Every single automaker—save for Ferrari, Lamborghini, and other supercar makers—at one time or another, challenged themselves with the task of creating a small, efficient, practical vehicle that was designed for transport and little else.
Some brands focused on ensuring the economy model had a fun driving experience. Others zeroed in on fuel economy. And other brands tried to keep costs down.
Among those, commuter car concepts are the least likely to be built. Three-wheelers are more rare still, with Morgan and Campagna the only even remotely mainstream manufacturers who make them.
To find a sporty, three-wheeled commuter car…? If you haven’t invested and/or believe in Aptera, you might be waiting a while… Turn back the clock, though, and you'll notice several major manufacturers tried 3-wheeled designs. Today's car is one of those, the 1986 Volkswagen Scooter.
Tested extensively, the Scooter was one of Volkswagen's first attempts at a modern ultra-high efficiency vehicle.
The most recent article I found on the Scooter at Volkswagen Classic says the Scooter has a 1.4-litre engine, 90 horsepower, and would fling this small aberration to 210 km/h (130 mph.) A little far-fetched, no?
At just 635 kg (1400 lbs.), however, maybe not. That recent article was part of a photo op where a gentleman named HP Baxxter got to take it from the Volkswagen Museum. Why? He was the frontman of Scooter, a successful German techno band and now a judge on the German X-Factor. (To get through one of his songs, try drugs.)
Thanks to a German TV crew, the fairly extensive video clip above is where you can watch the Scooter run a slalom and tackle testing in the snow.
Still on the fence about the Volkswagen Scooter? Its gullwing doors are removable. Boom.
Of course, the Scooter was never put into production but it was preserved, and currently lives out its days in the care of Volkswagen. V-Dub came close recently to producing an enthusiast-focused, highly efficient three-wheeler, the GX3, but then VW realized it was far more profitable to market Clean Diesel while simultaneously programming illegal emissions test-defeating code into its engine software.
UPCOMING BOOK REVIEW – When Julian Edgar was kind enough to send a review copy of his book to me, I took the idea of reviewing it quite seriously, which is partly why I became mired in the details of how best to review a book…as it had been a while. After letting that draft cool off before revisiting it (and 412 other excuses) — I will publish the review separately this coming Monday Jan 29.
The tl;dr: If you have the means, buy it. There’s plenty of worse ways to spend your cash on car stuff, and unless you’re a lead aerodynamicist at a Formula 1 team who thinks they know everything, I do not know of a better way to supercharge your understanding of how vehicle aerodynamics actually work.
Not how the marketing explains it. Not by interpreting shoddy CFD models as if they were tea leaves, no: Julian includes practical techniques that start with yarn and tape, up to circuits and diagrams for constructing well-designed vehicle underfloor panels, front splitters, actuators for movable aerodynamics…
There are countless books on engines, racing cars, automotive design, and marque-specific histories; what sets this book apart is that it unlocks a new way of seeing a vehicles’ form. I’m not saying this to be funny, but in the realm of writers who actually know how vehicles work, this volume is akin to George Lucas laying out The Force.
LIGHT TO REPAIR – If you’re angry at the thieves, you’re only half as upset as you could be. This is also a Right To Repair issue. Headlights are one of the most expensive, unique components manufactured for cars…and highly prized because headlights are often first at the scene of an accident.
Fixing this is a Porsche problem, not a police problem — allowing components to increase in cost leads to trends like catalytic converters being stolen, high-end rims being stolen, and now LED headlights being carved out like eyes from potatoes. If the lights were easier to access, wouldn’t need two new fenders and a hood…
C-E-YES? – After visiting the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Drew and Joe from Looking Out the Podcast discuss the show winners, losers, and confusers. Some of what automakers are working on is interesting…but so much of it seems like a total waste of resources.
Have a good weekend, y'all! - M