Ever see a car for sale online and even though you know-know-know it’s a terrible, terrible idea, you can’t get it out of your head? The idea just sits and lingers around the periphery of your mind, like how once you think about how embarrassing it would be to accidentally end a call with your boss by saying “love you” it’s all you can do to not make it happen? Well, this three-wheel thing sent to us by a reader named Joey is now doing that in my head. Stop it.
I guess this is what happens to David, but he just ends up buying these things?
The car in question in this Facebook Marketplace ad isn’t called anything specific beyond “1980 Three-Wheeled car” but I know exactly what this crazy delta of trouble is: It’s a Trimuter.
Yes, yes, yes, this is a glorious Urba Sport Trimuter, a tricycle-oriented car you’d build from plans that included pop-up headlights and a lifting canopy to get in and out.
This was a sleek-looking thing, a 1980s land-rocket, and I vaguely remember seeing pictures of these lean arrowheads as a kid.
Incredibly, it looks like you can still get the plans today, via Robert Q. Riley Enterprises, which offers plans for a gas-powered version using a 16-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine or an EV version that uses 10 six-volt lead-acid batteries, which feels pretty archaic today. I bet you could repurpose a hybrid battery pack from a Prius or something.
The Robert Q. Riley website there suggests a total of $3,500 and 300 to 400 hours of labor to build one of your own, so I’m not sure if that makes the
$4,000 $2,500 asking price for the very ratty one in the Facebook Marketplace ad a good or bad deal?
I guess it depends on how you value your time. On the one hand, it is finished, and the owner says it runs, but it’s not like it couldn’t stand a whole bunch of hours and money itself to be actually usable.
I’m gonna say it’s not a great deal. At all.
But for a lower price, it sure could be a fascinating project! Plus, I’m just about certain that rear bumper is from a 1978 or so Ford Fiesta.
The chassis on these is basically a T-shape, and the one for sale here has an engine that looks to have some kind of centrifugal clutch on it. There seem to be some of these around with air-cooled Volkswagen power, and updated Trimuter plans show a VW option as well:
I gotta admit, I love that there are still people designing VW-drivetrain based kit cars as recently as 2014. I do kinda’ think that engine is scaled down a bit much, though?
There’s at least one out there with a Honda V-twin engine in it:
That powered canopy! Wow! And that dog’s so excited!
You can see the engine and chassis better in this video:
I really admire how much effort this guy is putting into his Trimuter — I think it’s pretty fantastic. That said, I’m very conflicted on whether or not the one for sale would make a decent project.
I mean, definitely not at $2,500 — that’s just absurd — but what if it were, like $1,200? Or $800? Then things start to get a little confusing.
I mean, if you got this thing sorted nicely, you’d have a really eye-catching, very fuel-efficient fun little almost-car, right? I mean, ventilation looks nonexistent, the stability of a trike-style three-wheeler is never great and there’s zero non-lap or feet-area luggage space, but still! You’d get some attention in your retro surface-rocket.
I may be getting some kind of Trimutermadness from the residual glue fumes, transmitted to my lungs via that ad, over the internet. Maybe I’m just being swayed because a four-wheel one-off version was used in Total Recall?
Anyway, if anyone snags this thing, be sure to let us know.