Chuck Squatriglia of Wired went to Atlanta to visit the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum, which holds the world's largest collection of microcars.
The 15 years after World War II marked the golden era of the microcar, and the "bubble cars" of that time comprise the bulk of Weiner's collection. Their designs are as varied as the countries that produced them, from the egg-shaped Avolette Record and voluptuous Champion H2 to the elegant Berkeley T65 sports car and bizarre Zundapp Janus with doors at each end. The most famous of the post-war microcars are the BMW Isetta that opens like a refrigerator and Messerschmitt KR-200 built by the same company that produced German warplanes.
Most post-war microcars were less than 10 feet long and weighed no more than 1,000 pounds. Their diminutive dimensions and tiny engines - most no larger than those found in Vespa scooters - made them highly fuel efficient. The Messerschmitt KR-200, for example, got 87 mpg.
There's no way GM or Volkswagen are going to start cranking out a car like the Messerschmitt because there's no way people are going to commute alongside SUVs in a car that's 10 feet long and weighs 507 pounds. But with consumers increasingly demanding more fuel efficient cars and Congress mandating that such vehicles be built, the microcar ethos - small car + small engine = less gas consumption - increasingly is influencing automotive design.
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