The world’s smallest car – The Peel P50
What comes to your mind when you think of the Isle Of Mann? For car buffs, the first thing would be the speed limitless roads and the yearly races conducted there. The Isle of Mann as such, is not known for producing automobiles and rightly so as only a single model has ever been produced in this island. The Peel Engineering Company, which was located in this tiny island was better known for producing fiber-glass articles like boat hulls and motorcycle fairings before it began producing the Peel P50 in 1955.
It was no ordinary car, as the first ever car that rolled out of the plant, booked a spot for itself in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest car ever to be produced. Measuring at an incredibly small 134 cm (53 in) in length and 99 cm (39 in) in width and tipping the scales at just 59 kg, it would make the Smart ForTwo look like a big-sized SUV if parked alongside. Even more interesting was the prototype, which was smaller than the production version with one wheel at the front and two at the rear.
The Peel P50 was designed by Cyril Canell and Henry Kissack. Roughly 50 of them were made between 1962 and 1965. The design briefing was very simple- To make a car that would seat one person with his or her shopping bag. For that small size there shouldn’t have been any confusion with regard to the engine options. A 49 cc, two-stroke engine coaxing out a modest 4.5 hp was employed to do the job which was in fact borrowed from a motorcycle. The rear wheels received all that power as no 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive mechanisms were present.
But not before it underwent filtration by a 3-speed gearbox which amusingly didn’t consist of a reverse gear. To move the car backwards, the driver simply had to jump out of the car, pull it backwards using a handle attached to its rear, get back at the wheel and drive. Now, which other car would allow you to perform this kind of a stunt?
The P50 stood on 5-inch kart wheels and had a top speed of around 40 mph with fuel consumption of close to 100 mpg by U.K standards. Its compact dimensions and weight meant a tire change never needed a jack and washing it took roughly about 2 minutes!
Similarly the car did not have a starter motor. The driver had to crank the engine by using a lever connected to the engine. The team behind the car also never felt the need for a speedometer as the car would never pass prescribed speed limits. Moreover, the addition of a dial and its related electronics would add unwanted weight and sap power from the 4.5 hp engine.
The joy of driving is slowly being taken away from us. Traffic snarls and gas prices have been prime culprits. To get from point A to B, we need a small car that is capable of exploiting every small gap in a traffic jam and similarly parking in jam packed parking areas. Regardless of that, gas prices have loomed and no one wants to pay excess for fuel, more so when driving a Point A to B car.
The Peel P50 fits the bill for those who want to travel cheap and with ease but need to grab all attention, including that Porsche driver in the traffic signal. With only around 20 plying roads today, the price of a Peel P50 has magnified parallely. What retailed for about 200 U.K pounds back then has now grown to about 35,000!
It’s not all fun and games. The downside is pretty steep. Although the car was designed for a single individual to travel in, 6-footers found it cramped and annoying. The drivers flesh and bones compensated for the absence of crumple zones. The 50 cc engine produced more noise than power and it came across more to the trailing motorists than its cute looks. The lack of a proper suspension and the small tires proved to be dangerous as it reduced stability. On rough terrains, driving it was nothing short of a nightmare and a careless driver could easily manage to find himself upside down.
Edited from automotoportal