x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Top 5: The three-wheeled successes and failures

The Morgan isn't the only three-wheeler in history; here are a few of the abysmal failures, mediocre successes and a look into the future

The Robin Reliant.
The Robin Reliant.

Robin Reliant

Possibly the most successful three-wheeler in history, the Reliant had the unconventional layout of having the single wheel at the front, making it, shall we say, a little exciting in the corners. It was built on and off between 1973 and 2002 under various licences and has become a cultural icon of comedic sort in Britain. The car is possibly best known today for being lampooned by Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear, who tries to drive a Reliant but can't stop rolling it in the corners; the TV show also built a space shuttle with a Reliant.

Campagna T-Rex

This is no dinosaur. The goal of Campagna, according to its website, is "to create the finest three-wheel vehicle in the world". And with a starting price tag of US$53,999 for an open cockpit car with saddle bags for a boot, it had better be just that. And it seems to be: the T-Rex puts a massive tyre at the back to give the front more stability in turns and, in a nod to its motorcycle roots, has a 1,352cc engine from a Kawasaki Ninja, good to propel this three-wheeler to 100kph in under four seconds - supercar territory.

Messerschmitt KR175

With the Germans on the losing end of the Second World War, airplane manufacturer Messerschmitt had to find something else to do. Naturally, it would turn to three-wheeled minicars. The KR175 was its first project, based on an invalid carriage, and it debuted in 1953. Not surprisingly, the little car looked like an aircraft fuselage with a bubble canopy, with two passengers sitting tandem - wonder what the company's engineers still had on their minds.

Sinclair C5

Sir Clive Sinclair is a British entrepreneur and inventor who went on to have a few good ideas. The C5 was not one of them. This tiny three-wheeler was meant as an electric, three-wheeled commuter for urban dwellers, but its top speed of 15kph, an open cockpit that didn't exactly suit UK weather and a profile so low cars couldn't see it on the road meant that it was a sales disaster. The fact that the vehicles were built by Hoover, a company better known for household appliances, didn't help its cause.

Aptera 2e

Behold the future. The Aptera is another electric car, only this one hasn't hit the road just yet. Like the Messerschmitt, it has an airplane-like cockpit; it's built of composites and is one of the more exciting designs out there for electric cars. The problem? The California-based company has yet to build any for sale; the 2e was meant to be available last year, but Aptera has run into financial problems and says it is waiting for loans from the US government to start building.