Maybe you’re already aware of the vehicle above, and maybe not. I was not, though I’ve had a kinky attraction to three-wheelers for decades. That’s because Illinois registers them as motorcycles, which lets them avoid all manner of regulatory equipment requirements. The tricky part has always been to control weight distribution and center of gravity such that they don’t go topsy-turvy on you when you go into a corner too fast.
Anyway, I was impressed by the futuristic appearance of this Polaris Slingshot, a vehicle I never imagined that Polaris, an ATV manufacturer, would bring into production. One look at the frame and mechanicals shows it to be a highly-developed, serious piece rather than something cobbled up with low price in mind. That impression turned out to be true, as the thing starts life at $22K and rockets up from there. It uses GM’s Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder, rated at 173 HP. At 1,800 pounds or so, it’s no lightweight, but that gives 10.4 pounds per HP, which is what used to separate supercars from station wagons back in the 1970s. When the owner came out of the store and took off into traffic, it seemed, as my late mother would say, “peppy”. It uses a driveshaft to get power from the trans to a final drive in back, then a Harley-Davidson style drive belt to get it to the rear wheel, which is mounted on a robust single-arm rear suspension. Polaris seems to have avoided tippiness as a major concern, as their website shows a “drifting” expert hanging the thing out sideways around a race track. One could say it would flip if the rear tire bites into some pavement irregularity on a hard turn, but I’ve watched a old Triumph TR-4 sports car flip when its rear tire dropped into a pothole, too. And hey, it’s a lot more stable than a two-wheeler.
Morgan recently reintroduced its original three-wheeler into the market. Morgan began producing three-wheelers in 1911, as an economical way around vehicle taxes in Britain. It evolved the design over the years to get the final, funky Super Sports model used as the basis for the reintroduced model today. It has always used motorcycle engines perched out front in plain view, and the new version is no exception. Though less powerful than the Slingshot with a 2,000cc engine, it’s also hundreds of pounds lighter. I’d be more careful with it on turns, though. Though it has been mechanically updated, unless Morgan has done something about how that weight plays out, it’s subject to the same limitations as the original. Morgan used to field a race team in the 1930’s, but Henry Morgan pulled the plug on that after a female test driver was killed during a track test. The new Morgan starts life somewhere around $40K, as it is essentially hand-built to order.
Elio Motors would like to produce a $7,300, 900cc three-wheeler which boasts 84 MPG. However, the way the company is financed, it’s had difficulty reaching actual production. The Elio is more of a full-featured daily drive vehicle. Less sporting or recreational, and more practical.
BRP Bombardier has produced the Can-Am for years, and it differs in that its seating position and controls are pure motorcycle. No way you’re going to be careless on turns with this one. I’ve seen quite a few of these on cross-country tour duty as well as in local errand runabout uses.
At any rate, I’m just letting you know that I see some fairly strange vehicles out here now and then!