If — I’m sorry, when — I give you $5,000 to make any modifications to your car that you’d like, I expect you’ll find all kinds of great things to do to your car to make it better, faster, more unique, whatever. I’m pretty sure you won’t spend five grand to make your car less stable, detune your engine to 20 horsepower, and reduce your luggage space. There are some Germans who will, though, and they even have a reason.
Ellenator is a company that, for around $5,000 plus the cost of the car, will take a Volkswagen Polo, SEAT Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, or a Fiat 500 and replace the rear axle with a new one that uses a pair of 14 inch wheels only about 18 inches apart, makes room for these new wheels by reworking the floor in the rear luggage area, reflash the ECU so the engine only puts out 20 HP, and fills in the now-empty rear wheel arches with sheet metal.
Also, ‘Ellenator’ sounds like what Ellen Page probably calls herself after four beers.
The reason they do this is because that with these changes, the car is effectively considered a three-wheeler of the EC vehicle class L5e, which means that someone as young as 16 can drive the car, no problem.
Otherwise, in Germany you can only drive supervised at 17, and no unrestricted driving until you’re 18.
Even though the car actually has four wheels, the rear two are so close together that they’re effectively thought of as one entity, like that crazy mother and daughter from Grey Gardens.
The whole point of the Ellenator, which was developed by Wenzeslaus “Wenzel” Ellenrieder, is to have something safer than a moped or some janky three-wheeler contraption for his kid to drive. There seems to be at least some target market for rural-area 16-17 year-olds who need to be able to drive legally, even with only 20 hp, a top speed of about 55 mph, and a decidedly less stable car.
I’m not just being a jerk and saying it’s less stable from some quad-wheeler chauvinism; test drives have shown that in some more extreme cases, these things can get pretty tippy:
Really, it’s not Reliant Robin bad, since this uses the much more stable tail-dragger three-wheel layout, but there is a reason why four wheels are so popular.
I’m just kind of fascinated that this segment actually exists, since I was imagining something similar as a way to accomplish what Elio has been trying to do in America, so far without success: market a usable, cheap three-wheeler.
Of course, the cost of this conversion is a big wet blanket on that idea, at least when done in the context of an aftermarket modification. I still have hope that a factory-developed, three-wheel modification could actually work. I actually really like these for my usual perverse reasons, and I think it’d be fun to tool around in a Fiat 500 that looked like its ass was floating.
Anyway, now you know: there’s a way to pay someone money to make your brand-new Fiat 500 have about one-fifth its power and look nice and weird, if that’s your thing. Also, it’s a great option if you love luxury but are a cheapskate who’s hired a 16-year-old chauffeur.