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?




1963 (until 1964)


49 cc TWw Stroke DKW


Top speed of 38 mph (61 km/h)


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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *