The weird little truck drawing your eyeballs to your screen is a 1962 Roustabout Trivan. For auction on Bring a Trailer, the truck promised to offer unlimited versatility with the capabilities of a half-ton truck. But in reality, it never came close.
The Roustabout Trivan is brainchild of Harry Payne, a figure that as our friends at the Lane Motor Museum note, is often credited as being a key person behind the Bantam prototype that would later become the Jeep. The little truck promised to be as capable as a half-ton truck while offering incredible maneuverability and stability.
But the Trivan failed so hard that only 137 were made before production stopped, making it an incredibly rare vehicle. This 1962 Trivan was modified into a flatbed truck and it is up for grabs on Bring a Trailer.
This obscure little truck was a big deal in Frackville, Pennsylvania. As Hemmings notes, Roustabout got $342,000 in government loans to build the Trivan in an area struggling with unemployment. Roustabout seemingly bet it all on getting a contract with the United States Postal Service, the military and International Harvester. The Frackville factory employed up to 150 workers and was supposed to build 1,000 units a month. It all seemed really promising.
The Trivan is notable for its fiberglass cab and sizable bed hanging off of the rear. This particular example was converted into a flatbed in 1990. In concept, this would make it a really funky way to haul around cars or motorcycles. But hang on, because there are some caveats.
Behind the cab sits a 1-liter Kohler two-cylinder pumping out a ferocious 32 horsepower. This itty bitty engine gave the 1,600 pound truck a top speed of about 55 mph while empty. Load anything onto that bed and it would probably be best if you stuck to side roads.
That engine powers a single rear wheel. This three-wheeler configuration promised the stability of a normal half-ton truck, but in reality turned out to be quite unstable. Thankfully it didn’t go fast enough to get you into real trouble.
But despite its downfalls, I can’t help but love the truck. It has an adorable face and just check out its interior. This looks like an absolute hoot to hoon around a city or town.
This one also had some upgrades done over the years too, from the diamond plating to the teal over black interior. It also has a factory air suspension. Air suspension is probably overkill for something that can’t even go the highway speed limit in many states, but it’s cool to have.
The first Trivan is said to have been built in 1963, so this 1962 model is a bit puzzling. As Bring a Trailer and Hemmings note, Roustabout was founded in 1961 and there’s evidence that the company was building some trucks before the 1963 date often noted as when the trucks first started production.
I can see why the government wasn’t interested in this project. While adorable, it’s a truck that could barely break the speed limit while empty. It comes far short of its not even ambitious promises. Still, it’s incredibly rare and would make a fun way to roll up to local car shows. The 1962 Roustabout Trivan is $12,500 on Bring a Trailer with six days to go.
Hat tip to GrymNick of Opposite-lock!