Today is a glorious day because today I learned of the existence of the FMR Tiger, the fastest and coolest car in the Messerschmitt family, and I feel like I am a better human because of it.
The short version of the story begins after World War II—following the German surrender in 1945—with German airplane manufacturer Messerschmitt, as noted in this excellent blog on Oppo. Messerschmitt was forbidden to build planes immediately after the war, so it teamed up with an aeronautics engineer named Fritz Fend, who was also forbidden to build planes after the war.
Fend saw what a huge toll the war took on Europe. Germany had been bombed to shit and most people could only get around on bicycles or horses. So he began tinkering around, trying to create a cheap car for people to buy and to help them get back on their feet. After creating a profitable single-seater scooter, Fend partnered with Messerschmitt to build the two-seater, three-wheeled Kabinenroller KR175 in 1952.
In 1954, the updated Kabinenroller—the KR200—was made, with exciting features like reverse.
Between 1956 and 1957, Fend bought the car production line from Messerschmitt and rebadged the cars with “FMR” badges (Fahrzeug und Maschinebau GMBH Regensburg) and subsequently gave himself more freedom to explore a four-wheeled microcar.
He altered the three-wheeler chassis on the KR200 to include four wheels instead of three, a better front suspension, bigger brakes and a more powerful engine. It was called the Tiger, and it’s absolutely incredible.
You climbed in through the top and it looks like the crumple zone in the front is literally your legs, because the engine is mounted in the back. And because the cars had ties with an airplane company, much of their looks were distinctly plane-ish: a jet-like canopy and tandem seating.
The Tiger had a 500cc engine that made about 20 Bugatti Veyron-shaming horsepower.
Sadly, though, it was slightly too expensive for the microcar market and only 320 were sold. Sadder still: by the end of the 1950s, when the Tiger came out, Europe was on the rebound and the need for tiny and cheap microcars diminished. Briefly, they made an appearance here in the U.S., and Elvis himself had a KR200.
Today, Tigers are anything but cheap. (GODDAMMIT.) Prices range from €24,850 (approximately $27,000) to $322,000 at auction. But holy hell are they adorable. Especially in that rosé/light coral color. So retro. So good.