After some stupid virus that no one ever talks about killed last years’ Jason Drives season, I’m happy to say that we’re back, and I’ve got a great new batch of cars with all sorts of odd traits and behaviors I can exploit for our mutual, fierce enjoyment. We’re starting off at a place of comfort, the Lane Motor Museum, home to all sorts of fascinating and strange cars, specifically a strange, nearly century-old little car known as the Micron Monocar.
I was excited to do an episode with the Micron because it hits so many of my weird car fetishes: tiny, archaic, lots of baffling technical choices, and a really confusing reason to even exist.
Let’s cover the existence part first: the Micron is a cyclecar, a category of car that only existed for a brief period of time, usually accepted to be between 1910 and the very early 1920s.
Cyclecars were extremely crude, basic cars made with a lot of motorcycle parts and engineering, and were the first real attempt to produce cheap, affordable cars in an era when cars were still mostly rich people’s playthings. They sort of bridged the motorcycle-car gap.
Their lifespan was limited mostly because of one thing: the Ford Model T. The Model T, and similar cars in Europe like the Austin 7 and Citroën Type C effectively killed off cyclecars because they were “real” cars that sold for cyclecar prices.
For example, in 1924, the year of the Micron I tested, the cheapest Model T was $265 (that’s under $4,000 in today’s money!), while the Micron was $239—really not that much cheaper for much, much less car.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Toulouse, France-built Micron makes no sense—it was a cyclecar that was somehow still around after the point where cyclecars made any sense.
But that’s just part of it—the Micron is also gloriously senseless technically, too. It’s a front wheel drive car, in an era when that was very uncommon, but that’s not what’s most strange. What’s really strange is how it steers.
It steers with a big hinge that rotates the entire front end of the car—engine, transmission, radiator, those big acetylene lights, wheels, everything.
It’s a very strange way to steer, seemingly both overcomplicated and crude at the same time, and it makes the handling of this little car really, really strange. I’ve driven some other cars that used this method, and so far I’ve yet to drive one that convinces me this is a smart use of anyone’s time. But they’re always exciting.
This little insect-like machine is really strange and charming, and there is a sort of tortured logic for why it exists—but I’m going to make you watch the video to see why, because that’s the whole point of this! You need to see it, hear it, feel it, take advantage of modernity!
This isn’t a magazine or newspaper or, uh, chapbook! Watch the video, and let the unhinged yet very hinged glory of the Micron wash all over you!