Peel P50 – 1963

Advertised as being for ‘one adult and a shopping bag’, the Peel P50 was designed as a convenience microcar for nipping around town. When it was launched at the 1962 Earl’s Court Motor Show, it caused a stir on two counts: it was the only car ever to have emanated from the Isle of Man, and it was unlike anything else on the road.

The Peel P50 holds the title for smallest-ever production car: a mere 117 cm (46 in) high, 135 cm (5399 cm (39 in) wide, it weighs just 59 kg (130 lb).

This cute little three-wheeler, running on an air-cooled Zweirad Union moped engine, was designed by Cyril Cannell, boss of the Peel Engineering Co. The tubular steel frame and GRP body were largely hand-assembled. It had only one door, one headlight and one windscreen wiper and there was no starter motor – you used a crank lever to get it going – and no speedometer – it was considered unnecessary since you had to go flat out to break the 30 mph speed limit. It had three forward gears and an innovative means of reversing – you just got out and hauled the car backwards by its rear-attached chrome handle. In a 15 mile road test round London the P50 triumphed – reaching the finish 30 minutes before any other car.

The Peel P50 was not a great success: it had poor suspension, tipped over rather too easily and generally felt a bit of a death-trap. However, it was very cheap (under £200) and incredibly economical on fuel. And there was no problem about finding a parking space – you just picked it up and slotted it into any available gap. Ahead of its time, perhaps?

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

UK

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1963 (until 1964)

ENGINE:

49 cc TWw Stroke DKW

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 38 mph (61 km/h)

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Fewer than 50 Peel P50s were made, in three choices of colour: red, white or blue. It is estimated that there are only around 20 still in existence, valued at between £35,000 and £50,000.Two original P50s are on the Isle of Man – you can see one in the Peel Transport Museum.

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