There’s always a push by carmakers to get automotive superlatives—fastest production car, best fuel economy, longest electric range, cheapest or most expensive car, whatever. Carmakers eat that crap up and then inscribe it on plaques. But they’re not eager for just any superlative. Deadliest, slowest, dampest, none of these are goals. You’d think the claim of narrowest car would be unclaimed, too, but you’d be wrong.
This 1948 Larmar is the narrowest car ever built. It’s two feet, four inches wide, designed to (barely) fit through a standard English garden gate, which is two feet, six inches wide.
Why? Great question.
The car was designed, originally, to be a post-war ‘invalid car,’ a sort of motorized wheelchair/motor vehicle for people with disabilities. That’s why the Larmar has both hand and foot controls. Surprisingly little is actually known about the Larmar, but there is a bit of footage of the Larmar being tested as an invalid car:
At some point, it was decided that the Larmar was too good just to be an invalid car, and was also marketed as a woman’s ‘shopping car,’ a sort of little city runabout used to, you know exchange currency for goods and/or services, an act known as ‘shopping.’ It’s complicated, but if you’ve ever been to a Pic n’ Pay shoe store, you get the idea.
The part about it being narrow enough to get through a garden gate helped the shopping car angle, because you could literally drive the car door-to-door from house to shop. Probably inside the shop, too, if no one tried to stop you. And probably even if they did.
The car is not a terrible design, in some ways. For as tiny as it is, it has a proportionally huge trunk, and the 7.5 horsepower four-stroke, 246 cc engine isn’t bad. considering. The gear shifting method is just awful, though luckily I’ve never seen any other vehicle to try and use the same stupid hip-located lever method as this.
One important note about the video: driving through that doorway was terrifying. Not because of my personal safety, but because the Lane Museum’s Larmar is by far the best one in existence (there’s maybe two survivors) and the idea that I was 1/16" of an inch away from making long, savage scratches and gashes in its sides from the door latches filled me with real dread.
Also, when taking off through the door, I laid some rubber in the Larmar, making me the first human in recorded history to burn rubber in a Larmar.
You’re welcome, universe.