Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

A Tri-Surprise

Seeing this parked outside a hardware store raised many questions.

Seeing this parked outside a hardware store raised many questions.

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.

Interesting, no?

Interesting, no? I suspect this one has had a non-factory roof added to limit driver fry in the hot Yuma sun.

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.

The reintroduced Morgan looks a heck of a lot like the 1930s original.

The reintroduced Morgan looks a heck of a lot like the 1930s original.

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.

A 3-wheeler you can't buy yet, if ever.

A 3-wheeler you can’t buy yet, if ever.

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.

The Can-Am Spyder.

The Can-Am Spyder.

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!

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10 thoughts on “A Tri-Surprise

  1. In Georgia the people driving those have to wear motorcycle helmets…FWIW

  2. Thought you retired from the auto writting….lol

    sandy and I saw these at a dealer in Phoenix. ?…salesman said they perfomed at the level of a formula one car.
    They will not even let you test drive them…..they give you rides….I got the impression it could be faster than my sand rail.

    • Salesman badly exaggerated, but the are fast. I’m sure they don’t allow test drives! I can see one of every one hundred yokels being in earnest, the rest being the merely curious, and thrill seekers eager to wrap it around a tree for free. Same with a new Porsche 914 and hot Mustang I considered years ago. I guess it’s an issue of appearance, trust, or insurance issues.

  3. Linda Sand on said:

    Cool. But kinda scary.

  4. Great post and some interesting choices. As a lifelong motorcyclist, I’ve always had an interest in any vehicle with fewer than 4 wheels.

    A good time ago, I remember watching a program which highlighted a hybrid two/three wheeler. It was somewhat bullet shaped, enclosing rider, with two main wheels, and while one sat in a more car-like position, it drove(rode) like a motorcycle. That is, until its speed was low enough, where rear, training-like wheels would fold down automatically, eliminating the need to put one’s feet down. It evidently never saw production, but curiously cool, all the same.

    Always keeping an eye out for 3 wheelers in the event old-age or misfortune forces me to choose something that doesn’t tip over on its own. Except for that Morgan. That’s just wrong. 🙂

    Good to hear you’re recovery is coming along.
    Cheers

    • Thanks, Jim. Yup, I started work in the 70s on a low-powered fiberglass monocoque “street legal” streamliner, but life intruded. It had pneumatic/mechanical “landing gear” that swung out to keep it up at low speeds. The biggest challenge was the very low-profile steering front suspension, for which Honda had a patented nice but complex solution (read: expensive). Then I saw that the Swiss (or someplace in Europe) later came out with a taller version that shared many of the same features as mine and was adopted by law enforcement. Dang.

      Thou hast blasphemed the Morgan, Jim, some variations of which were pretty slick and stylish for their time, but to each his/her own! I think you have to be English to get hyped up about the new recreation, though. I’ve had to do a very few quick lane changes in cars over the years (on Chicago expressways) which makes me wary of the tall Can-Am.

      I had a motorcycle that was my main form of transport when I was young. Suzuki two-stroke, 125cc 15HP that could do an honest 70 MPH. Just 225 pounds, but only 20 MPG because of the very aggressive porting. Good times. I prefer lighter, less powerful streetable bikes – which are now almost rare – but I’ve seen enough overlanders dump and get leg injuries in the loose stuff off-road that I’m sticking with the e-bike. I don’t bounce as well as I used to, and 3-wheelers are now way, way out of my budget and ability to carry along.

  5. I am humbled in thy presence, Doug. You’ve obviously led a creative life. Equally impressed that not only did you know exactly what I was talking about, but was part of an effort to build one. Was this a garage enterprise or were you working for a manufacturer?

    I have the same suspicion about the Can-Am; though as a motorcycle enthusiast, am a little embarrassed at not availing myself of the generous offers by Can-Am for a test ride. From the folks I’ve talked to who ride them, I’ve heard nothing but good reviews.

    I ride a 700 lb sport tourer -with a 1.3 litre engine at 125 HP- that despite its weight, is surprisingly nimble and can too easily get away from me. But this pales in comparison to what young, inexperienced males are riding today. They are virtually rockets with a seat.

    I’m starting to yearn for something a little lighter and a little smaller, while still satisfying my riding desires.

    In the meantime, I’ll endeavor to keep an open mind with the Morgan.
    🙂

    • Not too humbled, I hope, Jim. The streamliner was strictly my own home project. I had all the fiberglass matting I could want and worked through the major component design stages except for the front steering hub/suspension. Couldn’t afford to have anything specially machined, so I was mostly dealing with off-the-shelf possibilities. Never left the 70% design stage. I’d read about a 125cc Bonneville streamliner that had crossed well over 100MPH and figured that only uphill grades and passing would determine engine size, not cruising speed. Fun while it lasted.

      I’ve never ridden anything bigger than a then-new CB 350, which seemed at the time all that anyone would ever need. I still figure 500cc is the biggest any sane person could want, but that’s an idea now out of fashion! Harleys were the only exception because of their weight and comparatively low power. I think I’m still stuck in the 70s. I figure if I can’t lift it up off the ground after dumping it, I shouldn’t be riding it. Same for if I can’t afford it, I guess.

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