What looks like the world's tiniest auto, so far, is taken for a spin in the newest episode of the world's most watched non-fiction television show, BBC's "Top Gear." It's the first public outing of the itsy, one-passenger vehicle that host Jeremy Clarkson apparently designed himself.
In the unveiling, Clarkson straps into the micro machine, a vehicle that has the drivetrain of a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle, but with all the turn signals, lights, and license plates needed to make it street-legal in Britain. The car is lacking in protection, doesn't have side doors, and simply has a visor and helmet for the driver to slip into.
"I promise it's a real car," Clarkson says before hitting the road in what some might a call a "bad decision." The car's handling doesn't look that solid, particularly when Clarkson hits some potholes. In fact, the car looks as if it could topple at any given moment.
Viewers will see, or hear rather, how painful and at times terrifying the ride can be. But the size of the car makes it all seem worth it. Clarkson weaves in and out of traffic jams and is even able top off the two-stroke, 100cc engine with gas — without even getting out of the vehicle.
Clarkson calls the little vehicle a P45 — a takeoff on the Peel P50, a British automobile that had been produced on the Isle of Man. The three-wheeled P50 was sold in the early 1960s for about $450 each.
Clarkson's design is just the latest step toward the smallest possible cars
on the road. After the Mini Cooper staged a U.S. comeback in the early '00s, in part due to rising gasoline prices
, consumers began trending toward even smaller cars.
In particular, the "Smart" car by Daimler-Benz is making a stronger appearance in U.S. markets. The two-passenger vehicle was only available in the United States before 2008 as a "gray market" acquisition. More recently, it has been available as an electric option in the states.
Smaller vehicles are becoming so popular again that in 2011 the Peel P50 saw a re-emergence when an investor revived the company.
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