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The story of the Velorex Oskar began in 1938 with two brothers, Mojmír and František Stránský. The two men owned a bicycle repair shop in Northwestern Czechoslovakia called Moto-Velo-sport, which means motor-bike-sport. They were inspired to build three-wheeled vehicles by a British manufacturer, Morgan Motor Company, and spent several years designing a vehicle.
In 1943, they finally built the first Velorex Oskar, which mean “cart on axle” in Czechoslovakian. The car was built out of steel tubing wrapped in dural sheet metal and it sported quite a few bicycle parts. Their goal was to create a sort of hybrid motorbike/automobile that would be an affordable means of transportation for those with less money.
By 1945 the brothers produced the first batch of cars, then using leather cloth instead of metal for the body. They experimented with different types and sizes of motorcycle engines for their cars, trying to determine what would be the best fit. Because the war had just ended, both money and cars were hard to come by and there was demand for the Stránský brothers’ vehicles. A Velorex Oskar was only a quarter of the cost of a normal car.
During this time, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was restructuring many of its country’s businesses. As such, the Stránský brothers had to move their shop in 1950 to a cooperative facility that housed five other companies in Hradec Králové. Moto-Velo-Sport was renamed Velo, which was later changed to Velorex to reflect the exportation of their cars.
The early 1950s was a successful period for Velorex. The vehicles were especially popular in the Soviet Union, where motorcycle/car combinations were desired and money was tight for many families.
Tragedy struck the Stránský brothers early in 1954. František was killed when a test Velorex prototype crashed. Devastated by the loss of his older brother, Mojmír refused to become a Communist Party member and was fired by the government from his own company. Velorex was then completely taken over by the Czech government.
Despite the loss of the brothers from the company, Velorex continued to thrive with production peaking at 120 cars per month in 1959. The different Velorex models were improved year after year with bigger wheels, bigger engines, hydraulic clutches, and rubber-mounted engines.
However, the Communist government was not very happy with the three-wheeler’s success, apparently believing that normal cars should satisfy needs that motorcycles could not. So eventually only the disabled could by the Velorex, and sales continued that way until Oskar’s production was stopped in 1971. Velorex then tried to market its four-wheeled cars. However, problems in the four-wheeler’s manufacturing and design, as well as tough competition with popular autos like Trabants, caused Velorex to quit making automobiles in 1973. Overall, Velorex ultimately produced five different models, four of them three-wheelers.
A company in the Czech Republic is planning on unveiling the “New Velorex” microcar in 2010, although its designs are not in alignment with the original Velorex plans.
So I thought it might be prudent to tell you what I want to talk about. Now, I know that planning is often futile, but I’m going to try anyways.
Microcars: These are basically really, really tiny cars. Ridiculously tiny (but also ridiculously adorable). Honestly, these were more or less the first “green” vehicles – and they were popular over sixty years ago and got better gas mileage than most of the cars on the roads today. I’m going to take a look back at the stories of these cute little cars, including these microcar makers: Messerschmitt, Heinkel, Reliant, Morris, Crosley, Isetta, Velorex, Goggomobil, Corbin, Peel, and whatever else catches my eye.
Green automotive technologies: Electric, hybrid, hydrogen, water, oxygen, solar, you name it, I want to learn about it and hopefully give some coherent information about the topic.
SMV teams: Obviously, I know a lot about Milwaukee’s team (or at least more than I know about other teams. Of course, this is all relevant; I also think the main difference between two and four stroke engines is the kind of noise they make). Regardless of competitive spirit, what these teams are doing is creative, brave, and deserves credit.
Other green car challenges: From the EcoCar challenge to races held around the world, I’m going to take a look at the other stuff going in the gas mileage arena.
Consumer vehicles: This is probably worthwhile to take a gander at. After all, these super cars and water-powered vehicles might be pretty neat, but they’re not available to most of us. So we have to make do with what’s out there somehow.
Barriers we face: Oil tycoons. Massive subsidies. Central infrastructure. That jerk who killed the electric car. It might look like an uphill battle, but it’s what we got, and we gotta figure out what we need to do to keep trucking. And keep on truckin’ we will – just maybe not in our beloved F-350s.
So that’s a hopeful look at the future. Will I stick to it? I’ll try. Have a suggestion? Let me know. As with all life, when it boils down to it, this is a group effort.