Like an adorable, tiny zombie popping out of its tiny, adorable window-box grave, the Peel P50 and Peel Trident are back from the dead. Neither of the tiny, tiny cars has been built since 1966, but a new company, with funding from the BBC's show Dragon's Den, is starting production up once again, as announced earlier this year. They're street legal in the UK and US, and you can buy them for an absurd price £10,000 ($16,000).
The Peel P50 is the World's Smallest Car, most famously enjoyed (indoors and outdoors) by Jeremy Clarkson. The Trident is a sort of sportier-looking model, with the same mechanicals (original: 49cc, 4.2 HP) but swaps the cyclopian porta-potty look for a very 50s-modern bubble-topped futuristic fiberglass body. The Trident also can hold two, instead of the solitary seat of the P50.
The modernized P50 and Trident swap the old (reverseless) three-cog transmission for a CVT unit, and use a 3.35 HP motor (one of the few times the hundredths decimal place is important), which is enough to push the 198 lb Trident or 240 lb P50 to 28 mph (electronically limited— maybe you could go a bit faster?). There's electric versions as well, with roughly the same specs, except instead of an amazing 118 mpg, you have a meager 15 miles between charges. Dead dinosaurs sure hold a lot of energy.
At 118 MPG, Peel advertises (reprising their old '60s era slogan) that driving one is cheaper than walking. It just may be, except for the fact that a pair of shoes doesn't cost $16,000 for a road legal version.
And that's the rub, right there. I like these little cars an awful lot— I've always loved these perversely tiny products of the Isle of Man, and would happily drive something like this. Mid-engine, rear-drive, under 5 HP, weighs less than many of my friends— it's that right combination of weird and fun. But $16 grand? That's, frankly, insane. These could be a viable moped/scooter/second/commuter car alternative to many people if they were, say $4000 tops. The price they're asking (they do have a non-road legal one for $10,500, but what's the point?) puts these in competition with real cars, and unless they only care about the eccentric millionaire market, I can't imagine them succeeding. To compare, in today's money, an original P50 would cost about $2200.
Who knows. Maybe enough eccentric millionaires will buy them and the price can drop down, and I can have my dream of dropping a mad Briggs and Stratton 10 HP monster in one, bolting in a cage from a Bobcat, and making the only track car I can tow with my Beetle. It'd be fun. But not $16,000 fun.