In the history of inventions and design, there are moments that are true watersheds, when innovation seems to leap forward in one big jump. And there are times when the big jump happens, but the invention doesn’t quite make it to the other side. Something’s missing. In the case of the 1963 Peel P50, there was quite a bit missing, although the car was quite revolutionary in its tiny approach to things. Contrary to other cars of the time, it was tiny and light. It could be parked just about anywhere, and as opposed to many three-wheelers produced at the time, it had its single wheel at the back, which allowed for better stability. Don’t get me wrong; it was incredibly unstable, but less so than if the single wheel had been at the front!
The P50 did with less of everything. It made do with a 49cc moped two-stroke engine that allowed for a 38 miles per hour top speed. A speedometer was judged unnecessary. It could not reverse, but featured a handle at back from where one could pull the car in its parking spot. It had a single wiper, a single door, a single headlight, and fit a single person. To start the engine, you had to stock up on elbow grease, too. Hand-cranking all the way!
Simply put, the Peel P50 was about 40 years ahead of its time, except for the hand-cranking part. Even though it had the same wheel and engine configuration as the Campagna T-Rex, it wasn’t exactly the same experience. By all accounts, it felt more like a death trap than anything else.Only about 50 Peel P50 vehicles were ever made, and it is estimated that fewer than 20 remain in existence; I give it a four-star rating simply for the curiosity factor, as it wasn’t a very good car.