The Peel Trident is one of those weird little cars that frequently shows up on those stupid “Worst Cars Ever” lists. I’ve always felt these lists are usually unfair and didn’t take into account the context of why the car was designed. So, I was excited to finally drive one, and feel all smug about my open car-mind. That sort of happened, only I’m not sure “smug” is the word I’d use.
Maybe partially-asphyxiated is a better word. I came out of the drive actually really liking the humble little Trident, but like some other things I love – I’m thinking specifically of gin here – prolonged enjoyment of it leaves me feeling like I’m going to vomit up my appendix.
This Trident is courtesy, once again, of the fabulous Lane Motor Museum, who put it on their list of the worst cars in their collection. And, while it’s by no means Hoffmann-bad, it’s not hard to see why it made the list.
The Trident is tiny. I mean, like Cozy Coupe-tiny, not Miata-tiny. It’s a little fiberglass bathtub with three wheels, headlights, and a plexiglass bubble-dome. That dome is probably the biggest part of this car’s character, for good and bad.
On the good side, the dome gives the car an adorable shrunken-Jetsons flying-saucer look that’s hard to beat, and it gives 360° visibility while also protecting you (and the passenger you damn well better be at least a little attracted to) from the rain and weather.
It’s great on paper. Off paper and in the real world, the location that has all the places you want to go, it has a huge flaw: it’s a stifling, asphyxiating dome of plexiglass murder. The only fresh air is via this tiny, slide-open vent (I suspect when it’s closed, that’s known as the suicide position) and the little two-stroke, 12HP scooter engine in back does all it can to pump that dome full of invisible death-gas.
Oh, and I should address the odd-sounding audio in the car: that was because the thing vibrated like a high-voltage sex toy. Constantly. It got better at higher revs, but at idle it was a constant, numbing shake, which is why our audio sounds like we’re underwater. Which, now that I think about it, may have been an easier environment to breathe in.
So, yeah, while I actually really did enjoy driving the tiny thing — it’s nimble, surprisingly quick (not fast, mind you: quick), practical when you consider its home market of the tiny Isle of Man — I was less crazy about the almost constant feeling of poisoning that was part of every drive.
The asphyxiation may be the Trident’s go-to way to murder you, but it’s no one-trick pony. It also is prone to rolling over (that’s why they made sure to have someone in there with me, to act as a counterweight), and it’s so insanely small that in regular traffic you feel like anyone in anything bigger than a Honda Fit is going to crush you into the ground like an adorable, dead ladybug.
In the end, though, I found myself still liking the Trident, even if it wanted blood. I think maybe a convertible version would take care of at least the worst of its life-ending desires, or maybe a little face mask that connected directly to that vent. Or hell, any other vent at all – would it have killed them to stick in, I don’t know, a second goddamn vent?
So, if you’re an alien who breathes two-stroke exhaust and lives on a very congested planet with difficult parking, I think I have a car to recommend to you.
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