Monday, September 20, 2010

Odd-looking micro cars revive an old idea

The Automotive X Prize cars may get 100 miles to the equivalent of a gallon of gas, but they sure look strange to drivers used to today's cars. "Whether we'll be driving these exact cars in the future may be a stretch for a lot people who are used to today's cars," says David Champion, Senior Director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Division. "We'll see about some of the aspects of them.
Admittedly, the cars do look strange to modern eyes accustomed to seeing sleek four-door sedans with enough room and access for a pair of kids in car seats in the back.
But such cars are not unprecedented. After World War II, when gasoline was priced into unobtanium overseas, many European automakers developed so-called micro cars, or bubble cars. Among the best known are the BMW Isetta and the first Fiat 500 Topolino. But perhaps the most germane to the cars we're seeing today at the X Prize is the Messerschmitt, made by the manufacturer of feared German fighter planes during the war.