U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 12 mins

And You Thought the SmartCar was Small: Introducing the Peel

Bill Wilson

In a perfect world, we would all drive cars that go 0-60 in 1.2 seconds, get 100 miles per gallon, and make supermodels beg us for a ride. Of course, the real world is far from perfect, so it’s unlikely any vehicle will meet all three of those expectations. But, thanks to a few daring entrepreneurs, there’s now an auto that meets the 100 MPG goal at least. Dubbed “the Peel” by its UK builders, the Peel Trident and Peel P50 hold the world’s record as the smallest road-worthy cars on earth. Does that make it worth buying? Read on and decide for yourself.

A Blast from the Past

The modern Peels were inspired by a micro-car built on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between 1962 and 1965. Marketed as a “city car” by its builders, the Peel was 54” long with a 50” wheelbase, making it small enough to fit in a good-sized closet. It was powered by a 4.2-hp, fan-cooled engine, had a top speed of 38 MPH, and got around 100 MPGs. The three-speed engine had no reverse gear, however. To back up, the driver had to get out of the car, grab it by the tail, and spin it around 180 degrees.

About 50 of these things were built, with 27 still around. Despite their boxy shape and utter lack of power, they’re hugely popular among auto collectors, fetching prices of more than $100,000 at auction for a vehicle that cost about $2,200 US in today’s money.

Peel P50

The Peel is Reborn

In the UK there’s a popular TV show called Dragon’s Den, in which budding entrepreneurs can pitch business ideas to a round table of venture capitalists. British inventors Gay Hillman and Faizal Khan went on the program in 2011. They pitched the idea of reviving the Peel and asked for £80,000 (around $125,000.00 US). The millionaires in essence said, “oh, what the hell” and cut the pair a check; thus the Peel was reborn. Vehicle orders are taken at the company web site, which also has a few nifty videos showing the Peel in action. Believe it or not, the thing is street-legal in the US.

Prices for the new model start at around $15,000.00 US, for what’s essentially a go-kart with three wheels. Most of us could probably find better ways to spend the money. You may disagree though, and that’s okay. As the British say, whatever blows up your bonnet.

PHOTOS: See more of the 1962 Peel P50

Photo Credit: Peel Engineering UK