A car manufacturer has bought the rights to 1960's classic Peel P50 microcar to make the smart forone.
Following yesterday's coverage of the new clockwork smart fortwo, we can today report that it has also been announced that the manufacturer will launch a modern-day version of the tiny classic microcar from yesteryear - the Peel P50.
Originally designed exclusively for the 50 Umpa-Lumpas used in the film "Charlie and the chocolate factory" as compensation for being made to look stupid (and orange) in front of an unforgiving world, it was previously thought that average sized humans would be too big for it thus leading to its demise decades ago.
However, purely by chance a P50 was featured on BBC's Top Gear programme as (ironically) Jeremy Clarkson's ultra-reliable SL class Mercedes was in the dealers - having yet more repairs after being driven over a stray plastic Coke bottle thus wrecking the sports suspension - which lead him to borrow the P50 from fellow TV star and personal friend, magician Paul Daniels.
As the unbelievably tall Clarkson (7 foot, 2 inches we understand) crammed himself into the almost microscopic P50 and drove the economical and traffic-jam friendly buzz-box around the streets of London on national TV, the BBC was literally inundated with a letter demanding to know if it was to be relaunched.
The prestigious manufacturer - itself long since a byword for innovation, reliability, quality as well as cost effectiveness - was sent a copy of this letter and decided that while it already makes the smallest rear-engined two-seater car ever made - the smart fortwo - it asked itself: "Are two seats really necessary? " and "How about a car for sad single people?" and finally "Could we make a car even smaller anyway and still charge a ridiculous amount of money for it?".
The answer to all three questions appears to be "Yes" as it bought the rights to the P50 in 2007. Two years on, I met once again with their engineer Ivar Strongarm at their HQ to see and try out this new model...
The car is pretty much a cross between a smart fortwo and the Peel P50, it has the looks of the smart but roughly the same size as the Peel. This particular prototype was shown in white with a black "Tridion" (the safety cell concept taken from its larger brother) and consequently looked almost like a deformed badger on wheels.
Ivar explained that the car will be powered by an electric motor running off 36 normal D-sized batteries or by a small 50cc petrol lawnmower engine (apparently they were able to negotiate a good deal with an electric lawn mower company since during the current recession, people are too depressed to go out and cut their grass therefore mower sales have plummeted thus leading to a glut of unused mower motors).
The original P50 had no boot space, in fact, it had no boot at all and while the forone is hardly much larger is does manage to have some space at the back above the "engine". Appropriately it was just big enough for - as Ivar demonstrated - a single Wellington boot.
Having shown me the car, Ivar then allowed me to take the car out for a short drive around the grounds of the HQ. Acceleration was acceptable reaching 20mph after 15 seconds while the top speed was a city friendly 35mph. It was quick enough to catch the attention of the company kittens who chased after it doubtlessly mistaking it for their mother. Inside the car, the tiny dashboard provides the usual basics in a city car, including a bath sponge as a space-saving alternative to an airbag. While there is no room for an integrated car radio or sat nav, they do thoughtfully include dedicated holders and sockets for connecting up an ipod nano and a GPS enabled mobile phone.
Jeremy Clarkson was reported to have said "you'd be a cock if you bought one" while fellow Top Gear presenter, Richard Hammond, has already ordered a battery-powered one and intends to drive it round Morrisons supermarkets in further adverts for the chain to demonstrate how friendly the car and the supermarket is to lazy council estate dwellers who are not even able find the strength to wander around on foot to pick up a 6 pack of lager and meat pies before heading off for a nightly brawl at their local pub.
The petrol forone will do approximately 100 miles from its 5 litre tank while figures for the battery model have not yet been released except to say that we expect Duracell's share price to go up sharply immediately after launch.
The car will come in similar trim levels to the fortwo except that while the fortwo passion has air conditioning, the forone passion model will simply have a fan mounted on a suction cup inside the windscreen while the cheaper pure model will have a sticker in the same place merely instructing drivers to wave their hand in a flapping motion towards their face or towards the windscreen as appropriate to effect ventilation. All models will come with what the manufacturer calls an "access pack" which features a shoehorn and a jar of Vaseline among other items.
The forone will have an on the road price of from £4500 but owners can trade in slower, lesser cars like the Fiat Panda or Perodua Kelisa for a £50 discount. Production starts in 2013.