motor cycle engine, with earlier cars having a 250cc single or twin cylinder engines, while later models boasted 350cc twins and were capable of about 85 km/h.

Built by the Velorex manufacturing company in Czechoslovakia, the design was apparently inspired by pre-war Morgan three wheelers. Post war car production in Czechoslovakia was very limited, so when the Velorex was released in 1950 at a quarter of the price of a standard car, it was much in demand. They remained popular for 20 years with production finally ceasing in 1971 when about 15,000 had been made. About half of that output was exported to other Eastern Bloc countries.

They appeared to drive reasonably well, particularly when compared to some other micro cars of the time. This no doubt explains the longevity of the model, along with the general shortage of motor vehicles behind the Iron Curtain – the people’s mobile tent!

 

Video