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02-18-2009, 01:27 PM
Top 10 Non Four-Wheelers
Sometimes it pays to buck the trend, but probably not when it comes to deciding how many wheels to put on your wagon.
In 1981 Roger Moore tried a two-wheeled Renault 11, and elsewhere various car makers have experimented with two, three, five, six and even eight wheel designs.
Eventually most came round to the idea that four was probably the optimum number, but not before trying out some really wild and wacky ideas.

1911 Reeves Octo-Auto
Having previously designed a bus with rear wheels nearly six metres in diameter, Indiana-based Milton Reeves conceived the idea that what the world needed most was an eight-wheeler and set about building it.

More than 20 metres long it was unwieldy to say the least, also horrifyingly expensive costing $3,200 at a time when a Model T Ford could be had for less than a quarter of that.

Keen to economise he ditched a pair of wheels and renamed it the Sexto-Auto, but then wacked the price up again to around $5,000 as a consequence of which he sold, er, none.

02-18-2009, 01:28 PM
1913 Schilovski Gyrocar
From the sublime to the ridiculous - or maybe that should just be from one sort of ridiculous to another - the next innovation was to try building a car with only two wheels. This time it was the brainchild of one Count Schilovski, a lawyer and distant member of the Russian royal family who called on Birmingham's Wolseley Tool and Motorcar Company with a plan for a weird, gyroscopically-stabilised machine.

Despite being successful manufacturers of ordinary four-wheeled cars, lorries, double-decker buses and taxicabs, Wolseley apparently liked the idea and invited the crazy Russian in rather than showing him the door.

The job of converting his plans to reality fell to Chief Experimental Engineer A. W. Dring, and incredibly he had a new chassis up and running within the year. In particular the Count was convinced his new vehicle would be of great military value, and presumably no-one at Wolseley questioned why it was that the Tsarist army was technologically the least competent in the developed world.

In the event the Gyrocar never got anywhere near a battle, and probably just as well given its lack of brakes, modest 16 horsepower output (it weighed nearly three tons) and immense turning circle.

1919 Briggs & Stratton Flyer
The Flyer was a classic American buckboard, which is to say just one notch up from a soapbox racer, with two seats positioned side-by-side on a stiff wooden platform and a large bicycle wheel mounted at each corner.

Power came from a puny 2hp Type D Briggs & Stratton 'Motor Wheel' slung out the back, making the Flyer a genuine five-wheeler but with of course only one-wheel drive.

Despite having no body whatsoever and a brake on only the single, powered wheel the Flyer cost a not inconsiderable $200 and remained in production for nearly four years.

1929 Morris 6D
In 1932 Morris introduced three-colour indicators but, based on traffic lights, it's hard to fathom how they worked and they were promptly ruled illegal. The company's second flop in only three years, it came hot on the heels of the 6D, a 70 mph leviathan derived from a version of the firm's 6x4 army command car.

Powered by a 4.2-litre straight-six, this sported an immense limousine body, hydraulic brakes and six wire wheels. Of course it looked and was ridiculous, and with a chassis-only price of more than 850 - at the height of the depression - it failed miserably.

1932 Morgan Sports Model
Morgan built three-wheelers for more than 40 years, the first one appearing in 1910, a rare van version going on sale in 1928, and then shortly afterwards perhaps the best of the lot: the J.A.P engined Sports, Super Sports and Super Sports Aero.

The essentials remained the same - independent front suspension, two wheels at the front, and one behind providing the power - but now a tuned vee-twin engine and modified bodywork with two, one or even no doors turned it into a proper little sports car.

1970 Bond Bug
Orange, unlovely but an authentic 1970s icon, the Bug was styled by Ogle's Tom Karen and was the first example of a new car design being modelled on a wedge of Red Leicester cheese. With a 700cc Reliant engine and a chassis from the same company's Regal, it was available in any colour you liked so long as it was tangerine.

Having said that, half a dozen white ones were produced as part of a Rothmans cigarette promotion. With sales boosted by a successful Corgi toy it has a fanatical following today, is inexplicably much sought after, and has been revived on several occasions.

1974 Tyrrell P34
The most successful F1 six-wheeler in that Jody Scheckter actually won a race in it, Tyrell sought to reduce its car's frontal area by using smaller wheels and compensating for the loss of contact area by doubling their number.

Like Brabham's equally radical 'fan car' the authorities banned it but not before March, Williams and even Ferrari had chipped in with their own versions.

These differed in that they had four wheels at the back to increase traction, but while tested extensively they too fell foul of the ban on 4WD in F1 and none of the three ever actually raced.

1977 Panther 6
Designed and built by Surrey-based Panther Westwinds, the 6 was an extravagantly styled convertible powered by a mid-mounted 8.2-litre Caddy V8 with twin turbochargers and a rumoured 600bhp. With advanced electronic dash, an automatic fire extinguisher, a built-in television and even a carphone (in 1977!), it was apparently inspired by Tyrrell's P34.

Like that one, and indeed Lady Penelope's FAB 1, it had four steerable wheels at the front. With Panther insisting it was good for 200mph+ it would have been the world's fastest road car but this was never put to the test and total production struggled to hit two.

2004 Covini C6W
Again inspired by the P34, but somehow taking three decades to reach fruition, perhaps the strangest thing about the 4.2-litre Audi V8-powered C6W is its promotion as a safer alternative to more conventional car designs.

In particular, supporters insist the six-wheel layout reduces the risk of a tyre blow-out as well as minimising the opportunity for aquaplaning and allowing for better absorption in the event of a head-on collision.

That said, it's hard not to think that the risk of all three might just as well be reduced by not tooling around town at 185 mph.

2004 KAZ Eliica
And finally, coming full circle, it's back to eight wheelers. The KAZ bit of the name is actually Japanese, the car having been conceived, designed and built by a group of students at Tokyo's Keio University.

And Eliica stands for Electric Lithium-Ion Car, although as the eight wheels suggest this one's not got that much in common with all those plastic G-Wiz things parking for nothing in central London.

An authentic if unconventional supercar, the Eliica can actually accelerate from 0 to 60 in under four seconds and on a trip to Europe managed to hit 230mph on Italy's high speed Nardo circuit.

02-18-2009, 01:58 PM

03-01-2009, 07:50 AM
The Covini and the Elica are slumped in terms of handling