Hand-Built: Driver sits next to engine in 3-wheeler; leather belts connect clutch
Amicrocar is the smallest vehicle considered to be an automobile.
Of all those ever built, the Peel 50 is probably the smallest, capable of a top speed of 56 km/h depending on how much you had for breakfast! Most car collectors have a fascination for bubble cars, as microcars were referred to during the '60s due to their bubble shape appearance.
Probably the world's largest microcar collection belonged to Bruce Weiner of Madison, Ga., which was auctioned off in February of this year.
One four-wheeled example, a 1958 FMR Tiger 500, fetched a record breaking price of $322,000.
I recently had the pleasure of examining a 1955 Grataloup, which came out of the Weiner collection. It was expected to fetch $25,000 - the auctioneer's gavel fell at $35,000. It was purchased by the Lane Museum which has an incredible assortment of unusual cars (check it out at lanemotormuseum.org).
The one-off Grataloup was built by Monsieur Grataloup of Bagnèresde-Bigorre, France and was used as his daily driver for many years until he traded it in at a local Citroen garage.
The high level of craftsmanship and mechanical genius that went into this single seater is amazing. It uses a single cylinder, 7.5-horsepower, 247 cc Villiers two-stroke engine mated up to a separate gearbox from a Renée Gillet (French Motorcycle) connected via a chain.
The clutch connection is made by series of three leather belts and the final drive to the rear wheel is also via a steel chain.
The ingenious connection to the engine from the electric starter motor is made via a leather linkbelt. When you look into the engine compartment, which is positioned alongside the driver for balance and stability, it looks very busy and complicated!
The usual French soft ride is achieved by leaf springs mounted transversely in the front and longitudinal at the rear. It is reported by those who have driven the car that the large front wheels make for a stable 83 km/h ride and also it is capable of handling some rough terrain.