The World’s Smallest Car Was For Sale and You Missed It
The Peel P50 was a little-known British “microcar” which had a micro production run from 1962 through 1965. This three-wheeled one-seater weighed in at 130 pounds, making it the smallest production vehicle in the world. And yes, this car is road legal.
The P50 had one door (on the left), one seat, and one headlight. It had two tires on six-inch rims up front, but just one in the rear. It got its name from a 49 cc moped engine. Its three-speed manual gearbox didn’t include a reverse. But the car did have a handle at the back so you could just pick it up and wheel it around.
How fast can a car with three cubic-inches of displacement go? This 3.35 horsepower beast was rated for 37 mph, but reviewers found it usually tops out by 28 mph. Obviously the size of the passenger–and in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “What they had for breakfast”–will impact performance considerably.
The upside of such a tiny car, besides being able to pick it up and wheel it around, is that it gets 83 mpg.
Most of us first heard about the Peel P50 when Jeremy Clarkson got his hands on one in 2007 and drove it through the BBC offices. He was poking fun at the Smart Care movement, saying, “I’ve seen the future, and its from 1962.” Clarkson even drove the car through the halls, smoking up the building to attend a supposed “carbon footprint” meeting.
The stunt was all in good fun. But Clarkson grumbled that he’d never seen his staffers as excited by a car. He joked that he had shown up in a brand new Ferrari and been ignored, but the P50 got mobbed. And he was on to something. Even Clarkson didn’t guess what his bit would ignite.
The Peel P50s have since exploded in popularity as collector cars. But there’s just one problem. Peel sold 47 of the 50 it built. And only 26 of those have survived. They have such a cult following now, that in 2013 an original Peel P50 resold for $120,000. Considering it cost £299 new, that’s quite an investment.
In 2011, two businessmen went on the British equivalent of “Shark Tank” and got funding to restart Peel. They now offer continuation P50s with either moped motors or electric powertrains. But production is still as limited as it was in the 1960s.
In January 2023, an electric “continuation” Peel showed up on Bring a Trailer. The EV was assembled in 2017 and finished in the cars’ traditional red color. Instead of modern amenities, it has the charming features of the original: single windshield wiper, sliding windows, 54-inch length, and 39-inch width. The only real splurge on this example is a custom plaid fabric on its seat. And Peels have never had a speedometer. Why would you need one?
So how much did this Peel EV go for? Despite being listed with no reserve, fans bid it up to $16,750.
Next, see Japan’s one-seat micro truck, or watch Clarkson pilot the Peel P50 in the video below: