Big Bucks For The World’s Smallest Car

Images: Car & Classic

Can you imagine paying over a crore of rupees for a 59-year-old vehicle which sits just one person and is powered by a 49cc engine that does not even develop 5bhp? But some crazy Britisher did just that, paying £111,000 (Rs 1.12 crores) in the UK for the world’s smallest car, fetching the second-highest price paid at a British auction for a Peel P50, from 1963!

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The smallest car ever built

Yes, it is very rare—just one of 46 ever made—yet the price was a real shocker for everyone. This particular Peel P50 is said to have had a wild past: it was used in a promotional stunt going all the way to the top of the Blackpool Tower. It also may be the earliest model ever made, as a pre-production example sporting a lower fitment of the windscreen, early Lucas sidelights, a cream steering wheel and no rear roll bar. No other Peel has the same features.

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At least they did provide a seat for the one person using the car

Capable of 38mph (61 km/h) and with a range of 100 miles per gallon (over 30km to the litre), the 59kg car has no onboard instruments or odometer, nor a reverse gear, relying on being lifted and turned into the desired direction by the driver. Its compact and cheeky looks make it a striking choice as a city car. Partly because of its glamorous history and totally unique features as well as its rarity as a model, the Peel was the object of brisk bidding until the winning bid for £111,000.

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How can you not love a face like that?

The Peel P50, incidentally, was a fully homologated road vehicle, launched in 1962. Produced by the Isle of Man-based car manufacturer Peel Engineering Company, the Peel P50 is the smallest and the lightest car ever built—in 2010, it was recognized by the Guinness World Records as the smallest car ever produced.

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Minimalism at its maximum

At 134cm long and 99cm wide, and with a height of just 120cm, the 59kg Peel was a three-wheeler, with one driving wheel at the rear, and with the front pair doing the steering! The 49cc air-cooled single cylinder was sourced from the German DKW. Designed by Cyrill Cannel, the car was unveiled at the 1962 London Motor Show, before production commencing in 1963. Production ended in 1964, and just 46 or 47 seem to have been made. Only 20-odd are known to exist currently.

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At one-twentieth the price of the Peel you could have this Reliant Supervan

The red car that you see here is the one that came up for auction on the Car & Classic online auction platform, which has become very popular in the UK for sourcing and selling rare historic vehicle finds. As much as the Peel defined one extreme of rarity and prices, it would be interesting to note that all three-wheelers are not as expensive: a Reliant Supervan 3 sold for just £6,100 (Rs 6.15 lakhs) in the same auction.

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This Reliant is a cousin of the Sipani Dolphin sold in India during the 1980s

If small and economical (especially in the current climate) are important aspects of one’s personal quest for an unusual historic vehicle, but that winning bid may have put the Peel firmly out of reach for most, then an alternative was offered by Car & Classic at the same time as the Dragon Red P50: the bright yellow 1973 Reliant Supervan, with a top speed nearly twice as high, and which sold for one-twentieth the price.


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